More than 4,000 people have signed a petition calling for the junior school of the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts to be saved from closure.
As reported by The Stage last week, the junior school will close from next year, following an internal review.
Italia Conti pointed to an “intolerable strain on its finances” amid the coronavirus pandemic. The junior school has been operating for more than 100 years and serves children aged 10 to 16. It currently has 95 pupils.
A petition has now been created, which calls on the school to be saved.
In particular, it highlights the 27 students in year 9 who are meant to be starting GCSEs next year and who have been left with a “few short months” to find new schools for the start of the next academic year.
It adds: “This is a crucial time for these students as they are about to begin their GCSEs. The students in years 7 and 8 will also have to find new schools by July 2021. A lot of the children are on partial scholarships and the other performing arts schools may not be in a position to offer more scholarships for the next academic year, as they would already have been awarded to other students and they will not have the spaces to take all of the students.”
It states that the children are “absolutely devastated to have their dream, vocational training and education taken from them”.
Rosario Coleman signed on behalf of her daughter, Lucia, who is 12 and attends the school. She is currently finishing her second year on a scholarship from The Stage.
“The training she has received at Contis has provided her with opportunities to work at the level required for West End productions,” Coleman said, adding: “Obviously with Contis closing her level of training and quality of education will be severely disrupted to her aspirations as a performing artist. The juniors are devastated and the effect of the closure is more akin to a family break up.”
Coleman, who works in the leisure industry, said she was furloughed and had limited financial options.
“We are unable to commit to a full fee paying place at an alternative performance arts school without the substantial help that we have with the scholarship currently in place… We might have to consider home schooling if they were to close down. At this point we are very conscious of how to support her acting career while maintaining a good level of education,” she added.
A funding campaign has also been launched to support the school, which claims the pandemic has meant parents are struggling to pay fees.
It adds that the building in which the school is based also has to be vacated, and a new one bought, for it to be able to continue long term.
“With some students unable to pay fees due to the current economic climate caused by the pandemic it has meant that student numbers have fallen dramatically and the school predicts that recovery from this will take some time. This means that the school will not be able to continue saving enough money in time to purchase a new building and to also keep the school afloat for the next year for the current children who attend. It cannot do both,” the campaign states.
The campaign has set itself a target of £3 million.