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Creating a Dream at The Pauline Quirke Academy

With performing arts known to play a leading role in helping children to develop many valuable life skills, we asked Lisa de Silva to meet with Florence Tingley and Rebecca Goffin to find out more about the local Pauline Quirke Academies

It’s no surprise to learn that the Pauline Quirke Academy (PQA) of Performing Arts continues to go from strength to strength, both nationally and in our local region. In fact, demand for places is so strong that not only is PQA Haywards Heath expanding to offer Saturday afternoon sessions, but a whole new PQA is coming to the Worthing area, with sessions on Friday evenings.

Principal of PQA Haywards Heath, Florence Tingley only opened her academy in September 2023, but with more children than places for the Saturday morning sessions, Florence is expanding into Saturday afternoons with sessions from 1.30 to 4.45pm.

“We offer our children so much more than performance and production skills,” she explained. “Lots of them come along to build their confidence and make new friends. So, from September 2024, we’re expanding to offer Saturday afternoon sessions so all those who want join PQA benefit from the opportunity.”

Similarly, Rebecca Goffin, Principal of both Brighton West and Brighton PQAs is launching a new academy in Worthing. Starting in September 2024, the sessions at Worthing High School will run from 5 to 8.15pm. Rebecca thinks there are three main reasons for the popularity of the academies, set up by actress Pauline Quirke and her husband in 2007.

“Firstly, we offer three modules, Musical Theatre, Comedy & Drama and Film & Television. Other performing arts schools do not have this range, particularly in learning film and television skills,” said Rebecca. “Secondly, we have fantastic showcasing opportunities which include West End stage shows and red-carpet cinema film screenings. And thirdly, there are the invaluable life skills that our students learn during their time with us.”

Florence (Left) & Rebecca (Right)

PQA academies cater for children aged 6-18 years and all those interested in joining benefit from a free session to see whether it’s for them.

Each session begins with a whole group warm up before the students are divided into three groups: the Green Group for 6–8-year-olds; the Blue Group for 9–12-year- olds and the Red Group for the over 12s. During each session, the groups rotate between each of the three modules, before coming together at the end for a group assembly, at which the Performer of the Week is announced. “The weekly award isn’t necessarily for the best performance,” Rebecca told me. “It might be for a student who has been super kind to their friends.”

Students also enjoy Masterclasses with visiting industry professionals, in everything from stage combat to special effects, make-up, magic tricks, and TV presenting. There is an annual Show Week and every three years students have the chance to perform on the West End stage. Last year, Rebecca hired the Brighton Odeon to screen the student’s films, with the best going forward to the PQA National Film Festival, and the opportunity to win a screening at the British Film Institute.

Both Rebecca and Florence are trained industry professionals and teachers, and the fabulous reputation that PQA is building means that they can attract the best teaching talent to their academies. All the academy’s teachers are professionals in their fields and both Principals feel strongly that having such a great team around them is fundamental to their success.

Students also benefit from professional representation through PQA’s Quirky Kidz Talent Agency. This is free to join, and the only additional cost is a set of acting headshot photographs. PQA students have appeared in West End shows including Matilda and School of Rock, TV commercials and films. Many others have gone on to drama school or into film, TV, and theatre work.

Fees are highly competitive and where possible all shows, screening events, masterclasses and workshops are included in the termly cost, currently £92, with a reduction for siblings, who pay £69. This offers exceptional value for money, with 41 classes during school term time, it works out around £8 per hour.

For younger children aged 4 and 5 years old, PQA offers the increasingly popular Poppets for £46 per term. Lasting 90-minutes, Poppets weekly sessions are both a superb introduction to the performing arts and the chance to improve a child’s social skills during those important developmental years.

Both Florence and Rebecca specifically chose to work with PQA owing to the organisation’s ethos. “I love the fact that at PQA we nurture all our students and celebrate who they are. We’re a place for everyone  and pride ourselves on being inclusive. Our slogan, ‘Be Your Amazing Self,’ recognises that every one of our students is amazing and we aim to help them flourish in their own unique way,” said Florence.

However, perhaps the most significant benefit of PQA is the confidence and life skills it instils in the students. “It builds self- confidence Florence could not agree more, “It’s why we do the job we do. The students learn
so many life skills, things that you don’t necessarily learn at school. Things like empathy, collaboration, patience, public speaking and communication skills. Watching the students develop in confidence is thrilling, and the change can often be phenomenal.”

Both Rebecca and Florence also run summer holiday clubs. This summer Rebecca is running a Wonka-based musical theatre workshop, while Florence’s students will be enjoying a Mary Poppins workshop.

 

For further information and to book a free session, please visit the PQA website: www.pqacademy.com

 

PQA Haywards Heath

Warden Park Secondary Academy, Broad Street, Cuckfield RH17 5DP

Florence.tingley@pqacademy.com

PQA Worthing

Worthing High School, South Farm Road, Worthing BN14 7AR

Rebecca.goffin@pqacademy.com

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