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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 March, 2004, 00:34 GMT
New grants for 'Billy Elliots'
boy playing clarinet
There will be 200 grants in the first instance
Children in England who show "exceptional talent" in music and dance should benefit from easier regional access to specialist tuition.

There will be four new centres for advanced training from September 2004 in Gateshead, Leeds and London.

The aim is to have one in every region over the next few years.

New means-tested grants will provide between 600 and 3,000 a year for tuition out of school hours for children who pass the auditions.

The full amount is for those on family incomes below 25,000, tapering off to 50,000.

The Department for Education and Skills said 200 would be available from September, rising as the scheme was activated in other regions.

It is aimed at musicians aged eight to 16 and dancers aged 11 to 16.

Billy Elliot

Speaking at a music conference at the Purcell School in Hertfordshire, School Standards Minister David Miliband said creativity stimulated high standards and the performing arts could make a special contribution to education.

"Not only do we want to give all children the opportunity to enjoy and participate in music but we also need to identify and nurture those with a real desire and the dedication required to make music or dance a career.

"We all remember the character of Billy Elliot leaving his hometown to train in London.

"I want to extend these opportunities to children similar to the character of Billy so they can enjoy the benefit of excellent training but still go to their local school and remain active participants in local artistic communities, without having to leave home."

The children who qualify will receive most of their specialist tuition at existing junior departments of music conservatories.

The four centres for advanced training are:

  • The Sage Gateshead (music)
  • Yorkshire Young Musicians in Leeds
  • Yorkshire Advanced Training Scheme for Dance in Leeds (in partnership with Northern Ballet Theatre and Northern School of Contemporary Dance)
  • London Contemporary Dance School.
The new grants will be provided through the Music and Dance Scheme, which pays the fees for children to attend independent schools regarded as centres of excellence, such as choir schools.

They will differ in that the training programme will be developed specifically for the individual child out of normal school hours and will not necessarily all take place at one location.

The existing scheme enables more than 800 exceptionally talented children to have access to the best specialist music and dance training there is, alongside a good academic education.

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