Fury as Belfast Met axes dance course
They're young and talented, but fear that their dream careers are already over.
Four of Northern Ireland's brightest young dancers have spoken out after the course they need to develop their skills has been axed.
Carys Laverty (18), Layla Stock (18), Fionnuala O'Neill (20) and Chloe McCullagh (19) recently completed an extended diploma at Belfast Metropolitan College (BMC).
They had successfully auditioned for the HND course in dance due to start in September. But this course was among those that BMC announced last month would be axed due to budget cuts.
A spokesperson for BMC said similar courses were being offered at the South Eastern Regional College (SERC).
However, the HND being offered at SERC is a general performing arts course with dance modules, not the specific dance course that the girls had applied for.
Layla told the Belfast Telegraph that she had turned down courses in Britain to remain in Belfast.
She said the only other course available to her was at Bray Institute of Further Education in Co Wicklow. But she was dealt a further blow last week when she discovered she would not receive funding for that course.
"Dance in Northern Ireland is now kaput," she said.
"There is a general performing arts HND in Bangor, but that is only a couple of modules of dance, completely different to our course."
"It is now too late to apply to England, and I turned down places to stay in Belfast."
Layla is left with the prospect of taking a year out from her education to work and save up to go to Bray next year, but a year away from daily dance training will seriously set her back.
Fionnuala said she did not think she will go back to education after a year away from it and working.
A Belfast Met spokesperson said: "We are acutely aware of the commitment, passion and undeniable talent of our dance and drama students and tutors, both past and present. The decision not to recruit any new students for the 2015/2016 academic year was therefore a difficult, but nonetheless entirely necessary one."