The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has been awarded £1.5 million from the Scottish Funding Council to provide free performing arts training for children from poorer backgrounds.
The scheme, called Transitions 20/40, is being designed to improve access to higher education. It will be aimed at teenagers but will be open to children as young as eight years old, across Scotland.
Due to start this August, it will offer participants weekly sessions in drama, music and ballet.
From 2014/15, courses in production and screen training will also be introduced.
A total of 48 places will be available during this first year’s intake, which is expected to increase to 192 for the year 2016/17.
The Glasgow-based institution already has a junior conservatoire for music that offers classes for children up to the age of 18.
Principal John Wallace said the new Transitions 20/40 initiative will be loosely based on this model.
He added that he hopes the scheme will enable participants to gain skills that will lead onto higher education training both at the conservatoire and elsewhere.
Wallace said: “Our goal is that these kids [on the Transitions 20/40 scheme] will end up in higher education of some sort. Dance, drama and music are transformative for any kid, so this scheme will really widen their horizons. There are so many children from disadvantaged backgrounds that don’t have these aspirations at all.”
He added: “Despite all sorts of attempted social engineering by governments, it’s failed and the gaps between rich and poorer seem to be widening. We feel it is every institution’s responsibility to improve this.”
The Scottish Funding Council will review the initiative in 2016.