Curtain could rise in Felixstowe at last

PERFORMERS in Felixstowe could get the small theatre they have desperately wanted for so long – if a school's bid to become a specialist arts centre succeeds.

PERFORMERS in Felixstowe could get the small theatre they have desperately wanted for so long – if a school's bid to become a specialist arts centre succeeds.

Deben High today revealed details of its bid for arts school status, which will bring a £100,000 government cash boost plus significant extra money for staff and resources.

The school has to raise £50,000 – the fundraising drive is launched this week – to add to the government cash.

Head teacher Terry Ring said the £150,000 would be used to build a new performance space at the school in Garrison lane.

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The space would be used by the school during the day, and then in the evenings could be utilised by the town's many theatre and dance groups.

"An important part of the criteria for gaining arts status is that the school must be a real part of the community. The town has needed a small performance space for a long time as the Spa Pavilion is too large for many smaller productions," said Mr Ring.

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"We have spoken to Suffolk Coastal council about our plans and we hope that our project will be able to fulfil that need and benefit the community as well as being really worthwhile for our students."

Schools all over the country are being encouraged to take up specialist status, including sport, maths and computing, music, humanities, media and business.

Orwell High at Felixstowe has launched a fundraising drive as part of a bid to become a technology school, which will complement Deben's ambitions.

But Mr Ring stressed that the choice to go for arts status, at which Deben is already strong and is a holder of the Arts Mark Gold achievement award, will not mean that the school is being turned into a "fame academy".

While the school will specialise in performing arts, and visual art, too, it will still be a comprehensive school offering a full curriculum.

"Schools which have taken on specialist status have found improvements in their performance and exam results across the board – it has been very positive for them with a knock on effect, giving all subjects a lift," said Mr Ring.

"As part of our bid, we will have to submit performance targets for the next four years and as we are already strong in the arts, it will be a real challenge.

"But arts status will not change the character of the school. We will still be the school serving our catchment area, serving this community and offering a full range of subjects."

Fundraising under the banner "Better pupils, better citizens, better town", the school hopes to persuade businesses to give sponsorship, obtain grants from charities and other organisations, while pupils and parents will raise money.

The fundraising kicks off with a dinner-dance to raise awareness of the bid.

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