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Exam plugs pop star school

Aspiring young pop stars are queuing up to get into Britain's only state-funded performing arts school after a national test sung its praises last week.

The Brit school, in Croydon, south London, received around 100 emails and calls after a newspaper article about it was used as a comprehension exercise for 14-year-olds. The piece, "Welcome to the Brit school", described the school as a centre of excellence for those wanting a career in the music industry.

One question in the exercise asked: "How does this article create the impression that the Brit school is an important and exciting place?" The surge of interest suggests some could have written reams in answer to that.

The school's most famous former pupil is Katie Melua, who topped the UK album chart in 2004. The article was published in the Observer in February that year, as she was shooting to fame.

Nick Williams, the principal, said: "We have had emails and calls from 14-year-olds around the country wanting to find out more. There was a lovely TV programme about the school, but the test seems to have generated more interest. It's brilliant free publicity."

The school caters for 14 to 19 year-olds. But the bad news is that admissions have already closed for next September, although Mr Williams said pupils could apply to be admitted in the sixth form.

Other alumni of the school include singer Amy Winehouse and the late Lynden David Hall. It draws a quarter of its pupils from outside London and places heavy emphasis on music and performance, but it stresses it is not a "Fame school". Pupils complete a full programme of academic and vocational study.

Margaret Morrissey, spokeswoman for the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said the response was to be expected given the many TV shows fuelling dreams of stardom. But she said the National Assessment Agency, which set the test, should be careful not to raise hopes too far. "Children need to understand that the proportion of people who end up being famous is incredibly small," she said.

In January, a poll of 16 to 19-year-olds found that nearly one in 10 would abandon their education if they had a chance to appear on TV. Michael Morpurgo, the former children's laureate, said: "The focus on fame is becoming a great cancer for young people. In my opinion, education is about fulfilling yourself in a much more meaningful and deep way than that."

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