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A catchment area that covers the continent

IT IS a rare occurrence when members of the press are treated to individual recitals from two of Poland's most talented young musicians, but at Cademuir International School anything is possible.

Maria Gabrys is an engaging 18-year-old pianist from Warsaw, soon to take up a place at the Frederic Chopin Academy in her home city, and hoping to concertina the five- year course into three. She was happy to give a rendering of Chopin's Fantasy Impromptu in the fine library at Crawfordton House, near Moniaive in Dumfries and Galloway, Cademuir's home .

Into her third week at the Cademuir summer school, she had taken a liking to her rural surroundings and Scotland. Playing for guests was a delight. She practises five hours a day anyway.

Lukasz Kuropaczewski, a 16-year-old classical guitarist, from Konin, added to the afternoon concert. He practises two hours day. Maria chivvied him about it: "It's because piano is more difficult," she smiled. To the non-musician, they both seem ridiculously talented. They are also immensely self-effacing.

With support from a Polish fund, they were sampling three weeks English language and creativity at Cademuir, along with 40 others aged 7 to 16 from Germany, Russia, France, Belgium and, of course, Scotland. Courses are aimed at the bright and talented.

So how do they feel about the course? "It's cool," said Lukasz, obviously well versed in current idiom. He was also well versed in PR. "It's a very nice, cosy school with very nice teachers. I do not want to go back to my home," he said.

Maria from traffic-filled Warsaw found rural south-west Scotland quite a contrast. "I like the summer school very much. Green mountains, sheep, beautiful views, very quiet, nice people," she said.

Elsewhere, in the rambling mansion on a pleasant July afternoon, small groups were burying themselves in various activities after a morning of intensive English. Physics, chemistry and maths were just some of the unexpected and eagerly seized upon offerings.

Another Polish lad was busy scanning a computer screen. His teacher revealed: "He's already run through the maths syllabus, so I'm off to find a book on statistics. He seems interested in that."

Bright, did you say?

In another classroom, a mixed group of ages and nationalities were experimenting with percussion. Ian Hornby, the senior master, was in the gym with a small group of Russian girls, practising tennis and basketball skills. Golf was popular among the Russian lads. These were sports they did not enjoy back home.

Another group was doing what comes naturally in a rural area - they were off pond-dipping, armed with nets and jam-jars. All in a typical summer's day at Cademuir.

The principal, Robert Mulvey, however, believed the highlight was the pyjama concert on the last night. Over the three weeks, everyone was encouraged to do a turn, regardless of musical ability. "There's a wonderful atmosphere that's generated," he says.

To establish the international flavour, some evenings were turned over to the food and culture of the various countries involved. July 14 was French Day with boeuf bourguignonne. The Scottish evening inflicted haggis, neeps and clootie dumplings on the palates.

Cademuir has been in business for six years. It is a niche market school with 110 pupils, one-third from the continent, mostly Germany. The summer school has a different clientele, but Mr Mulvey maintains the catchment area is anywhere in Europe. The EC flag flying outside supports hiscontention.

The 15 Russians were winners of a competition organised by Eurotalent, an off-shoot of the Council of Europe, while others were funded by a variety of means, including parents' pockets. Three weeks cost close to Pounds 1,000. "These courses are aimed at bright kids and the Russian contingent is handpicked," Mr Mulvey admitted.

"Many of these children who come here often have problems or unpleasant experiences in their schools because they have had in some cases a wish to learn in ways different from the norm. In some cases, because they've had a learning problem, or in some cases, because life has been made difficult for them in a conventional environment," he argues.

Cademuir, because of its setting and emphasis, helps them rediscover themselves, according to Mr Mulvey. They are no longer in a minority and can share interests with similar-minded kids.

The school emphasises how it can cope with learning difficulties, particularly dyslexia. All staff are receiving further in-service training from Moray House Institute. Mr Mulvey maintains the strategies which help pupils with particular problems also assist those whose first language is not English.

Maria and Lukasz seemed to be doing fine. The strategies were no doubt "cool".

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