Gielgud Academy Free School - Haywards Heath, West Sussex

A local performing arts academy has put together a proposal to take over the former Haywards Heath College site as a new primary, secondary and sixth form free school.

Suzanne Gielgud (pictured) has been running Gielgud Academy from The Hub since its inception in 2011 but, in the light of Central Sussex College’s decision to close the Haywards Heath campus after the next academic year, she has seen a huge opportunity to create a facility that the whole of West Sussex can be proud of.

“Our proposal is to take over the site and turn it into an all-through school for ages 5-18 with a specialism in the arts,” Suzanne commented. “According to West Sussex County Council (WSCC) many primary schools in the area are at capacity already and more spaces are needed. Creating an all-through school not only meets the need to have an excellent sixth form in the area  but will also relieve pressure for primary places too.”

The new school would be a traditional, and non fee-paying, school but with a specialism in performing arts. “I genuinely believe that within every student there is always a particular gifting in the arts, be it dance, photography, art, music, film or design,” Suzanne continues. “We want to create a school where those gifts can flourish alongside an outstanding academic education.”

Suzanne is currently in the process of forming the Gielgud Academy Trust and has already had very positive meetings with both WSCC and the Department for Education, who are very interested in a provision of this kind being made available in Haywards Heath. “They told me the site was ideally suited to be divided for this purpose. I’ve also walked around the campus with three headteachers who agreed it would be a fantastic facility as a primary, secondary and a sixth form.”

The college buildings are all just a few years old, with particular attention having been spent on creating a state of the art theatre and rehearsal studios all with fully-sprung floors. The facilities are so good that Katie Derham and Anton Du Beke used them to practise locally during the last series of Strictly Come Dancing. Suzanne’s vision includes using the facilities how they were designed to be used. “It would be such a waste of the huge sums of money spent on the building to make it top spec, to not utilise them fully every day,” she explained.

Having a clear vision is something Suzanne is used to. She started Gielgud Academy of Performing Arts (GAPA) five ears ago, and it now teaches nearly 300 children and young people. She also has experience of working with government bodies too. Twenty years ago her management company began working with the Training & Enterprise Council to create a programme to help professional actors and performers gain extra skills to find employment.

Suzanne has been featured on BBC local radio and TV last month as she seeks to promote what she is trying to do with the Gielgud Academy Free School. If accepted the school would open in September 2017. Parents in the area are asked to complete a very short (2 mins) survey at: