Menuhin school gets £500,000 talent grant

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The Independent Online

Gifted children studying music and dance at specialist schools will this week receive extra funding as part of a government programme to support artists of the future.

In his first official visit as schools minister, Stephen Timms will announce a capital grant of £500,000 to the Yehudi Menuhin School for talented musicians, which was founded in 1963 by the eponymous violinist.

The extra funding for the Surrey school, and the £1m earmarked for the Royal Ballet School in Covent Garden, signals the Government's commitment to an education agenda focused on greater diversity in schools.

Ministers are determined to ride out accusations of "elitism" by extending provision to specialist schools. They argue that the programmes set up by the Department for Education and Skills ensure that talented youngsters can benefit regardless of social background.

The Gifted and Talented programme is expected to benefit up to 200,000 pupils, many receiving extra tuition in mainstream secondary schools, by September 2003 and will be funded from a £60m pot this financial year. The Music and Ballet scheme supports 770 talented children attending four independent specialist music schools and three ballet schools in England. The total scheme costs about £12m a year.

The Government's second term determination to bring the best out of children has also been reflected in changes to sports provision. The new sports minister, Richard Caborn, sacked the chief executive of Sport England, Derek Casey, and is looking for a more devolved approach to sport.

The Prime Minister had asked him to concentrate efforts on improving sport at a grass roots level, he said.