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Strictly Come Dancing winner Rose Ayling-Ellis inspires pupils at her former school The John Wallis Academy in Ashford


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A month after Kent's Rose Ayling-Ellis made history by becoming the first deaf person to win the Strictly Come Dancing glitterball and her story is continuing to inspire young people.

Including those at her former school in Ashford.

Rose and Giovanni were crowned the winners of the 19th series. Picture: BBC/Guy Levy
Rose and Giovanni were crowned the winners of the 19th series. Picture: BBC/Guy Levy

The actress is known for playing Frankie Lewis, the daughter of Danny Dyer's character Mick Carter, in EastEnders.

She grew up in Hythe but went to The John Wallis Academy where she was the deputy head girl during her time in Year 11.

When it was announced Rose would be appearing on the show, teachers who remembered the 27-year-old for her 'charm and determination' shared stories of her in assemblies.

Staff and pupils alike eagerly watched Rose perform with dance partner Giovanni Pernice every week, she featured in numerous school newsletters, and became all people could talk about on Monday mornings following the hype of the show.

Since her win, pupils have been asking teachers for sign language classes while others are using her success to fuel their passions for dance.

Katie Walton, Vice Principal Head of Middle School, who met Rose in 2010 when the Academy opened, said: "We do lots of clubs after school and the Year 8s in particular were very keen on getting a sign language club set up which I'm trying to do at the moment.

Katie Walton, Vice Principal Head of Middle School. Picture: TJWA (54233518)
Katie Walton, Vice Principal Head of Middle School. Picture: TJWA (54233518)
The John Wallis Church of England Academy in Millbank Road. Picture: TJWA
The John Wallis Church of England Academy in Millbank Road. Picture: TJWA

"Pupils were so inspired by her. The show's line-up came out quite early on so we started the year in September talking about her in assemblies.

"Mr Twyman, our RE teacher, remembered her and Mr Bean remembered her art project.

"We remember how vibrant she was. She was really determined at whatever she put her mind to and she was a really lovely, genuine person.

"What you see on TV is exactly what you get in real life.

"We’re going to see if we can get Rose and Giovanni in to dance, or even see if Rose can come back and give a talk."

Evie Godfrey and Lily-Clare Slade were inspired by Rose. Picture: TJWA
Evie Godfrey and Lily-Clare Slade were inspired by Rose. Picture: TJWA

A picture of Rose with her Year 11 classmates even sits in the school's restaurants alongside the year groups that followed.

While Rose's story connected with most, those with hidden disabilities and passions for performing were particularly encouraged.

Year 10 pupil Lily-Clare Slade hopes to become a jockey when she leaves school and trains twice a week.

She said watching Rose only inspired her more as she also has a hidden disability.

The 14-year-old said: "At first people might not know Rose is deaf, so as a person with hidden disabilities myself, to see her do so well, and actually win the competition really inspired me in what I do.

Rose was cast in EastEnders as Frankie Lewis in 2020. Picture: BBC/Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes
Rose was cast in EastEnders as Frankie Lewis in 2020. Picture: BBC/Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes
Rose was first cast in the TV soap in 2020. Picture: BBC/Kieron McCarron
Rose was first cast in the TV soap in 2020. Picture: BBC/Kieron McCarron

"I’m quite into sports and I want to become a jockey but hip problems can be quite restrictive but it has encouraged me to keep going.

"It shows that even if you do have an everyday background you can do amazing things."

Evie Godfrey is studying drama, music and biology in the school's Sixth Form and hopes to one day take her acting skills to the West End.

The 17-year-old said watching Rose's success knowing her background has been a huge motivation.

She said: "I'm quite a big fan of Strictly, I've been watching it for as long as I can remember so to hear she came from my school was really cool to find out.

Rose was partnered with professional dancer Giovanni Pernice. Picture: BBC/Guy Levy
Rose was partnered with professional dancer Giovanni Pernice. Picture: BBC/Guy Levy

"I found it inspirational from a performing arts point of view because I'm a drama student so I found her a great example that you can go big in the acting industry with an average background."

The actress triumphed in the BBC One show, defeating Great British Bake Off star John Whaite and his partner Johannes Radebe, and AJ Odudu and partner Kai Widdrington, who had to pull out at the last minute due to an injury.

Rose is the first deaf person to compete on Strictly and will be remembered for her performance paying tribute to the deaf community which earned her the sterling praise from judge Anton Du Beke.

Her Couple's Choice dance, which she again performed in the final, featured a powerful period of silence to reflect what dancing is like for her, and scored her an almost perfect score of 39 out of 40.

She was crowned the winner of the show's 19th series on December 18.

She's now heading on tour with her fellow finalists which for the first time will have a registered interpreter on two large screens on either side of the stage. This means deaf people can enjoy the event from any part of the venue at any of the 33 shows.

Rose performed on the show for 12 weeks. Picture: BBC/Guy Levy
Rose performed on the show for 12 weeks. Picture: BBC/Guy Levy

The 27-year-old was first cast in the TV soap in 2020 and her character was originally written by the deaf journalist and scriptwriter Charlie Swinbourne.

Before her role in EastEnders, Rose performed in several stage productions, including Mother Courage at the Royal Exchange, Faith, Hope And Charity R&D at the National Theatre and Herons Workshop at the Lyric in Hammersmith.

She also appeared in the music video for Middle of the Night by The Vamps in 2017.

As a child, Rose took part in a filming weekend run by the National Deaf Children's Society where she met deaf film director Ted Evans, who then cast her in his short film The End.

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