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Could more businesses learn from the Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst Ballet School connection

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Ballet - Stage

Birmingham Royal Ballet is a widely acknowledged star of the Birmingham, national and international cultural scene. Less well known, is the ballet school in association with BRB, Elmhurst. On the Bristol Road, near the city centre, it educates children from 11 to 19 from all over the world.

The enlightened leadership of BRB and Elmhurst have come together to create a coherent programme where the company works with the school to the benefit of both and it is a model of excellent practice of employer school relationships that could be copied far and wide.

The ballet company and school sat down and discussed what the children needed in each year of their education from 11 to prepare them for successful careers in ballet at 19. All sorts of BRB employees go into the school throughout the year to talk and run workshops that are age appropriate and at various stages, the students go the Birmingham Hippodrome to engage with the company at work. 

What is particularly of note, is that it is not a one-way street. Both parties benefit. The BRB staff gain teaching experience, understanding of young people, future professionals and audiences as well as feeling an engagement in the education of the next generation. One of the dancers is currently on the governing body of the school. If a ballet requires children, and a number do – think Act 1 of the Nutcracker – Elmhurst can provide. If there is a need for additional corps de ballet, the older students make up the numbers.

At present however, the relationship between employers and schools in this country is very patchy. Some employers engage closely at higher education level, where qualifications often have to meet professional criteria but apart from accepting a few older school pupils for a week’s work experience from time to time, and perhaps offering up a member of staff for a particular one-off activity, not a lot happens. A much closer collaboration could help everyone.

A business discussing with a school, what outcomes would be of interest to them and then, as at Elmhurst, working out what that means when in terms of a school curriculum year by year, could prove a huge help in many ways. And in return? Schools could be offering so much to the company. Some large organisations already offer employees talks on educational topics – how to choose a school, how to help with homework, run by school specialists.

In the early 20c when education stopped at 13 and 14 for many, employers would run evening and lunchtime educational and cultural activities for workers. Today’s businesses could be using a school to provide a range of online training and discussions. Just as schools have been keen for years to attract people from the business and professional world on their governing body, so companies could benefit from having senior educationalists on their boards. The education of young people is everyone’s concern. What happens in schools and what happens in the world of work is intimately connected yet unexplored in any systematic way.

The possibilities for connections are endless, much needed and could be great fun for all. 

Sarah Evans is a guest author for Friend Partnership and writes on their behalf about issues of topical interest and general business commentary. Sarah is a former Principal of King Edward VI High School for Girls.

Sarah has in the past worked with Friend Partnership on a unique piece of research into the challenges faced by women in the workplace. 

Friend Partnership is a forward-thinking firm of accountants, business advisers, and corporate finance and tax specialists. Based in Birmingham, we act for entrepreneurial businesses and successful individuals on a national and international basis.