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Kristy Dawson

County Durham girl accepted into performing arts school - but can't get funding

A County Durham student who was given a place at a prestigious performing arts college in Scotland is unable to get student loans to cover the cost of her studies.

Emily-Jane Bainbridge, who has dreamed of performing all her life, was thrilled when she was offered a place at The MGA Academy of Performing Arts in Edinburgh. The 20-year-old, from Sherburn Village, said she was one of only 20 students accepted onto their three- year BA Acting course.

She intended to cover the majority of the cost of her £9,000 a year tuition fees, her £1,750 a year registration fee and her accommodation with student loans. However The MGA Academy of Performing Arts does not have a licence to work with Student Finance England.

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This means that Emily-Jane will have to fund everything including her accommodation, which is £8,000 for her first year, herself. She said her family is extremely supportive but they are unable to help her cover the cost.

Emily-Jane, who works part-time as a sales assistant for Screwfix Durham, is desperately trying to raise enough money to enable her to study in Edinburgh. She said the college has given her until the end of August to find the cash.

Emily-Jane says performing arts is her passion (Newcastle Chronicle)

She said: "It's a dream come true to be able to have a place in drama school. I really don't want money to be the reason I can't go. I have fought tooth and nail to get my place and it means the world.

"I can't wish for a more lovely, supportive family. They have always supported everything I wanted, they've drove me to rehearsals and they've come to see me. They are just gutted they can't make it all ok, they feel really helpless."

Emily-Jane lives with her mum Michelle, 51, a teaching assistant, her dad Ray, 59, a delivery driver, and her brother Lewis, 22, who is a part-time examiner at the Passport Office. She said performing arts has been her passion from a young age.

She said she sang Annie in the school yard as a child and chose to study drama as part of her GCSEs. She would spend any money which she got for Christmas or her birthday on singing lessons and performing arts tuition.

Emily-Jane said she attended The Pauline Quirk Academy of Performing Arts at the weekend as a teenager and got to perform twice in London's West End. She then went on to study a BTEC in Acting at Newcastle College University Centre in Newcastle.

She said: "My teachers said 'Do A Levels you're really clever'. I said 'Thank you but this is what I want to do.' I got a triple distinction star in that BTEC, the highest mark you can get.

"I always wanted to act on TV and on stage and sing as well. It just makes me so happy. The passion has just got stronger with age. It ignites my soul and brings me a form of joy that is truly priceless."

Emily-Jane said she lost six stone two years ago to improve her happiness and her confidence. She has since applied to a number of performing arts schools and was elated when she was offered a place at The MGA Academy of Performing Arts.

She said she expected to have to pay for one year, due to already having taken out two years worth of student loans, but believed she would be able to get a student loan for the other two years. She then discovered she was unable to get any funding at all.

Emily-Jane said she has tried to obtain various grants to no avail and there are no available scholarships. She has set up a Go Fund Me page and has been contacting businesses in the hope of getting a sponsor or a number of sponsors.

She has described the thought of not being able to go to the college due to not having the money as "devastating". She said: "It's a once in a life time opportunity. I have got my place, they only accept 20 people on to my course.

"I'm trying to be productive and do everything that I can do. I have written letters to businesses and I have been contacting anyone I can think of. It's been really stressful.

"I'm a very hard-working person and I've fought and worked so hard to get where I am. I'm really determined that it will all come together."

Michelle wants to be able to help her daughter (Newcastle Chronicle)

Michelle said The MGA Academy of Performing Arts has been understanding and has extended the deadline in which Emily-Jane needs to pay until the end of August. However she said she's "quite frightened" that her daughter won't be able to fulfil her dream.

She said: "I've gone from being really excited for her to being really devastated for her. It's always been her dream, she knew she wanted to go to drama school.

"As parents we both work very hard but it's a really bad time for everybody at the moment. She wants it and she's going to try and raise as much as she can. It's just a lot of money and we're looking at different avenues to try.

"She's paid the deposit for the accommodation but if I pay the next instalment I'm then signed up to a contract. I can't afford to sign unless I know the money is there. "

Giles Auckland-Lewis is the new CEO of The MGA Academy of Performing Arts. He said they are working with their partner Bath Spa University in Bath to enable MGA students to access Student Finance England.

He said: "We have so many excellent students who come from England who can't access student loans we're doing our upmost to make sure that that can happen. We're doing everything we can to make sure that people like Emily are facilitated. It's deeply frustrating but I hope this resolves within the next six months.

"MGA made it very clear what the position was. We are very cautious that this may be unfair to students. We are doing our upmost with Bath Spa University to resolve the problem. We will work with each individual student on an independent basis to ensure that anyone who wants to come here can with the loans that we have got. We can only work with what we have got."

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