Specialist schools – arts, drama, music



The specialist schools programme is a UK government initiative that encourages secondary schools in England to specialise in certain areas of the curriculum to boost achievement. The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust is responsible for the programme.


Specialist schools – arts, drama, music…. Currently there are nearly 3,000 specialist schools, or 88 per cent of the state-funded secondary schools in England. In the independent sector the term ‘specialist’ tends to focus more on developing outstanding talents mainly in a range of extra-curricular activities such as drama, music and the arts. The principal independent boarding schools in music, dance and drama are covered below. 

Music and dance

The Music and Dance Scheme (MDS) is a government-funded scheme to provide support for talented musicians and dancers. You can find out more at www.gov.uk/music-dance-scheme. There are nine MDS specialist schools throughout the UK, committed to the highest teaching standards in music and dance, alongside an excellent academic education. MDS schools are listed below.

Music and Dance Scheme schools

Chetham’s School of Music www.chethams.com

Elmhurst School of Dance www.elmhurstdance.co.uk

St Mary’s Music School www.stmarysmusicschool.co.uk

The Hammond School www.thehammondschool.co.uk

The Purcell School for Young Musicians www.purcell-school.org

The Royal Ballet School www.royalballetschool.co.uk

Tring Park School for the Performing Arts www.tringpark.com

Wells Cathedral School www.wells.cathedral.school.org

Yehudi Menuhin School www.menuhinschool.co.uk

Choir schools

The Choir Schools’ Association (CSA) represents 44 schools attached to cathedrals, churches and college chapels around the country. Pupils have unlimited access to first-class schooling and musical training, giving them an excellent start in life. More than 1,200 of the 21,500 boys and girls in choir schools are choristers. Some CSA schools take children from 7 to 13, others are junior schools with senior schools to 18. The majority are Church of England foundations, but the Roman Catholic, Scottish and Welsh churches are all represented. The majority are fee paying, with nine out of ten choristers qualifying for financial help with fees from the school or through the Government’s Choir Schools’ Scholarship Scheme. To find out more, go to www.choirschools.org.uk. The choir schools offering boarding are listed in the table below.

Choir schools offering boarding

Northern England
The Chorister SchoolDurhamhead.teacher@thechoristerschool.comwww.thechoristerschool.com
Lincoln Minster Prep SchoolLincolnenquiries.lincoln@church-schools.comwww.lincolnminsterschool.co.uk
Chetham’s SchoolManchesterchets@chethams.comwww.chethams.com
Ampleforth CollegeYorkadmissions@ampleforth.org.uk
St James’ SchoolGrimsbyenquiries@saintjamesschool.co.ukwww.saintjamesschool.co.uk
Central England
Dean Close Preparatory SchoolCheltenhamsabell@deanclose.org.ukwww.deanclose.org.uk
Hereford Cathedral SchoolHerefordschoolsec@herefordcs.orgwww.herefordcs.org
Lichfield Cathedral SchoolLichfieldthepalace@lichfieldcathedralschool.comwww.cathedralchoir.org.uk
Christ Church Cathedral SchoolOxfordschooloffice@cccs.org.ukwww.cccs.org.uk
Magdalen College SchoolOxfordadmissions@mcsoxford.orgwww.mcsoxford.org
St George’s SchoolWindsorregistrar@stgwindsor.co.ukwww.stgwindsor.co.uk
St Paul’s Cathedral SchoolLondonadmissions@spcs.london.sch.ukwww.spcs.london.uk
Westminster Abbey Choir SchoolLondonheadmaster@westminster-abbey.orgwww.abbeychoirschoool.org
Westminster Cathedral Choir SchoolLondonoffice@choirschool.comwww.choirschool.com
Eastern England
King’s College SchoolCambridgeoffice@kcs.cambs.sch.ukwww.kcs.cambs.sch.uk
St John’s College SchoolCambridgeadmissions@sjcs.co.ukwww.sjcs.co.uk
King’s ElyElyadmissions@kingsely.orgwww.kingsely.org
Southern England
St Edmund’s SchoolCanterburyjuniorschool@stedmunds.org.ukwww.stedmunds.org.uk
The Prebendal SchoolChichesteroffice@prebendalschool.org.ukwww.prebendalschool.org.uk
The Cathedral SchoolExeterhmsec@exetercs.orgwww.exetercathedralschool.org
King’s Rochester Preparatory SchoolRochesterprep@kings-rochester.co.ukwww.kings-rochester.co.uk
Salisbury Cathedral SchoolSalisburyadmissions@salisburycathedralschool.comwww.salisburycathedralschool.com
Polwhele House SchoolTruroinfo@polwhelehouse.co.ukwww.polwhelehouse.co.uk
Wells Cathedral SchoolWellsmain-office@wells.cathedral.schoolwww.wells.cathedral.school.org
The Pilgrims’ SchoolWinchesterhmsec@pilgrims-school.co.ukwww.thepilgrims-school.co.uk
The Cathedral SchoolLlandaffregistrar@cathedral-school.co.ukwww.cathedral-school.co.uk

View a full list of boarding schools here.

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