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I think one of the important points in your post Sissone Doublee is the comment about how well the staff knew the data.

 

one of the better things about Inspections in state schools is that schools had to get their policies in order and staff had to know what they were! 

One pretty tough inner London school I taught in made a massive improvement when they got their discipline policy in order! 

There were clear strategies put in place so that if a child did A this would happen if did B the next step would be taken and if C then parents contacted immediately ...at work...( at first I thought "good luck with that!") and so on.

Everyone knew what the rules were and all the staff followed the same procedures ( as opposed to every teacher doing their own thing) and the discipline improved leaps and bounds! The whole school was much safer and nicer to work in and parents who played up and didn't want to do operate were given a transfer form for their child to go to another school!! ( which they rarely took advantage of)( though one notorious parent did threaten to come in and give the head the chop ....literally!) Quite radical thinking and seemed a bit risky at the time but it worked!! 

Well of course Vocational schools have different issues as wouldn't think discipline was one of them! But good appropriate policies which the staff all know about and are putting into practice can improve any school ....even a ballet school! It's absolutely no good one member of staff writing up a policy which then goes in a drawer somewhere and nobody knows what it's about! or where it is even!!

 

I'm sure most schools have improved in the last 20 years and so some things may no longer apply hopefully to the school you are talking about and some of you seem to know. 

 

I sound like a right goodie goodie re inspections etc ..but  I'm not ....and really groaned like many teachers when knew an inspection was coming up! However because I have seen some good results in the longer term I do think they are necessary and mostly do a good job.

 

Sorry to be obtuse Nicola but what do you mean "tip off" 

You could express your opinions at certain points in an OFSTED  .....especially if looking at very particular issues ....but a tip off sounds like somehow contacting them before the event. Whether school Governers or Parents have had opportunity to do this BEFORE a visit I don't know but certainly haven't heard of teachers doing this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That is exactly what i mean, where an individual has concerns that an organisation is not folowing the law / putting people at risk and more importantly is not on top of adressing that .. what is the route to involve the regulator and trigger inspection / enforcement.

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Are we talking about whistleblowing? Where reports / tip offs can be made anonymously?

 

i personally that a lot of that is needed to get around the fear of recrimination issues 

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On 11/01/2018 at 18:37, LinMM said:

Well one of the values of OFSTED is that they have time set aside ( or used to) just to talk to parents.

If any parents then had serious concerns about the school this could be aired.

 

I have no idea then how far the concerns would go....obviously the school would put their side of things but I'm sure if OFSTED were a little suspicious they would certainly lower the school's rating and ask for certain performance targets to be achieved and then visit the school again ....often within a year .....depending on severity of findings....to see how things progressing.

 

I know OFSTED Is not everything but can be helpful in getting a school which has lapsed its standards a bit to get back on track....though occasionally this is at the cost of the head teacher.....sometimes deservedly and sometimes unfortunately not.

 

I'm not sure that OFSTED have been into the school I presume this is about in the last few years.

 

From my experience at my DC's vocational school (which we have taken DC out of and are now also doing specialist private training and home schooling), the parents live in constant fear of complaining to either the school, or even OFSTED or ISI for fear of being found out and the repercussions that might have on their child.

 

Even when a Survey Monkey questionairre was sent out, which is supposed to be confidential, many parents I spoke to were still too afraid to put their concerns in writing in case the school had some way of identifying them.

 

Supply and demand is the problem. But these schools need to be shaken up and investigated properly.

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There is no confidentiality in a vocational school we found. You are unlikely to contact Ofsted or ISI without first raising the issue with the school first and it is easy for the staff to work out who from the small number of vocal parents it is that has raised concerns. 

I think from reading the original blog when it was posted the father felt horrified he hadn’t supported the mother who questioned the staying out of the sun policy but I’ve experience of listening to parents complaining about various aspects of vocational life but not wanting the staff to know their true feelings. My last was at a whole year meeting in 6.2 when we had all been muttering before hand about the schools failure but not one parent supported me when I put our concerns to the panel. So yet again it looked like Mrs X was the only one complaining! 

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Reading this blog has catapulted me back into the nightmare that is vocational school , when things go wrong ..... more wine needed !!

