The new owners of the Italia Conti Stage School not only carried on the schools tradition but also raised its academic standard. The school applied for and gained recognition from the Department of Education and Science. A first for a stage school! This meant the school was now eligible for grants in the form of local education authority discretionary awards which allowed Eve Sheward to offer places to talented young people from diverse social backgrounds. Many of today's established performers would not have been able to train without this financial support.
The school became affluent and influential, new courses were introduced to cater for the changing demand of the profession. The school formed its own dance troupes who enjoyed success in cabaret, theatre and television.
As a result of its new reputation and with ever changing trends, the Italia Conti Stage School officially became known as The Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts. Shortly after the name change it became apparent that Italia Conti's distinctive format of 'all-round triple threat' training in acting, singing and dance was under threat. It quickly became obvious that with the introduction of two new independent training assessment 'councils' – The Council for Dance Education & Training (CDET) and The National Council for Drama Training (NCDT) to look at performance based training standards, neither were qualified to assess the Italia Conti School's multi skilled courses.
This led to an enormous conundrum, with original suggestions bordering on the absurd when it was initially suggested that to satisfy both 'councils' criteria students would have to undertake 3 years of independent training in each discipline (3 years following an acting course and 3 years following a dance course), if the school was to obtain duel 'accreditation'. The suggested change was an anathema to an institution that had produced so many renowned multi-skilled entertainers. It went against the whole 'Conti' tradition of providing simultaneous training in three art forms.
Eve Sheward took her fight to the highest political and educational levels. Her argument that any student wanting to excel in both dance and drama would have to train for 6 year, and a possible further 3 if singing was to be included, would result in 9 years of training, enormous expense and most students not entering the profession until mid or late 20's at the earliest! Her pressure led to a proposal that both Councils should conduct a joint accreditation assessment of the Italia Conti Academy. The NCDT declined, stating that it did not feel competent to assess the school's dance and singing components.
This left the CDET to finally recognise the value of a proper and necessary multi-skilled Performing Arts / Musical Theatre training, and after a long and tough struggle the school received its accreditation to carry on as it had always done, thus paving the way for other institutions to follow.
The home of Italia Conti from 1960 - 1984 & home of the acting course
including Lena Zavaroni, Amanda Mealing & Bonnie Langford
Principal from 1968 - 1994
In 1984, and following a hugely successful TV documentary, the school moved again to its current home in the Barbican which provided much needed additional dance, drama and acting studios as well as the introduction of modern video and recording technology. Eve and Don Sheward felt that the time was coming to hand over the running of the School to their children, who had enjoyed successful careers in acting, dance and singing. A new generation that would cater for different vocational demands and the ever-increasing use of technology. Their three daughters, Anne, Samantha & Gaynor and son, Graham would lead the school into the 21st Century and although their son decided to take up pastures new, the girls continue to bring new initiatives to the school while retaining the Conti traditions.
Class Photo 1979
Dom & Eve Sheward with a Conti celebration cake
Italia Conti students meeting the queen