Dramatic growth at theatre school group

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The Independent Online

The drama schools group that trained Jamie Bell, star of Billy Elliot, said profits had grown 14 per cent as more parents send their children to extra-curricular lessons.

Stagecoach Theatre Arts was founded in 1988 by the actress and writer Stephanie Manuel to teach singing, acting and dance to children aged between four and 16 outside school hours.

The company, which operates through a franchise network in 456 schools across the UK, yesterday said turnover had increased 25 per cent to £15.6m in the year to the end of May, and the group's pre-tax profits were up 14 per cent to £810,000. Shares in the company soared 23 per cent on the back of its ever-improving results, closing up 22.5p at 120p.

The company now has 26,200 pupils across the country attending its classes, having opened another 76 schools in the past 12 months. This is an increase of 17.5 per cent on the numbers it taught last year. It charges £270 per pupil per term, and £135 for younger children.

"The trend over the past few years is that less and less performing arts is taught in mainstream schools," Richard Dawson, the finance director, said. "Not only have budgets been cut, but standards have dropped too. We have filled that gap, and have just started the same thing with part-time sports coaching, which is also really taking off."

The group launched Sportscoach in April this year with six franchise schools and seven more will be open for the new school term in September. Mr Dawson is working on expanding the group in the US, where it has sold its first franchise.

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