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Our Principal, Jessica Wheeler, has been selected as a finalist in the Business Woman of the Year category of the ‘Ladies First Awards 2020’, a charity event in support of the Katie Piper Foundation.
September 2020 marks Jessica’s tenth year here at Elmhurst, where as Principal she continues to chair the Department for Education Music and Dance Schools’ head teachers group who meet to share best practise, ideas of funding and advocacy to ensure young people from all backgrounds have access to dance and music education across the UK.
During her time here, Jessica has changed the culture and ethos of the school to one that is more open and transparent and has developed a strong sense of student voice giving our students opportunities to be involved in Elmhurst’s development through a School Council and a Student Leadership Programme.
Jessica’s leadership has helped strengthen the contemporary dance offer and built relationships with international companies such as Studio Wayne McGregor and Rambert to ensure the modern dance offer is as strong as the ballet training, resulting in our students graduating industry-ready. Employment outcomes have been more varied as students continue to secure contracts with a diverse range of dance companies, both in the UK and across the globe.
Under Jessica’s headship, the facilities here have been enhanced with the development of The Elms (off-site, Upper School accommodation), the Health & Wellbeing Centre, a fitness suite and an outdoor sport space. A bespoke Health Trust and commitment to ongoing research in Strength and Conditioning for dancers has been developed with Jessica at the helm.
In 2018, Jessica instigated the creation of Elmhurst Ballet Company to improve the student experience in the Upper School and provide better support in transitioning to the dance profession. The graduate year company takes the Elmhurst brand from Birmingham to London with annual performances at the prestigious Sadler’s Wells theatre.
Jessica Wheeler said: “I am thrilled to be selected as a finalist in the Business Woman of the Year category for the Ladies First Awards 2020, a wonderful charity event in support of the Katie Piper Foundation.
2020 marks my tenth year as Principal of Elmhurst Ballet School, where I am very proud to call my workplace. I have two young children at home and another 190 at school and every day they all inspire and motivate me to ensure each and every one of them gets the best start in life, not only as professional dancers for our students, but also that they become the best people they can possibly be - someone you'd like to sit next to at a dinner party!
Training elite dancers is costly, and although we receive Government funding as part of the Music and Dance specialist schools' scheme, we are always looking at other funding channels, whether that's individual donors or corporate sponsors. Without the success of some of these initiatives allowing our students to train, around 80 percent of them would not be at Elmhurst pursuing their dreams. It is my main focus to continue to offer opportunities to young people whose talent for dance shines through, regardless of their financial background.
Being recognised in these awards helps to drive further interest in Elmhurst and its aims and objectives to support the hundreds of young people who walk through our doors. It's an exciting time for business and dance in the region and as we work towards our 100th anniversary in 2023, I want to ensure we remain part of that conversation, so we continue to attract the best students, teachers and choreographers to Birmingham and confirm our place as a world leader in dance and education."
Winners will be announced at the Ladies First Awards 2020 ceremony on Saturday 16 May at the VOX, Resorts World in Birmingham.
Best of luck from all of the Elmhurst family!