West End stars put Aylsham dancers through paces

Two stars from the West End hit musical 42nd Street have given the cast of Aylsham High School’s own production a tap dancing masterclass.

Adam Denman and Becky Herszenhorn spent a whole afternoon with about 25 members of the cast, going through complex tap routines and giving their choreography some extra pizazz.

The show is pulling in massive audiences in London after opening in the West End in October. And by coincidence, Aylsham High School bought the rights to perform the show. The cast has been perfecting its tap dancing since September and youngsters managed to wow the two stars from the West End during the coaching session.

Adam said: “I didn’t expect this calibre of skill. They are absolutely fantastic.” Becky added: “We found out today some of them had never worn a pair off tap shoes before rehearsals. Hopefully we have been able to pass on some of then energy and excitement of the West End show.”

Adam and Becky spent three hours working with the students, making sure the split-econd timings were spot on and that Aylsham’s stars hadevery bit as much glitz as their professional counterparts in London. When the show opens in Aylsham there will be a cast of 40 plus a professional orchestra.

42nd Street is a musical about a musical, the cast of a show battling against the odds to put on a hit. It’s packed with famous numbers such as We’re in the Money, Lullaby of Broadway and, of course, the big hit number 42nd Street.

Director and Aylsham High drama teacher Hazel Martin said: “To have two stars from 42nd Street in the West End come all the way out to Aylsham to help us perfect our show has been a really amazing experience for all of us, our cast have been buzzing with excitement. Adam and Becky have been wonderful, they’ve really helped us raise our game to new heights.”

Producer Tanya Wiseman has worked tirelessly to get the sets built and arranged for Becky and Adam to come to Aylsham for the coaching session. She said: “I’m so immensely proud to see the students achieving those extra finishing touches and can’t wait for opening night.”

42nd Street at Aylsham High School runs from March 14-17. Tickets from the school or


Aylsham High students take to catwalk

Year 11 students from Aylsham High hit the catwalk on Friday to raise money for their summer prom.

The students modelled prom dresses and suits from The Wardrobe in Horsford, then showed more casual wear from Blossom and Green in Aylsham and Roys of Wroxham to raise £1,800.

Organiser Diane Wade, from the school, said: “It was just so lovely to see the Year 11s relaxing as they prepare for the busiest period of their school career.”

She added: “It was fabulous to work with alumni as our sound and lighting guys, all of whom are now going off to study film/theatre production at uni or in the case of James Hubbard, to a full-time apprentice cameraman at Epic Studios.”

The funds were raised for the Class of 2017 Prom, on July 1 at Mannington Hall, and also a donation is made to Water Aid.

The next event on the prom fundraising calendar is An Auction of Very Real Things at the school on Thursday, May 4. Browsing will be from 7pm and the first lot goes under the hammer at 7.30pm.

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Aylsham schools forge closer links

A new link between Aylsham schools has been announced – with John of Gaunt joining the existing partnership between Aylsham High and Bure Valley schools.

The infant and nursery will partner with the Aylsham Learning Federation (which was formed in July between AHS and BVS) from next April, with a view to future federation.

Senior teacher Clare Toplis will take on the head of school role at John of Gaunt from September 2017, with Duncan Spalding as executive headteacher. Mrs Toplis will replace current headteacher, Fiona Chant, who retires at the end of the current academic year.

Mrs Toplis, who will work closely alongside Mrs Chant over the next nine months to ensure a smooth transition, said: “I am delighted to have been appointed as head of school from September and look forward to this exciting role.

“As we move towards partnership with the Aylsham Learning Federation, I know that this will be a hugely valuable and supportive structure that will enable John of Gaunt to retain its individuality but also strengthen us and our ability to deliver the best education for our children.”

School leaders said the partnership will bring together the heads of school of John of Gaunt and Bure Valley (Jamie Olney) to further develop transition work and to share expertise and best practice.

The partnership also brings with it the support of the ALF business and community team.

Mike Downes, chair of governors at John of Gaunt, said: “When we were aware that Fiona Chant would be retiring, we knew it would be important to ensure the future success of our outstanding school.

“After a year of planning and research, the governors decided that partnership with ALF and the appointment of an excellent head of school was the best way forward.