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Generally in fee paying academic schools around the county the attitude towards parents is 'you are our clients and we want to keep you as happy as possible', in vocational schools it's 'your child is lucky to have a place here, so don't raise your head above the parapet or life could get difficult for both you and your child. We know what's best for your child, not you'.

Sad but true...

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2 hours ago, atacrossroads said:

Generally in fee paying academic schools around the county the attitude towards parents is 'you are our clients and we want to keep you as happy as possible', in vocational schools it's 'your child is lucky to have a place here, so don't raise your head above the parapet or life could get difficult for both you and your child. We know what's best for your child, not you'.

Sad but true...

 which is supply and demand  at play ...  also  dare i say it  , where administrators/ (academic) teacher-managers  and the like   have come from  none  vocational  sector  a bit of snobbery over  the plebs who get in on MDS ... 

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5 minutes ago, Nicola H said:

 which is supply and demand  at play ...  also  dare i say it  , where administrators/ (academic) teacher-managers  and the like   have come from  none  vocational  sector  a bit of snobbery over  the plebs who get in on MDS ... 

 

At vocational school, not sure they care if you have MDS or pay privately - it’s their way or the highway. It’s just the dance world seems to be stuck in a time warp.  I remember being amazed when I went on to study law at one of our top universities, the difference in attitude to the students.  We were treated with respect, as if our opinion mattered and were told regularly we were some of the brightest people around - I thought I’d fallen into some sort of parallel universe! 

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There are many different kinds of snobbery at play in vocational schools - not just MDS/scholarships but also whose parents are artistic/famous/very wealthy as opposed to the boring middle-class plebs.  That didn't surprise me.  What surprised me was that the staff were sufficiently unprofessional to make their prejudices so obvious.

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Atacrossroads I really had no idea that vocational schools are like this .....what a shame. Every child in their particular time at a school should be cherished and not just thinking who can replace them. Of course some children will not want to continue occasionally and others may not make the grade over time but every effort should be made to support and encourage those who are there.

 

Perhaps it's time for a public funded one as they have in Russia still .....we were shown around a fab such school in St Petersburg ( not Vaganova) ....though this is probably not very realistic here in UK anymore.

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4 hours ago, LinMM said:

Atacrossroads I really had no idea that vocational schools are like this .....what a shame. Every child in their particular time at a school should be cherished and not just thinking who can replace them. Of course some children will not want to continue occasionally and others may not make the grade over time but every effort should be made to support and encourage those who are there.

 

Perhaps it's time for a public funded one as they have in Russia still .....we were shown around a fab such school in St Petersburg ( not Vaganova) ....though this is probably not very realistic here in UK anymore.


 the problem in the UK is the ideological opposition to  having selective state schools ,  if you look at LIPA  they have  the original LIPA which is a HE establishment , there;s a  16 -19   establishment   and a primary school,  however  they  can't / don;t won;t   have 11-16 provision as  this would not be able to select in the way that  the sixth form and the HE parts of the organisation  do . 

while there is 'specialism'  in 11-16  it;s not actually specialism  in the sense  that  it would  need to be for  pre-professional performing arts education  ( i.e. selction on performance / potential , training  equivalent to CAT  if not better ) so there's little or no actual selction  other than in the few  areas where grammars were not killed off  by the ideological crusade of  anti intellectual socialism and ' pull the ladder up behind me  so called socialists'...

 

 The original  CTCs  in the 90s  (  and when  GM  was in full swing)  were allowed to select their  entry  based on  aptitiude in STEM , but  as part of  Blairs commitment to education, education , education, that was taken away  alogn withem  and other GM schools back under the dead hand of county hall until   the  cronyist Academy scheme  was invented... 

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I am finding the discussions of vocational schools and ofsted etc fascinating. I agree that it seems a hard place to flourish, if you are constantly worried about being assessed out and who is better than you, who is going to replace you. The whole notion of supply and demand in selective schools is very true, but I do wish that there was more oversight to protect the interests of the children attending.

