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Q. I have just completed a three-year BA in Dance Theatre at the Laban Centre and have been offered a place on the Advanced Performance Course. My local authority has refused me a discretionary grant for the fourth year running. I am applying for a Career Development Loan but need another pounds 2,000. Any advice? Rachel Nunn, London

A. Finance for performing arts courses is hard to come by because of the squeeze on local authority funds. You do not say whether you have appealed against the local authority's decision. That is definitely worthwhile, since most charities will not consider a case until they are convinced every other source of funds has been exhausted.

Some charities and trusts do give grants, but usually only for a few hundred pounds. They are more likely to give a grant to someone who has raised most of the money themselves and they would certainly not provide all the funding.

The Education Grants Advisory Service will help you to look for suitable charities or trusts. Their address is 501/505 Kingsland Road, Dalston, London E8 4AU. They do not answer queries on the telephone.

You could also read the Educational Grants Directory and the Arts Funding Guide. Both are published by the Directory of Social Change at 24 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2DP.

Q. My daughter, who will be five at Christmas, is starting school next month. How can I best prepare her for the experience? Jane Evans, Macclesfield.

A. Reception class teachers and parents tend to take different views. Parents worry about whether their children should already be reading and adding up. Teachers are more concerned that they should be able to carry out simple practical tasks. It is very helpful if children can go to the toilet by themselves and dress themselves. They should also know how to ask to go to the toilet. If they are going to have school dinners, they will need to be able to cut up food by themselves. Holding a pencil correctly is another invaluable skill.

Playtime is often the most difficult time for small children. Explain how many times a day it will happen and what they should expect. Talk to them about playing with a friend and explain that if they have nobody to play with they can stand with the teacher. They should also know how to listen - a skill that most modern five-year-olds lack. Reading stories to them is the best way to encourage listening. Visit the library and borrow one of the books for young children about the experience of starting school.

They should not be taught to read unless they are enthusiastic. The same is true of maths. However, many children enjoy number games and counting rhymes. If they are taught to count, objects, not numbers, should be used.


If you have an education query, please send it to "Crammer", Education Section, the 'Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.