The Royal Ballet School’s Primary Steps on Demand programme offers primary schools high-quality creative dance education. Available through the School’s online platform, the digital programme gives educators all the resources they need to incorporate ballet into their curriculum.
Dance schools, community groups, and children’s clubs can also sign up for Primary Steps on Demand. In addition, home educators can use the programme to teach ballet with confidence, with no previous dance teaching experience needed.
Primary Steps on Demand offers schools and home educators many benefits. The programme:
- Provides a positive, creative introduction to dance.
- Encourages children to become more active.
- Facilitates learning through movement.
- Gets children involved in the arts.
- Presents an outlet for creative expression.
- Helps improve children’s motor skills, thinking skills, and confidence.
- Improves engagement in learning for all children.
- Opens avenues to further dance training.
- Enables schools to fulfil their physical education (PE) and sport premium requirement.
1. A Positive, Creative Introduction to Dance
Primary Steps on Demand provides children aged 7 to 11 with a positive, creative introduction to dance.
Dance is a compulsory activity in the national curriculum for PE, and schools sometimes offer dance as an after-school activity. Surveys show that dance is the second most popular physical activity after football. However, the standard of dance teaching varies from school to school.
Meanwhile, home educators do not need to follow the national curriculum. Some may wish to provide their children with a positive introduction to dance but lack the experience or resources.
Schools and home educators can feel confident delivering high-quality dance teaching with Primary Steps on Demand. Developed by dance and education experts at The Royal Ballet School, the online programme has its roots in the successful, in-person Primary Steps programme.
Like the in-person programme, Primary Steps on Demand takes a creative approach to teaching ballet. Royal Ballet School instructors deliver the classes, and Royal Ballet School dancers and Primary Steps students provide inspiring demonstrations.
Rosemary’s Experience With Primary Steps
Rosemary is a home educator who incorporated Primary Steps on Demand into her children’s home education curriculum. She says the programme has enhanced the home education journey for her children.
Although she used to dance when she was younger, Rosemary hasn’t had any specific dance-teaching experience. Primary Steps allows her to hand over teaching to The Royal Ballet School’s “charismatic,” “qualified, wonderful teachers.” This allows her to “step back” from the teaching role and join in dancing with her children.
Rosemary recommends Primary Steps on Demand to other home educators. She explains that the programme is “easy to deliver” and allows educators “to bring exercise and movement into [their] home environment.”
2. Getting More Active
Primary Steps on Demand helps schools and educators get children more active with classes that explore the curriculum through dance. The programme includes video lessons that introduce core ballet concepts, such as dynamics, counterpull, and spirals.
There are also movement guides for warm-ups, cool-downs, and cardio blasts. Educators can use these shorter videos to inject movement into the day.
Rosemary likes combining dance with academic lessons as this allows her children to “let off some steam.” Though her son is back in mainstream school, he still takes Primary Steps classes in the mornings. Doing a Primary Steps lesson first thing “gets [Rosemary and her son] moving before anything starts.”
“By the time he goes to school, he’s already done a whole ballet class, which helps him concentrate,” Rosemary explains. “He works much better, having done that movement beforehand.”
“It’s very easy [for home educators] to let movement fall by the wayside,” Rosemary explains. “This is a really good way of incorporating it without really any trouble to yourself, and you get to join in as well. It’s a win-win situation.”
3. Learning Through Movement
Many studies show that learning through movement improves physical activity and academic performance for primary school students. This experiential learning is not only an effective strategy for young children but also one that students enjoy.
Primary Steps on Demand classes include aspects of literacy; numeracy; and spiritual, moral, social, and cultural (SMSC) development. The lessons also use cross-curricular themes, allowing educators to cover a range of subjects through experiential learning. The programme covers curriculum areas like art, geometry, Ancient Egypt, and the water cycle.
Rosemary enjoys this cross-curricular aspect of the programme. “For a home educator, that’s particularly nice because I’m doing a syllabus as well, so we get to do things that will match on that day.”
Educators receive full lesson plans and student resources to accompany these lessons. For example, the lesson plan for the water cycle includes a discovery question, keywords and terminology, and teacher guidance. The student resource for the water cycle includes creative exercises to help children further engage with the subject.
Rosemary says the lesson plans are “very clear.” She adds that “the video classes are so well set out that you don’t even need to have read the plan to be able to follow the classes perfectly well.”
“You don’t have to do any technical teaching,” Rosemary notes. “I think it’s probably almost as easy to deliver the classes as a non-dancer than as a dancer.”
4. Involvement In the Arts
According to Arts Council England, all young people have the right to experience a creative education that includes arts, culture, and dance. Involvement with arts and culture is crucial to self-expression, imagination, and creativity in young people. Arts and cultural education can also enrich teaching and learning across the curriculum.
For years, Primary Steps has widened access to dance education for primary school students in England and Wales. The programme is part of the School’s mission to create opportunities for young people to access exceptional ballet education and engage with the art form. Primary Steps targets socially, economically, and culturally diverse regions.
Now, Primary Steps on Demand is helping more children get involved in the arts through dance. Children who use the online programme learn about key ballet concepts, including terms like “plié,” “glissé,” and “tourné.” Children also experience ballet for themselves, dancing to accompaniment from a professional musician.