 

However, after reading the blog...I don't know, maybe I'm missing something. I don't have children myself so maybe that's colouring my view. I found some of the conduct the dad spoke of to be moderately inappropriate (the phone call on speaker, the telling a girl she looks sexy) but a lot of the other complaints were very over the top to me. An adult who is not a child's parent should never tell a child they love them? Ever? What about 'I support you'? 'I value you'? 'I see something special in you'? What is it about 'I love you', regardless of your previous relationship with a child, that instantly makes an adult a pedophile? I also disagree that there is anything inherently inappropriate about twerking. Maybe some of you will disagree, maybe it's my age, but having kids in a dance school do a popular move just for fun, in the privacy of their own studio, which has the added bonus of releasing the hips and the lumbar spine, just does not seem like a fireable offence to me. How is it, really, so different from the RAD Project B dance including dabbing? If the kids felt embarrassed, then that is a valid feeling and I hope they are supported by their teachers in that response. Again however, I choose to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. By joining in they were demonstrating 1) the move and 2) that it's nothing to be embarrassed about, it's just a bit of fun. I also found the letter he linked to be completely innocuous and a standard response letter when the complaints procedure has been engaged. It is not too dissimilar from letters we send out at my work. I did not see anything 'threatening' or 'demeaning' in the letter itself. This is the only objective evidence of the school's behaviour that we have, and the spin put on it by the dad is completely, in my opinion, unjustified by the contents of the letter itself. This leads me to believe that, while I'm sure the boy was deeply upset and that is a valid response, and I'm sure the dad really did feel that the school's response was wholly inadequate, the dad's response to a lot of things may be simply blown out of proportion. A blog worded in such emotional terms, while it does tug at the heart strings, is clearly told from the point of view of an unreliable narrator. 

 

Clearly, the family could no longer trust the school and the child should be withdrawn. This comes down to a matter of trust, who you are leaving your child in the care of is of the utmost importance! Fundamentally, I agree with the report of the Directors (again, as reported by the dad) - the school's behaviour in allowing the phone conversation to be heard, in the teachers then addressing the son about it in front of the class, were fundamentally wrong, and this needed to be addressed at an institutional level. As for the rest...I think I would need a little bit more objectivity before coming to a conclusion on that.

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I completely agree with you Viv, I did read the whole blog and pretty much came to the same conclusions as you.  I wasn’t able to express it as coherently as you though! 

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Having a husband who teaches in a vocational school I would say it is completely innapropriate to tell a child "I love you" especially in the context of you shouldn't complain because I love you it's going against all best practice.  

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Yes I agree I think "love" is too emotive a word to use for a teacher.....and to be honest the teacher should really sense that in my view.

 

Even with close friends children some of whom I have known since babies and who I am very fond of I wouldn't say to them "I love you" 

Hopefully they can tell that by the general way I interact with them .....I don't have to say it!

But as a teacher you have to be that much more removed again and should be focussed on getting the best work out of the child not the status of your relationship with them.

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I thought the teacher in question was not a native speaker of English and even though they may have lived in the UK a long time may have learnt English informally and as an adult. The nuances of 'I love you' may not have been fully understood. I worked a lot with adult migrant and refugees teaching English in my 20s and 30s and I worked with extremely skilled men in particular who felt like a child and quite foolish when speaking in English as they were learning it as an adult. I know it was not the best word choice but perhaps their intention was not how it  has been construed.  Maybe this teacher learnt English listening to the Beatles? I am not excusing the teacher at all however, I think that if the teacher, the child and the family had sat down and talked about this we might have got more information from all of those involved and the teacher would have had an English lesson in the process.

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I think if the writer had said that the teacher saying 'I love you' was inappropriate, particularly in the context of not complaining, I would certainly agree with that! What the writer actually said though was that any adult, who is not a child's parent, telling that child that they love them, is not just inappropriate but is abusive...I'm sorry but that I certainly do not agree with. Maybe this is a cultural difference, as saying 'I love you' here is, in my experience, very common. If the writer was concerned about the teacher gaslighting the child, that could be emotional abuse. But any adult, ever, saying I love you, to be classified as abuse, is honestly absurd. And unfortunately it is that tendency to dramatising, emotionally weighted language that leads me to take the blog with a grain of salt. Despite that, I hope this blog and others like it encourage other people to have the courage to speak out and, hopefully, make a change for the better in vocational schools in general.

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Is think that as it was said "why are you scared of me? I love you..." It does sound odd, especially as he must have reasonable English skills to get a job in a school here. But I'm sure it must be really awful to be firsthand in the situation, though it appears a little over exaggerated to us onlookers

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To brighten things up a bit - I was "brave" enough to complain at my DC vocational school, more then once actually. Nothing to do with ballet training but with boarding, staff, medical care, music lessons. Every single time it was worth it and things did improve or a problem was delt with. Maybe I'm not the most popular parent among the staff, I don't know (and I don't mind/care) but I'm pleased to say that I'm treated same as always and what's most important my child is. DC loves the school and is happy there. 