“We are certain that Clare Toplis, who is a great teacher and who knows John of Gaunt School so well, will take the school forward and ensure that the children continue to receive an outstanding educational experience.”

Jenny Youngs, chair of governors of the ALF, said: “After the very successful formation of the ALF between Aylsham High and Bure Valley, the governors are delighted to be given the opportunity to form a partnership with John of Gaunt, and we are much looking forward to working together for the benefit of the young people of Aylsham.”

Mrs Youngs said the fortunes of the three schools had “long been inextricably intertwined” and their success was crucial to the long term success of education in the town and wider Aylsham cluster.

Mr Spalding said: “I am really excited to be part of the future leadership team of John of Gaunt. Clare Toplis is the perfect person to carry on the great work that Fiona Chant has done over the last 16 years, and I am really looking forward to the opportunity of supporting her in her work as head of school.

“I am confident that the future partnership will be a great development for education in the town and for The Aylsham Cluster Trust family of schools.”

John of Gaunt is a community school for girls and boys between the ages of three and seven

The school is organised into four classes and there are approximately 120 children
in the main school, with the nursery accommodating a further 52 children part time.

The school had its most recent inspection in February 2014 and was awarded ‘outstanding’ in
all four areas.

A meeting for parents at all three schools will be held in the new year to provide more information.

Children at John of Gaunt celebrating their 'Outstanding' Ofsted report with head teacher Fiona Chant.

Children at John of Gaunt celebrating their ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted report in 2014.

Fiona Chant, headteacher at John of Gaunt who is retiring in 2017.

Fiona Chant, headteacher at John of Gaunt who is retiring in 2017.

Hazel on a mission to help

HAZEL NEEDHAM, a former student of Aylsham High and Paston Sixth Form College talks about her summer plans in Fiji and how they are not about getting a sun tan but helping the community there.


Having grown up just outside Aylsham, attended the local schools and then North Walsham’s Paston Sixth Form College, I have been blessed with a childhood of not only safety and security, but also opportunities.
A former footballer, Girl Guide and keen thespian and writer I have always loved getting involved with our little community and have a lot of people to thank for where I am now, studying English and creative writing at the University of Warwick.
We are told it constantly, but the reason I am reviewing my own childhood and community is a reflection of quite how lucky we are.
In July 2017, I am flying halfway across the world to Fiji – and not for a sun tan. The country has a history infused with devastating cyclones, or storms, which even in February 2016 forced an astonishing 62,400 people out of their homes.
Think Pacific is a small but crucial charity which sends at least 20 volunteers each month into different villages of Fiji to help restore the poverty-stricken communities.
I will be one of these volunteers, living with a Fijian family and each day working with the locals to address an array of necessities.
As a student and a proud geek myself, I am particularly enthused by the educational focus. Each morning I will work with teachers and students to regenerate a safe learning environment for the Fijian children, including maths and English and general support.
In the afternoons, the focus will be more on extra-curricular activities, which are currently nonexistent, specifically sports, drama and enterprise, all arguably the most memorable and enjoyable parts of a school experience.
To reiterate, however, the underlying significance of these activities is to re-establish a sense of safety, support and community into the lives of the children and their families.
Aside from education, the charity also runs building and refurbishment projects. They have built community kitchens, installed water sanitation systems, created a kindergarten and built jetties, all to provide a small helping hand in improving the current absence of basic infrastructure.
Think Pacific also looks to conservation, investing in sea defences and ways of helping the wildlife which is also severely damaged by each cyclone.
Therefore, the childhood I have been blessed with of safety, security and opportunities is one that I not only fully appreciate, but one I believe everyone should be entitled to.
Obviously, with natural disasters constantly knocking at your door and more than 250,000 members of the population below the poverty line, this cannot be achieved without, firstly, financial support, but, secondly, dedication, hard work and empathy from those of us who can recognise how lucky we are and how much they need our help.
I aim to raise £1,500 before I leave in July, though every copper is counted and appreciated by the orphans and families that need our support, and donations are appreciated in any quantity.
If you would like to support the cause, and my month of cold showers and plain rice please find my Just Giving page