Education was changing. Grants for students aged 16+ from local Education Authority's were no longer the norm' and were replaced by funding from central Government, leading to recognised qualifications in dance, drama and musical theatre via the Dance & Drama Award scheme (DaDA).
Avondale Hall, the Academy's former home, had been retained and had already become a performance facility with studios for acting workshops and plays. It soon became 'home' again to the Academy's new, successful BA Honours Acting Degree course, initiated by son, Graham, which was quickly accredited by the NCDT and produces excellent work in the classroom as well as in performance. Anne Sheward, as Principal, restructured the 16+ three year Performing Arts Diploma course to include more performance opportunities.
Students would spend a large part of each week in the final third year operating as 'repertory style' companies performing in Shakespeare tours, dance and musicals projects. She added more contextual studies to the curriculum and devised the highly regarded and innovative Personal and Professional Development (PPD) provision into the curriculum, allowing the students to devise, develop, create and show their own work. This was recognised as an invaluable learning experience for students which has been adopted by many other schools and applauded by the Education inspectors.
The Theatre Arts secondary school also ensured children aged between 10 and 16 years not only progressed to student courses with the necessary vocational skills but also achieved highly academically, receiving excellent results and topping government league tables in the area.
A variety of new 'short' courses were introduced, from summer schools to one year foundation and intensive courses in the performing arts.
The Academy's influence was to reach out further, with the decision to expand the part time school base to encourage more participation within local communities. The Italia Conti Associate Schools were founded in 1995 and are operated at various sites around the country working to a similar vocational curriculum as the full time school. Children as young as 3 years old were now enjoying Conti's own brand of acting, song and movement without having to travel to London.
The Italia Conti Academy's Charitable Trust made provision for scholarships for gifted Associate school children to train at the full time Academy. This talent search, together with further scholarships from Trust for children and students has resulted in many hundreds of talented young people being able to train full time at the Academy in London and many more benefiting from part time training. Many of these young people are now enjoying success in television, theatre, film and the music industry.
The Academy also expanded its theatrical Agency, under the direction of Gaynor Sheward, and included a management company to help their students and graduates secure professional engagements in all media worldwide.
Samantha Newton (formally Sheward) and her family founded the Italia Conti Arts Centre in Guildford in 2004, which offers a variety of full time performing arts courses together with all the current recognised teacher training qualifications as well as a range of part-time and short courses. Samantha went on to become principal of both the Arts Centre and London Academy in 2017.
A selection of photos from an Italia Conti show in the early 90's
Principal from 1994 - 2016
Italia Conti Principal
Italia Conti House, Barbican, London
Italia Conti Arts Centre, Guildford, Surrey
Italia Conti's pioneering policy and belief that children and young people would have more opportunity to work if trained in all 3 disciplines proved innovative and is still current today.
No one should underestimate the scale of Italia Conti's achievements and influence. Her innovative school has given the performing arts in Britain and throughout the world some of its brightest stars and provided work for thousands of others. It is internationally known and attracts young people from all walks of life. As the school celebrates over 100 years of success we marvel at the fact that throughout its history the Academy has only had 5 principals. The founder, Italia Conti, her niece, Ruth Conti, Eve Sheward and her daughters Anne Sheward and current principle Samantha Newton. These remarkable women have altered the lives of so many young gifted people and their contribution to the performing arts world is beyond repute.