I was also expecting more snobbery/ rivalry when my DC joined the school but was pleasantly surprised that there is non (at least among the children my DC is friends with). Of course there is difference between children from wealthy or not so wealthy families, some having lots of expensive clothes or ballet equipment or private lessons when others need to wait for Christmas or birthday to have some of it as a special treat but that will be the case almost in any school. 

The only "snobbery" I noticed was that some children join the school having done very high grades in many dance styles (plus festivals and competitions) and to start with they felt a bit superior to those who joined the school with just a little experience in ballet. But after a few months it start to show that previous grades mean nothing. 

So to those who are auditioning- stay positive, it's not as bad and scary as somebody's blog might suggest. 

To those who are afraid to complain- you might be surprised with a positive outcome. 

Of course I have experience with just one vocational school but I thought it will be nice to add a positive post to this thread. 

 

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It has been very interesting reading the reactions to this thread.. and blog .... and it’s brilliant to have a debate about this .. .One  of the things I was scared of as a parent when my child was being bullied by their teacher at a top vocational school was that I had over reacted to the teachers comments. It took a good few comments from forum members here to robustly point out to me that what was happening to my child was unacceptable...sometimes objectivity is what’s needed.... in my dc’s case ,once he changed teachers , he’s had a fantastic time at the same school.

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I wonder if BalletDad himself is on here? I think there is a lot of "brittleness" in society today. A gentle suggestion for improvement is often taken as a major criticism (and I'm even talking about within the family here!) and that makes it hard to get the feedback needed to deal with things in a timely yet considered manner. The staff in this example didn't know how to take criticism positively and it sounds like the Dad had a tendency to go in rather heavily at times.

 

FWIW I suspect that the "love" thing is almost certainly down to cultural/language issues. Loads of people use that word sloppily, and I think us Brits are in the vanguard of trying to keep it special!

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1 hour ago, thewinelake said:

 A gentle suggestion for improvement is often taken as a major criticism (and I'm even talking about within the family here!) and that makes it hard to get the feedback needed to deal with things in a timely yet considered manner.

 

 

 

Tagging on (not specifically about the blog in question): I find that some of my undergraduates are increasingly sensitive and take feedback very personally. Instead of seeing feedback as about the work they are doing, they see feedback (particularly a "bad" mark)  as some kind of moral judgement against them. I had a student last year who thought of the mark of 58% as a "failing" mark. Not a healthy self-talk for a start, and then that sets up a resistance to seeing where they can work to improve. Because if they read feedback & grades as my moral judgement of them, then the (rather twisted) logic is that there is nothing they can do, except challenge my judgement. 

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I think a teacher saying to a child ‘I love how you do ....’ is acceptable but ‘I love you’ is not professional or appropriate. Most teachers in vocational schools are not native English speakers but the majority have trained, danced and then worked here so a very poor excuse. 

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Of course there is always more than one side to a story, and as readers, we will relate more easily to something that reflects our own observations and experiences more than something that doesn't. And it's hard for the writer of such a blog to remain objective. Which of us writing about our deeply distressed child could do so without being emotive?

I do agree that there is a tendency to "take offence" very easily in society generally, and I notice that some of the youngsters in my own profession are a lot more interested in their rights than their responsibilities. (Though I suspect this has actually been said by every generation about the ones that follow!)

BUT, in my experience at least, I think DCs are, on the whole, more used to dealing with criticism than average, and better at handing it. They are getting corrections all the time and expect it. They know they are taking a hard route that is going to be filled with difficulty and rejection - indeed many will have experienced that before they ever get to vocational school. I don't believe that our dance schools are, on the whole, filled with "snowflakes."

It's great to hear positive stories. I'm glad it's not all bad. Probably nobody and nowhere is completely bad. There were fellow students who got on fabulously with the professor I wrote about in an earlier post, and despite his faults I learned some valuable stuff from him. 

However, the fact that this blog resonates so much with so many should ring alarm bells shouldn't it? Clearly not every child has a bad experience in every school, and some schools will suit some children better than others. Two class mates going through the same training can have radically different personal experiences - they are both real and equally valid. But there is clearly a significant cohort of students who are having a bad experience. And with broadly similar stories. To my mind, that is enough to suggest that there is something that needs to change.

