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Performing arts free school touted for Essex

Students will be able to submit one motion a year to the council. Photo: Monkey Business Images Students will be able to submit one motion a year to the council. Photo: Monkey Business Images
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A new performing arts free school for young people between 11 and 18 has been proposed in Essex as an alternative to paid drama training.

Colchester Academy of Performing Arts would teach standard GCSE and A Level subjects to up to 1,000 students, but they would also have daily training in drama, dance or music.

The school has been proposed by casting director and former actor Brian Graves, who told The Stage it would benefit local students who might not be able to afford mainstream drama training.

“A lot of talent goes to waste because parents can’t afford to send their kids to Italia Conti or Sylvia Young,” he said.

Graves also said it would help combat the idea, raised by actor Charles Dance earlier this year, that opportunities are shrinking for aspiring actors who go to state school.

“This is what we’re going to be achieving: giving the people of Essex the chance to be trained, and at the same time studying for GCSEs and A Levels,” Graves explained.

If approved, the school would have a fully equipped theatre as well as dance and rehearsal studios. As well as performing courses, it would also offer training for aspiring directors, producers and technicians.

Essex County Council, Colchester Council and local Conservative MP Will Quince have all backed the plan, under which the school would open in 2018.

First it has to be given the green light by the Department for Education, which will determine a budget and location for the school if approval is given.

The school is one of a small number of free schools in the UK with performing arts at the core of its curriculum. Others include Plymouth School of Creative Arts, Big Creative Academy in London and LIPA Primary School in Liverpool.

A similar school was proposed by a former Brit School student last year in Berkshire, but was not approved by the Department for Education.

Graves revealed his long term ambition was to create schools like CAPA across the country, “in areas such as Dorset, Wales and northern England where people can’t afford [drama training]. We want to give opportunities to those students.”

It is also hoped CAPA will in future be able to offer degree courses and other qualifications for over-18s.

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