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Media mentors to open doors

A NEW charity that aims to take pupils, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, and give them first-hand experience of work in creative industries will be launched next month.

The Ideas Foundation has been set up to provide up to 1,000 "creativity scholarships", offering teenagers lengthy work experience in advertising, design, journalism, broadcasting, film and other businesses.

Celebrities such as David Beckham, Madonna, Paul McCartney, the artist Damien Hirst and the writer Martin Amis have been interviewed for a book and TV programme on creativity, the proceeds from which will be given to the charity.

The scheme is being piloted this year in Hackney, east London, where Mike Tomlinson, the former chief inspector who is spearheading attempts to turn around the troubled local education authority, is backing it.

Fifty 14 and 15-year-olds from the borough, identified as having creative potential, will be assigned a mentor from one of the industries and will spend a month on work experience there.

It is hoped that one of the youngsters will help to run an advertising campaign that the borough is planning against truancy, to be launched later in the year. If successful, the scholarship scheme will be expanded nationwide.

Other big names, including Alan Yentob, of the BBC, and film-maker and former General Teaching Council chairman David Puttnam, have said they will either act as mentors or help to provide them.

The charity has been set up by Robin Wight, chairman of the advertising agency WCRS, to identify potentially talented pupils who may not be doing well in their academic studies.

Kirsten Berkeley, a spokeswoman for the charity, said: "Lots of creative people are not academic. We want to give them the chance to build their self-confidence and self-esteem in a creative business environment."

Heather MacRae, 14-19 co-ordinator for the Learning Trust, the not-for-profit organisation now running the local education authority, said she had been inundated with interest from schools.

The plan was to take advantage of the rich cultural life on Hackney's doorstep to spur pupils' interest in all things creative. Among these resources were the London College of Fashion and new media and clothing design companies in nearby Hoxton.

There was also the Ocean music venue while the English National Opera and the London Symphony Orchestra were based within easy reach of pupils.

She said: "We are so well-served culturally in this area. I think this has caught the imagination because it's a fairly fresh idea and because it focuses on the potential of the young people.

"The material may be pretty raw, but it is exceptional and we want to use this project to bring that into focus."

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