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Piepie

Concerns about vocational school

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Hi,

I'm new to the dance forum but I really need help in making some decisions about schooling.  

 

My child is at vocational school, and doing fine in terms of ballet.  However the rest of the schooling is really not good, issues with hiring and retaining academic teachers becoming worse and worse.  My child is really quite bright, and it was a big sacrifice as we had to give up a non-means tested scholarship for an independent school to go to ballet school where we have now been means tested out of receiving any of the MDS.  This would be fine if we only had one child, but we don't so we actually can't afford to go to the school.  

 

Plus 

  • dancing a lot, being guided by people who know about dance
  • child likes it

Minus

  • academics rubbish
  • too expensive
  • can't do other sports
  • not sure if a career in dance is a good one anyway

So my query is can I bring them home and provide enough dance training and still give them the opportunity to audition for vocational again at 16 when I feel decisions about the rest of your life might have more weight than at 12, and with nine or ten good GCSEs in hand!  I would love to hear from anyone else who has made this decision, and what it was like for your child when they re-integrated into mainstream.  

 

Thanks

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I'm sorry I can't help with your question but didn't want to read and run. I would like to say that I would be just as concerned as you if my child was not fulfilling their academic potential. Perhaps you could indicate where you live and where you are willing to travel too for classes should you decide full time training is not working for your family.

There are many helpful contributors on this forum who I'm sure will be along to help you soon, good luck.

Edited by shygirlsmum
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Hi. Just wanted to say that I don't have experience of this either but I think that Shygirlsmum has made some good points. In terms of your question would you be able to bring them home and give them enough good quality training I guess it would depend on where you are, what there is near you and how far you could realistically travel regularly to get good enough training? The amount of hours a week are also relevant by lower school age in that getting 3/4 hours a day of dance training, 5 days a week, is not impossible but is difficult outside of a vocational school so you would need to think carefully about the logistics of that.

 

Having said all that, if the school is proving very expensive and you don't feel it is giving your child what it needs that is something that can't be dismissed. I don't think a lot of people realise that the means testing of MDS awards can mean you still have to pay an awful lot towards your child's schooling, so I totally appreciate your situation.

I suppose the main thing is working out exactly HOW you will provide enough high quality training, and if it seems possible then it might be the thing to do.

 

Good luck, and I am sure there will be people on here who have personal experience of this they can share with you.

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Hi sorry I can understand your situation, my dd has started at a very good local high school after being assessed out of vocational school this year, we were concerned at first going from a small school to a larger school, but she has settled well & enjoying the broad range of subjects and doing PE again, plus she will be sitting far more GCSE's than at vocational school! In terms of ballet training that can be harder to keep up the hours & variety of training done at vocational school, we now have the rush of getting in from school having dinner & then dashing off to ballet! It's tough but dd seems happier being back at home & attending a very good local dance school plus RBS associates at weekends! Have you thought about associates/ summer schools if your child comes away from vocational school? Academic education is so important so I understand how you feel

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f you can't afford to go to the school, then it sounds as if you have no option other than to remove them.

 

As to whether they can get enough training locally to be in a strong enough position to apply for vocational school at 16, it really depends on where you live and the quality of the local dance schools there. You might also think about whether there are any reputable associate classes you can get to.

 

Presumably, your child was attending ballet classes locally before going to vocational school. What kind of provision does that school offer for students studying for vocational exams? (Syllabus work and exams aren't necessary but since you're in the UK, your local school will probably offer them.) Some schools only offer one class per week for each grade. That's not going to be enough. You'll need several classes (which might include non syllabus or the opportunity to take class with the grade above or below) and ideally some associate classes as well.

 

If you do a search , there are few threads on here about training abroad. I don't know if that would be something you would consider, it's a huge decision, especially for a young child, but the fees are often much more affordable than in the UK.

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There are quite of few people on this forum whose DC did not start at vocational school until 16 so yes there is still the opportunity at 16, provided you have had access to enough training locally at the right standard.  In fact the number of schools increases, so you might find one your DC prefers.  And with more choice of GCSEs and more GCSEs behind them there is greater flexibility for a career change - either a back up in case of injury or in case a child changes their mind.

 

A friends daughter left vocational school at the end of year 7 (or early year 8), admittedly because she was unhappy rather than for finances.  She settled well into her large secondary school and is about to embark on vocational training again at age 17.  The delay from 16 to 17 was for personal reasons.

 

Bottom line though - if you cannot afford to keep your DC at their current school or if the sacrifice is too great across the whole family, then you should move them.  How does your DC feel about a possible move?  Look at local training and a bit further afield, consider associate schemes, workshops, summer schools. Good luck with your decision.

