Scholarship pupils ‘will suffer most’ from stage school’s closure
Children are not all from priviliged backgrounds, say theatre academy parents
22 May, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson
Lucia Coleman, who is in Year 8 at Italia Conti
CHILDREN who have earned scholarships at a prestigious performing arts academy’s junior school will be hit hardest by its closure, parents say.
Italia Conti Academy’s junior school has mapped a pathway to stardom for generations of actors, singers and dancers, and parents say its emphasis on scholarships has encouraged an ethos of diversity at the Barbican institution.
But the coronavirus lockdown has punched a black hole through the heart of the school’s finances, and it has said that unless it can raise a reported £3million then the doors will close for good in 2021.
It will be an end to 109 years of history.
Nicole St Pierre told the Tribune her daughter Amelie, who is in Year 9, would never have been able to follow her dream of attending Italia Conti without receiving a 50 per cent scholarship.
“We don’t earn a lot as parents,” said Ms St Pierre.
“That’s the great thing about Italia Conti, they are very generous with their scholarship programme, unlike other performing arts schools.
“Amelie wants to be an actor. It’s been her dream since primary school. It’s all she has ever focused on. The 50 per cent scholarship at Italia Conti was really pushing us.
“We haven’t had a holiday for three years, and we’ve given up so much as a family to make sure she was able to go there. And now it’s all been taken away, with only two years left. It’s taken her education away from her.”
Ms St Pierre added: “People obviously just think it’s a private school and the parents can just pay for the children to go to another private school, but that isn’t the case,” she added.
Amelie St Pierre and Nathaniel Milton
Rosario Coleman’s daughter Lucia is in Year 8 at Italia Conti, with the majority of her fees paid for through a scholarship programme.
“This is the only reason that we were able to let her attend the school,” she said.
“Other schools that we have approached don’t provide scholarships for her age, only from Year 7.
“My husband and I have been furloughed, so we can’t commit to anything right now because of our financial situation.”
Claire Milton’s son Nathaniel is a fee-paying student in Year 9 at Italia Conti, but making ends meet has been a struggle for his family since he was accepted into the school.
She told the Tribune: “If this closure goes ahead it will be an absolute tragedy not just for current pupils but for future generations of children who have a passion for performing arts.
“My son had dreamt of going to Italia Conti since he found out about the school, aged 11. We are not a wealthy family, so I told him he could only go if he got a scholarship.
“Unfortunately he was not offered one, but he was offered a place at the school. This left me in a very difficult position. When I tried to explain this to Nathaniel he was so upset that I decided to do everything that I could to help make it possible.
“Family offered to help pay the fees and that, together with sacrificing holidays, days out, takeaways, birthdays and Christmas presents meant we were able to accept the place at the school.
“Many fee-paying parents are in a similar position. These children do not all come from a privileged backgrounds.”
The school said earlier this month that the crisis had caused an “intolerable strain” on finances and that the ongoing lockdown “further rendered our position untenable”.
Principal Sam Newton said: “We have explored all options to avoid this outcome with great urgency, but as a not-for-profit organisation that is entirely reliant upon fee-paying students, we were sadly left with no realistic alternative.”
Parents have set up a fundraising page to try and raise money to save the school. If their target isn’t reached, they plan to share the money between parents to try and help those in financial difficulties.
To donate to the parents’ campaign, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-italia-conti-performing-arts