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I agree with that - it's one of the reasons that getting children to do sport or dance etc can build their character in ways that schools would be reluctant to get involved. Maybe physical corrections are more palatable than academic ones? This can, of course, be over-done as the blog demonstrates.

Edited by thewinelake
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1 hour ago, Pups_mum said:

To my mind, that is enough to suggest that there is something that needs to change.

I would like to know how much formal teaching training is required of ballet teachers in vocational school. I know that these 'experts' are wanted for their ballet knowledge but is there a requirement that they have  knowledge of how learners learn and be aware of relevant learning and teaching theories. Also, how are the evaluated? Do students provide feedback on their teaching effectiveness? At least the university sector has got onto this and is making progress. Perhaps some of the vocational schools fall through the cracks depending on which organisation oversees them (OFSTED, QAA or other).

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2 hours ago, Kate_N said:

 

Tagging on (not specifically about the blog in question): I find that some of my undergraduates are increasingly sensitive and take feedback very personally. Instead of seeing feedback as about the work they are doing, they see feedback (particularly a "bad" mark)  as some kind of moral judgement against them. I had a student last year who thought of the mark of 58% as a "failing" mark. Not a healthy self-talk for a start, and then that sets up a resistance to seeing where they can work to improve. Because if they read feedback & grades as my moral judgement of them, then the (rather twisted) logic is that there is nothing they can do, except challenge my judgement. 


part of the problem  there is that  the  shift from school where 100% is achievable to  Higher Education where 100 %  even at first year level means ' this work is publishable in a peer  reviewed journal  as it stands' is a big jump especialyl for those used to being big fish in very small  ponds 

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28 minutes ago, ravasmum said:

I would like to know how much formal teaching training is required of ballet teachers in vocational school. I know that these 'experts' are wanted for their ballet knowledge but is there a requirement that they have  knowledge of how learners learn and be aware of relevant learning and teaching theories. Also, how are the evaluated? Do students provide feedback on their teaching effectiveness? At least the university sector has got onto this and is making progress. Perhaps some of the vocational schools fall through the cracks depending on which organisation oversees them (OFSTED, QAA or other).

 

I'm not sure that *any* formal teaching qualifications are required.  Now, a lack of QTS after someone's name doesn't mean they are a poor teacher.  One of the best, most nurturing, motivational and brightest private coaches I know is "only" an ex-Professional.  You couldn't wish for a more wonderful teacher.  

 

By the same token though, I have seen evidence of unqualified ex-dancers teaching 16 year-olds advanced pas-de-deux unsupervised, with no safety measures in place.  When you add in the fact that "Upper Schools" in the UK are not actually required to be inspected, but can volunteer to be inspected if they wish, some institutions can fall through gaps in the system.  

 

 

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58 minutes ago, ravasmum said:

I would like to know how much formal teaching training is required of ballet teachers in vocational school. I know that these 'experts' are wanted for their ballet knowledge but is there a requirement that they have  knowledge of how learners learn and be aware of relevant learning and teaching theories. Also, how are the evaluated? Do students provide feedback on their teaching effectiveness? At least the university sector has got onto this and is making progress. Perhaps some of the vocational schools fall through the cracks depending on which organisation oversees them (OFSTED, QAA or other).


QTS is a bit of a scam ...  
there is NO enclosure of title 
there is no  Scope of Practice  restricted to those holding QTS 
there is also no route to QTS  without lining the pockets of those  invested in  delivering the training.  ( unlike  those  professions where  there is  enclosure of title  and  restriction of scopes -  where there are extensive routes in place  to accredit and value the experience of those  not coming  into the profession straight from level 3  study)

you only need look at the wailing and hand wringing  of the  Party Political  aligned  teaching unions  over   the suggestion that there should be a fast  track  entry for teaching for  Military  Senior NCos who  have  reached the end of their 22-30 year  'full' colours service in their mid forties to early  50s ) to see what a scam it all it 

never mind the fact a 22 year old with  no actual experience of anything much   is 'Qualified'  and someone with  a (higher) degree, extensive  experience in teaching and  assessing  and decades of  experience in their field  is 'Unqualified' ...

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