5. An Outlet for Creative Expression
Dance can present an outlet for creative expression for children. Arts Council England highlights dance as a “very attractive cultural form through which young people of all learning abilities can express their own identities and cultures.”
Primary Steps on Demand’s teaching approach leaves room for children to explore movement organically. Through dance, children can explore new concepts without fear that they might get an answer “right” or “wrong.”
Rosemary says her son “absolutely loves the creative elements” of the programme, whether he’s dancing or choreographing.
Rosemary emphasises that the programme doesn’t include “lots of different complicated steps.” Instead, lessons focus on “the way you’re moving, how you stand, and how you feel and interpret the music.” Primary Steps classes provide “lots of interpretation, and [her son] feels freer.”
The structure of the video classes allows students to express themselves freely and find creative ways to move their bodies. Creative expression through movement supports the mind-body connection, helping children understand their feelings and sensations.
6. Motor Skills, Thinking Skills, and Confidence
The positive effects of dance on children’s physical and mental health are numerous. Dance can improve children’s:
- Motor skills, including strength, coordination, balance, and agility.
- Creative, independent, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
- Communication, collaborative, and team-building skills.
- Discipline and confidence.
All these aspects can contribute to a child’s overall physical and mental well-being.
The Royal Ballet School recently surveyed students and teachers taking part in the Primary Steps programme. 91% of students recognised that they felt confident or very confident when they danced. 83% of students felt that, through participation in the programme, they could work well or very well with other people.
100% of partner school teachers believed their students’ self-esteem increased during the autumn workshop period of the in-person programme. 100% of teachers also believed their students’ physical skills and creativity increased during the same period.
Rosemary also highlights that dance can improve children’s posture and, in turn, their confidence. “If you have good posture, you seem more confident and stand out from the crowd,” she says.
7. Improving Engagement in Learning for All Children
Primary Steps on Demand is an inclusive programme that ensures children of all abilities can engage with and enjoy learning. The programme uses inclusive language and content that educators can adapt to the needs of individual students.
The Royal Ballet School has developed Primary Steps on Demand to be accessible to all children, including those with special educational needs (SEN) or physical disabilities.
The UK Chief Medical Officers recommend that SEN children and those with disabilities take part in 20 minutes of daily activity. Primary Steps on Demand can help teachers and home educators provide children with this recommended amount of activity.
In addition to physical and mental benefits, dance is a powerful way for SEN children and those with disabilities to express themselves non-verbally.
Primary Steps on Demand also takes a gender-neutral approach to teaching dance. Rosemary disagrees with the “outdated” attitude that boys shouldn’t do ballet and appreciates that the programme is “for everybody.”
8. Opening Avenues to Further Dance Training
The Primary Steps programme has served as a launch pad for many young dancers. Students who complete the in-person programme have gone on to further vocational and pre-vocational dance training.
Some of the dance schools and centres Primary Steps participants go on to train at include Swindon Dance, Moorland International Ballet Academy, and The Royal Ballet School.
Primary Steps on Demand also inspires children to pursue other forms of dance training. Rosemary believes the online programme has contributed to her son joining The Royal Ballet School’s Junior Associate Programme in Manchester.
9. PE And Sport Premium Funding
The UK government specifies that schools should use PE and sport premium funding to help children access high-quality PE provision and opportunities.
Arts Council England states that the premium has had a positive impact on young people’s access to dance in primary schools. A 2015 report demonstrated that schools have used the funding to increase dance provision. In addition, dance is one of the most commonly mentioned new activities in the PE curriculum since the government introduced the premium.
Primary Steps on Demand is an ideal use of primary schools’ PE and sport premium funding. The programme includes continuing professional development (CPD) to upskill teachers. This CPD provision aligns with the government’s requirement that the funding should help increase all staff’s confidence, knowledge, and skills in teaching PE and sport.
Primary Steps CPD Sessions
A Royal Ballet School Primary Steps expert leads the free CPD sessions on Zoom. These sessions allow educators to:
- Gain knowledge, skills, and confidence in dance teaching.
- Connect and network with other teachers.
- Ask The Royal Ballet School team questions.
Educators receive certifications after each CPD session with links to more resources.
CPD sessions cover:
- Classroom management for dance sessions and safe dance practice.
- Active posture.
- Ballet basics.
- Creating a dance performance.
Home educators can also benefit from the CPD sessions. Rosemary enjoys the sessions as they each give her a new topic to consider.
She also enjoys having contact with the Primary Steps organisers and others who are delivering the programme in other educational settings. In particular, this contact can help home educators who may otherwise feel isolated teaching at home.
Learn more about Primary Steps on Demand.
About The Royal Ballet School
The Royal Ballet School’s Primary Steps programme supports children of all backgrounds who wish to connect with local dance infrastructure and access classical ballet opportunities. Many who take part in the programme pursue further dance training. Some go on to study at The Royal Ballet School.
The School continues to extend its expertise in classical ballet training and resources through varied in-person and digital programmes and classes. These offerings include Intensive Courses, the Associate Programme, and Insight classes.