Drama students received a surprise visit from a distinguished EastEnders actor.

Rudolph Walker OBE met pupils from at Roding Valley High School in Loughton and announced that five of the school’s students had been selected to join his awards programme.

The Rudolph Walker Foundation’s inter-School Drama Awards are designed to encourage the creative talents of young people and provide opportunities to work with professional actors.

Through the programme the students have the opportunity to gain confidence, experience and skills, as well as valuable connections through performing with prominent figures in the entertainment industry.

Sharon Jenner, head of school, said: “The surprise visit and collaboration with the Foundation is just one of the many ways in which the school goes the extra mile to ensure its students develop into aspirational young people, in and outside of the classroom.

"We are committed to providing access and means for students to express themselves creatively – it is such an important part of their education and development.”

As part of the visit, Mr Walker gave a speech about his childhood in Trinidad, his passion for acting that brought him to the UK, and the creation of his Foundation.

The actor, who was the first black actor to appear in a major British TV series, also discussed the progress being made in access to roles on TV, film and theatre for black actors and actresses.

Mr Walker said: “I am very excited to welcome Roding Valley High School to our Essex awards. I had an amazing morning with the students, where I got to share my story and answer all their questions. I am looking forward to seeing what magic they will produce.”

The visit was organised by Richard Wilson, Co-Lead of Roding Valley High School’s Drama department, who said: “Rudolph was warm, honest and an inspiration to everyone in the group. It was amazing for our students to hear, first-hand, about the life of an actor; especially one so experienced and iconic.

"It was a pleasure to see our students’ faces light up when it dawned on them who he was and, better still, to watch them listening so intently and asking such interesting questions."