M2: EDUCATION - How to Raise a Child Prodigy!; Gifted Children Can Grow Up to Become Rich and Talented Young Adults, but for the Few Who Succeed There Are Many Who Fall by the Wayside. So How Do We Encourage Our Children without Pushing Them Too Hard? DIANE PARKES reports.(Features)

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TALENT should be fostered but never forced according to ballet teacher Deborah White.

Each year Deborah meets scores of young hopefuls keen to learn ballet. Many will disappear to other interests as they grow up but some will go on to take up places at internationally renowned dance academies. And part of Deborah's job as a teacher at the Rutleigh/Norris Ballet Schools is to identify those who will shine.

'We do look out for youngsters who have an obvious talent and encourage them. We see the school as primarily a hobby-school but we do select some to become students. They will start with two classes a week and we expect 100 per cent attendance for that,' she says.

'As teachers we tend to know how far you can push a child. We encourage those to move onwards who we know can do it.

'We do tend to work at a fairly slow pace here. There are the odd parents who try to push children but we will only let them take the exams if we feel they are ready to do so. It is our role to see what children are capable of and to push them towards it at a pace which will not make them feel too pressured.'

Deborah says teachers, parents and children need to work in partnership to foster talent - and talent will always shine through.

'We have children from the age of three but I don't believe it is necessary for children to start really young to be successful. If they have a talent it will quickly be evident,' she says.

'It does take a lot of commitment from children and parents but if they have a talent they can achieve a great deal.'

Rutleigh/Norris Ballet Schools have classes at Moseley, Hall Green, Redditch, Northfield, Alcester. Contact 01789 762572.

Joshua loves his art - and thrives on celebrity status

ARTIST Joshua Whitehouse has sold more than 40 paintings, held solo exhibitions, appeared on television and featured in the national press - and he is only 11 years old.

But mum Fiona insists Joshua, of Bearwood, could give it all up tomorrow if he chose.

'Joshua loves his art, but it is him who wants to develop it,' she says.

'He has developed so much confidence because of his art and he handles it very well. He enjoys the art and peoples' response to it.

'We have talked through the fact he must expect some negative reaction as an artist so he is all right with it.'

Joshua's talent is linked to his Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, but his family have always been keen to stress his art should be taken on its own merits. And he has achieved a certain amount of celebrity status because of it.

But what does sevenyear-old sister Faith make of her brother's fame?

'She is good at bringing him back down to the ground,' says Fiona.

'She is very encouraging of him and we always talk issues through as a family.

'We have discussed whether she would be jealous and that it is all right for her to have that response sometimes.'

And Fiona has these words of advice for parents keen to develop their child's artistic talents. 'It is good to be encouraging but realise the child's limitations and always remember it is for the child not for yourself. Then if he or she wants to stop at any time it is OK. …