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All good points but I would also say that many state schools, particularly those serving disadvantaged communities, those in expensive parts of the South East where housing is expensive and those located in more remote areas, are struggling to attract and retain teachers. I don't want to get political but there is a crisis in teaching with many teachers leaving the professional or going abroad to teach. So what I'm saying is that there may be similar staffing problems at your local school.

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Hello Piepie and welcome to the Forum.

 

I can't add to the debate but I do hope you reach a satisfactory conclusion.  Please keep joining in and let us know how you get on.

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Something I would say, just to turn things on their head a bit, is that academic qualifications,although extremely important,are not essential to be taken at age 16 or 18 and can be taken later on in life. I think at this age,your daughter`s ballet training,and its quality should be more important if she wishes to persue a career as a ballet dancer. [That`s if she does]. However,I agree with others who say that if the school is too expensive this is reason enough to pull your daughter out. 

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Hi Piepie,

 

Everyone has made good points. Can I ask what your dc wants?

 

I'm very sorry you are in this stressful situation.

 

Sarahw

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Just to add I personally feel that A levels can be delayed but I think GCSES are very important to be done well at 16.

After 16, for ballet at least,it seems that has to take priority.

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Sorry another question - have you discussed academics with the school?

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I was about to say something similar to Lisa. Intensive training of the the brain will wait - the body won't. And ballet training is brain training also - "kinesic intelligence" as opposed to say,verbal intelligence or numerical intelligence. 

 

But if you can't afford it, you can't afford it.

 

To build on what others have said: could you use some of the funds you're currently spending on vocational school to supplement good local training? Say, travel to London once a week for advanced intensive coaching, or the like?

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Just to add I personally feel that A levels can be delayed but I think GCSES are very important to be done well at 16.

After 16, for ballet at least,it seems that has to take priority.

I absolutely agree re GCSEs. Choosing classical ballet as a career really does require a Plan B (and probably plans C and D too, to be honest). Injury, change of family circumstances, and the relatively small chance of getting a classical contract post training all mean that if you have a good academic backup, your future options are so much better.

 

I know we've had this discussion before, but I still feel that if the student's family makes too many financial sacrifices and puts too many eggs in one basket, it is just added pressure on the student to not get injured, to continue their ballet training, and try to get a job in a ballet company. It also makes it much more difficult for the student to change their mind without feeling that they've let themselves and their family down. There is scope for resentment too.

 

Piepie, I think you've really answered your own question. :-) If you can find quality local training, good associate schemes, and if you can get a place at a good local academic school, it sounds as if that would be your best option at the moment.

 

Sarahw has a good question though re chatting to the school - about academics but also perhaps the possibility of applying for a bursary to help with finances? Does the school offer any?

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I would certainly second what Lisa O'Brien is saying. Not many people acknowledge this, but academics can be upgraded at anytime. Ballet training cannot! Early intensive training is vital! That said everyone is different and some will succeed regardless. Hope this helps.

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I would certainly second what Lisa O'Brien is saying. Not many people acknowledge this, but academics can be upgraded at anytime. Ballet training cannot! Early intensive training is vital! That said everyone is different and some will succeed regardless. Hope this helps.

In theory they can BUT it's a costly exercise taking A'Levels privately. With the scarcity of classical contracts it is surely best to have a good academic backup.

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In theory they can BUT it's a costly exercise taking A'Levels privately. With the scarcity of classical contracts it is surely best to have a good academic backup.

In an ideal scenario a child would be receiving both excellent ballet training AND academic training. Isn`t that supposed to be what expensive vocational training is for? If one of those two areas are deficient then personally,I feel it might be better to go elsewhere. Could your daughter not audition for a different Vocational school with better academic standards?

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Thank you all so much for your input so far.  I find myself feeling a bit upset reading the thread as it's such a difficult decision.  

 

Answering some questions: 

I haven't discussed it  with my child as it is a very difficult discussion; I think they know that the academics is sub par, and that they are missing out, and that they are bored some of the time.  This decision is massive, can a thirteen year old have enough input, I know I didn't have a clue at that age!

I think this vocational school is meant to have better academics than others, so not sure transferring would make things better

We are about an hour from London so could easily get in to the associates there.  Our local school was okay, and I think could accommodate them, I think i will speak to the ballet teacher again about what might be possible.  

Yes, we would be in a better position to give more to the dance if they weren't at the school.

Yes, I believe the school has been affected by same academic shortages in teaching.  

I think I agree about the academics being able to be done later, but think that GCSEs should be done now, plus as I mentioned dc is really quite bright.  

 

Please keep posting, this is really helpful!

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They will/ should be receiving good academic lessons at all vocational schools. I think people do have very different ideas on what is good! I don't think any school can satisfy every parent/ child all of the time. I'm a good listener and I hear conflicting stories about the same schools time and time again. Vocational schools are restricted in terms of subjects but they wouldn't survive if they fell below the expected academic standards.

