School launches £500k arts centre plans

A SUFFOLK school's ambitious plan to build a new community performing arts centre was given a swinging start at the launch.Musicians from Deben High School, Felixstowe, entertained visitors and £8,000 was raised towards the target of between £400,000 and £500,000.

By Richard Smith

A SUFFOLK school's ambitious plan to build a new community performing arts centre was given a swinging start at the launch.

Musicians from Deben High School, Felixstowe, entertained visitors and £8,000 was raised towards the target of between £400,000 and £500,000.

Now the school is hoping that there is a generous benefactor waiting in the wings who is keen on performing arts and would like to make a sizeable contribution to give the appeal impetus.

The school admits that it is setting its sights high. But staff firmly believe that the target is within reach especially if they achieve their immediate aim of becoming a specialist arts centre.

Deben High was given an Arts Mark Gold award last year at its first attempt – the bid was led by Gillian Lawson-Frost, head of the arts faculty – and now it is seeking a specialist status.

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The first financial goal is £50,000 and if the Government awards the status it will give £100,000 towards the project to build a centre in Garrison Lane for art, dance, drama and music.

The centre will have a capacity of between 150 and 200 seats and will be used by the school during the day and then become available in the evening for Felixstowe's theatre and dance groups.

Andrew Salter, an assistant headteacher, said: ''We are setting our sights high and we estimate it will cost between £400,000 and £500,000 to do the project as we would like. This does not mean we will ignore all the other subjects and we will still have a broad and balanced curriculum.

''If we get the specialist status the Government will also give £127,000 a year for four years to raise standards and then after that time we would have to apply again for the status.

''We want to go for 'better pupils, better citizens, better town'. We are very much taking this community angle and want our students to take some pride in where they live and contribute to the community.''

Terry Ring, headteacher, said: ''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.''

Orwell High School, Felixstowe, has launched a fund raising drive as part of a bid to become a technology school.

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