The Dumping Ground cast: Meet the 11-year-old Leeds schoolgirl playing Shanice on hit CBBC show

A young Leeds actress has shared what it's like to star in one of the longest-running children’s programmes on CBBC.

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Moortown schoolgirl Raniah Morton wrapped up six months of filming in Newcastle for the hit show The Dumping Ground last October.

Episodes of series 11 are now airing weekly, and see 11-year-old Raniah star in a leading role as Shanice on the Tracy Beaker Returns spin-off. The show follows the lives of young children and adults living in a care home.

Raniah Morton is a student at LB Academy, a performing arts school in Bramley. Photo: Simon Hulme Raniah Morton is a student at LB Academy, a performing arts school in Bramley. Photo: Simon Hulme
Raniah Morton is a student at LB Academy, a performing arts school in Bramley. Photo: Simon Hulme
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Growing up, Raniah's older sister Sukai, 13, was more interested in acting - featuring in a few adverts and dramas and as an extra on Coronation Street and Ackley Bridge. 

It was mum Sue who put the younger sister forward for classes at LB Academy, a performing arts school in Bramley, that kickstarted both her interest in the field and her career.

Sue, a mum-of-three, said: "She started coming to LB Academy and she was super shy at first. I was bringing her here for confidence."

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The academy, which launched in 2019 and now operates out of a base on Broad Lane, worked with Raniah to explore her creative side and have been honing her singing, dancing and acting skills since she first stepped foot into the premises five years ago.

The nature of the industry means that young performers and budding actors are faced with a lot of rejection and criticism, said founder of LB Academy Craig Womersley.

Founder of LB Academy Craig Womersley with student Raniah Morton, who plays Shanice on CBBC show The Dumping Ground. Photo: Simon Hulme Founder of LB Academy Craig Womersley with student Raniah Morton, who plays Shanice on CBBC show The Dumping Ground. Photo: Simon Hulme
Founder of LB Academy Craig Womersley with student Raniah Morton, who plays Shanice on CBBC show The Dumping Ground. Photo: Simon Hulme

And Raniah had actually been rejected from The Dumping Ground for a previous season before she put her hat in the ring again in January 2023.

Many rounds of auditions followed before she was eventually made an offer to play Shanice on the children's programme in April. 

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Raniah said: "I was quite shocked, because I thought I wouldn’t get it. But I kept going over it in my head like, ‘I’m going to get this, I’m going to get this’. And then I did - my first job."

To Sue, the news just "didn't seem real". Sue said she hadn't anticipated Raniah to get the role, due to the previous rejection Raniah had faced.

But soon, she had to come to terms with the fact that her youngest daughter would be moving out for six months to pursue her dreams.

Sue added: "I’m a single parent and Raniah is the rock of our family. Everyone close to me knew I was going to struggle with [Raniah moving out].

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"It was a big thing for me - and it was a big thing for her older sister and younger brother because they’re really close. 

"I kept phoning Craig. It was actually really traumatic, that first couple of weeks. 

"I said yes, flippantly [to the auditions].  I didn’t think she would get it. Reality set in, that she’s going to get this and she’s going. 

"This was her first ever job, she had never been in front of this many cameras or in this environment before, like other kids had."

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And it wasn't much easier for the Leeds actress either. She had missed out on some important milestones after filming began in May, including the end of Year 6 and the beginning of Year 7 due to the filming schedule. 

But Raniah, who was one of the youngest on set, had also missed her mum terribly. 

Raniah said: "When I first started, I would call her every single day. And when it got to the end, my mum was the one trying to phone me.

"It was really hard. You’ve got to wake up really early in the morning and quickly get changed, do hair and makeup, and you have to have dinner quickly. We could shoot for nine hours. But I got used to it."

Leeds schoolgirl Raniah Morton, 11, spent six months filming for the children's programme in Newcastle and hopes to continue acting in the future. Photo: Simon Hulme Leeds schoolgirl Raniah Morton, 11, spent six months filming for the children's programme in Newcastle and hopes to continue acting in the future. Photo: Simon Hulme
Leeds schoolgirl Raniah Morton, 11, spent six months filming for the children's programme in Newcastle and hopes to continue acting in the future. Photo: Simon Hulme
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A large part of this was due to the close friendships Raniah made with her castmates and soon, the nine-hour filming days didn’t feel too difficult. 

Eager to see her friends again, Raniah hopes to continue her role of Shanice on the show, a character that reminded the actress of herself.

Raniah said: "She was quite bossy. She’d always roll her eyes at her brothers - and that’s what I do to my brother."

And the experience on the set of The Dumping Ground has just made Raniah more determined to further her acting career. 

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Raniah said: “You can be whoever you want to be as an actor. You can be yourself too. You also meet new people and you can see yourself on TV. It’s cool - but a big cringey as well."

Seeing his young student grow in confidence and take on big roles has been “amazing”, Craig said. 

The founder added: "This is what we wanted for the community. It is really important for me to open this in Bramley, because I am from Bramley originally.

"I did everything Raniah did but I had to travel for it. To now see people from the community get opportunities is brilliant. It’s hard - there’s so much competition and you have to deal with rejection, and we try to prepare them for that. She trained really well with us but she’s gotten even better since the show.

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"One of the best moments for me was when Hannah (assistant principal) and I drove down to Newcastle the day before they wrapped and everyone - directors, producers, adult cast members - stopped us to tell us that she was amazing. 

"The casting director for the Dumping Ground said she was blown away by the talent in the agency - and that meant a lot.

“Really, what Raniah has done there is put us on the map with that casting director - and she’s big. It will open up more opportunities for LB Academy.” 

Find out more information about LB Academy via its website and social media channels. Watch Raniah Morton as Shanice on The Dumping Ground on CBBC or iPlayer.

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