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I think to a certain extent the OP is comparing apples with pears.

 

I totally understand. My dd too gave up a place in an excellent independent school to go to vocational school. The academics at Voc school are nowhere near - (ds is now at the independent school) however if I compare both to our local state school our local school is appalling. Don't forget also most independent schools are selective which also makes a difference.

 

There is a teaching crisis. Our local school has had no head for 18 months, children of above average ability are leaving with below average grades & they are struggling to recruit. there is a better school nearby but my son didn't get a place.

 

I've had many battles as dd is very academic & I know there are sacrifices. I've also had reservations about her progress in certain subjects. However from seeing my sons workload at the independent school (they work from 8-4pm every day & have between 1-2 hours homework each night in year 7 - I know dd would have struggled to put in as many dance hours.

 

That saying do speak to the school if you feel the academics are not up to scratch.

Edited by Picturesinthefirelight
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Many people perceive the academics at vocational schools to be comparable with good independent schools but in my experience it can be de-prioritised, with academics taking a back seat to ballet, and end up being fairly mediocre. Also as students are selected on ballet/dance aptitude, the range of academic ability can be huge and with very small overall numbers, streaming is not cost effective, so teachers have to cater for a very wide range of ability within the same class, which can be difficult.

 

I have known quite a few students leave vocational school and re-enter 'normal' school, and they have all thrived. Also, the ones who started at vocational school tend to have a good grounding in ballet so as long as they have 2 to 3 good quality ballet lessons in the week, plus an associate class at the week-end, they are usually in a good position to reapply at 16 if they want to go down that route still.

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I agree that mixed ability teaching can be a huge problem & things improved greatly for dd when they started to set in year 9.

 

The upside is though that when they come to choose GCSE options they will be in very small groups. My dd will be in a class of 3 for her humanities option, it's like private tuition.

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I think that the academics at vocational schools do take a back-seat to the training and performances.  I have no doubt that my son would have got a better crop of gcses at his local school (with better grades) than at vocational school.  The class sizes at vocational can be smaller, which is good, and there is less time spent "messing around" but it's clear that they don't really care too much about pushing up a C to a B or a B to an A....

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My impression (may be wrong, don't have a lot of experience) is that that the "ranking" is like this

For ballet

RBS

Elmhurst

Tring 

Hammond

 

and that you can reverse this for academics!  Perhaps with RBS/Elmhurst joint third for academics....

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The upside is though that when they come to choose GCSE options they will be in very small groups. My dd will be in a class of 3 for her humanities option, it's like private tuition.

 

Are very small groups an upside, though? In some subjects, where you need to be able to debate, understand opposing viewpoints and argue a point, it can be a disadvantage to be in very small groups, so says a friend of mine, who is a secondary English teacher.

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I think I agree about the academics being able to be done later, but think that GCSEs should be done now, plus as I mentioned dc is really quite bright.  

 

 

 

I was a very bright child at what would be called now a "sink" primary school (most of my primary school classmates left school as soon as it was legally possible - 14 in those days), and then a "bog standard" comprehensive in an working-class area (my parents were both public school boarding school educated & lived extremely privileged lives & rebelled in bringing us up!)  I wasn't a full-time training dancer, but we had a very rich childhood & teenage years and we did a lot of extra-curricular stuff because that's just what we did. 

 

The trick with below-average or averagely-performing academic schools is the family - do you have lots of books - (I mean hundreds/thousands) to which your children have access. Do they see you reading as a pleasurable activity & an activity through which you learn? Do they get taken to art galleries, museums, theatre, music regularly - as a matter of normal family activity, not "special"? We were taken to the local city art gallery about once a fortnight, just to wander & look, after school. We went weekly to the local lending library, and were given a new book (bought, rather than library borrowed) each school holiday. Christmas & birthday presents always included books, paints, stuff that was to do with making & doing creatively & academically.

 

And so on. The richness (in culture not money) of a family's activities will instil lifelong learning & knowledge without effort or making a fuss and can shore up mediocre or failing school education.

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I can only comment on my DS at Tring . Achieved 9 great GCSE's and 2 AS levels . Hoping for two good A levels . His friend achieved straight A grades and is on track for 3 A grades at A level .

Great teachers and teaching .

The dance training speaks for itself - with students gaining upper school places at Royal and ENB most years .

 

Tutugirl

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I remember my DD's friends at 'normal' school finished classes at the beginning of May and then had weeks of study leave before sitting the actual GCSE exams. My DD however, was knee-deep in ballet classes and summer performance rehearsals, with ballet teachers who tutted in exasperation when she dared to mention that she had to leave to go and sit an exam and she barely made it in time on a couple of occasions!

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