Performing Arts

The Performing Arts play a prominent part in the life of The Cherwell School, as recognised through the awarding of Arts Mark Gold status in November 2013. Read the press release here: Artsmark gold.

  Arts Mark Gold School Accreditation and Advanced Music Program

Instrumental Lessons

Instrumental tuition is delivered from an experienced and dedicated team of visiting instrumental staff who additionally provide some of our ensemble coaching. Instrumental lessons are offered in all the orchestral woodwind, brass, percussion and strings. 

Please contact The Oxfordshire County Music Service on 01865 740000 should you wish your child to continue or start lesson on an orchestral instrument. Piano, voice, saxophone, guitar (acoustic, electric and bass) and drum kit are offered by privately appointed staff. Please contact the school music department for private instrumental lessons. 

As far as possible, lessons take place during school periods on a rotating basis or, in the case of Sxth formers, during private study periods. If your child has been learning an instrument at primary school and you wish to continue lessons at The Cherwell School, we would advise beginning music lessons straight away and not waiting a term or so "in order to settle in". It is much easier to establish regular practice times if they are routine right from the start. Continuity is highly desirable and pupils need to make arrangements for regular practice during holidays, as well as in term-time. 

Group music-making is an important part of musical tuition and pupils learning orchestral instruments will be expected, when appropriate, to take part in ensembles, including the Orchestras and Concert Band. Regular practice each week is expected and is indeed essential if progress is to be made.

Music Extra-curricular Programme

Strong emphasis is placed on participation in the many musical activities of the school. Participation in instrumental and choral ensembles, large and small, inspires loyalty, confidence and an appreciation of excellence. These include the Upper School Orchestra, Chamber Choir, String Orchestra, South Site Concert Band, Jazz Band, Senior School Choir and Gospel Choir. These are timetabled during lunchtimes and after school so as not to interfere with academic commitments. These ensembles perform termly within school and within the wider community. The Gospel Choir recently performed on BBC Radio Oxford and on BBC South Today. There are also numerous instrumental ensembles, which perform regularly in competitions and concerts both inside and outside school.

Musical Events

The school presents several musical events each year, ranging from informal lunchtime concerts and evening recitals, at which pupils perform solo and small group items, to whole school concerts. Other notable events include the AS, A2 and year 10 recital evenings, South Site Performing Arts evening, Arts Evening and Singer of the Year. A musical is staged every alternate year with Les Miserables, My Fair Lady and West Side Story being recent productions, and the Wizard of Oz for this forthcoming summer term.

Additional opportunities

At Sixth Form level The Dan Hemmingway Award is offered to a year 13 student producing a piece of creative work in any of the Arts disciplines. At Key Stage Four we offer trips for our GCSE musicians, such as the recent visit to the Oxford University Pitt Rivers museum (year 9 opting for GCSE music) to participate in Ugandan Xylophone workshop, and a visit to The Music Faculty within Oxford University for our year 10s to study instruments through the ages, and gamelan ensembles. Year 8 as a year group participate in a range of opportunities during our annual Arts Day: this has recently included Bhangra dance and drumming, puppetry, acrobatics, and African drumming.

Further performance opportunities are available as part of the Oxford Advanced Preparatory Music Course.

If you would like further information regarding music at The Cherwell School please contact the Music Department on 01865 558719 or by email

Drama Extra-curricular Programme

The Drama Department is a very active and energetic team. Large numbers of students wish to study both A Level and GCSE. Extra-curricular commitment from staff in Drama is essential and this is reflected in both our results and our students’ passionate approach to the subject.  The department ethos is based on ensemble work: our recent production of ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ had a cast and crew of over 250 students. The Drama department is committed to giving students excellent theatrical experiences in contemporary theatre. Each year we seek to extend their learning through high quality school productions. Recent performances include Knee-high’s ‘The Wooden Frock’, Marlowe’s ‘Dr Faustus’ and our production of Hideki Noda’s ‘Red Demon’  which we then took to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  We regularly take students to the theatre in London, Warwick Arts Centre and surrounding theatres to give them a varied theatrical diet. This year’s visits have ranged from Robert LePage’s 10 hour epic play ‘Lypsync’ to Knee-high’s playful version of ‘Hansel and Gretel’. Each year we take our year 13 students on a residential course where they have the opportunity to work with noted theatre practitioners from companies such as Frantic Assembly, DV8 and Complicite. Also in previous years, to further their theatrical knowledge, we have taken our students to France, Spain and Italy.

Work with professional companies

The Department has very close links with the Oxford Playhouse and Pegasus theatre. Many of our students are part of their youth companies. The Department is also very lucky to work closely with Idle Motion theatre Company who regularly offer internships to leaving year 13 students working as actors or technicians working at the Edinburgh Festival and taking part in national theatre tours. Their current piece “The Seagull Effect” involves six ex students from the school and two students from our current year 13 have had the opportunity to work with them, training as sound and projection technicians.

Dance Extra-curricular Programme

During KS3 pupils are offered the opportunity to join dance clubs which take place either during lunchtimes or after school. The work done in these clubs is presented at various events during the year, such as the Year 6 Open Evening and assemblies. Dance is also an integral part of our highly successful Year 8 Arts Days. This year witnessed an amazing high-energy African Dance session and a lively Street Dance workshop, both run by invited practitioners. In addition, all Cherwell students have the opportunity to get involved in Dance during the end-of-term Activity Day, when a series of workshops culminates in a final performance.

Key Stage 4 GCSE Dance students are encouraged to attend dance rehearsals during lunch every week and there are opportunities for both year 10 and year 11 to participate in theatre trips to see work by local and national Dance Companies. This year the opportunities expand to include ‘behind-the-scenes’ visits to local theatres as part of the GCSE course and there will be the chance for students to work with visiting practitioners in specifically designed workshops. We also encourage all students who are interested in dance to be part of the school productions.

Ellie Hollindale Faculty Leader  Performing Arts