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Piepie

Concerns about vocational school

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You have limited scope to top up your child's academic education if s/he is at boarding school, though.

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The other thing for everyone to remember is the huge amount of upheaval st the moment.

 

The government has changed the curriculum/goalposts with little notice. The new maths/science GCSE's are harder but the textbooks wernt even published at the start of the academic year. Year 6s are now covering work previously done in year 7/8 so the current year 7/8 are having to try and keep up without the prior foundation.

 

This hasn't affected dss school as they did & will continue with IGCSE but it's put huge pressure on all schools. Many state schools have responded by increasing the workload homework/booster classes/ reducing the types of options available. (The only viable state option for us has got rid of music GCSE which both dd & ds desperately want to do)

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On the other hand, DD went to vocational school at 16, but although her GCSE results were good, she would have had more A's and B's if we hadn't been running round all week fitting the dance in. She only had Friday evening off, then there was RBS associates on a Saturday, which took up most of the day, CAT scheme all day Sunday and 2 other evenings, plus 3 evenings ballet class (one straight after CAT class). It didn't help that we are very rural so a lot of travelling was involved but things like coursework (especially Art) and concentration suffered and by the time the auditions were all over it was a bit late to get to where she could have been. Saying that, she wouldn't have it any other way.

Not really a simple answer to this is there - think where you live is also a factor.

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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.

Good advice no doubt - if the child is in fact spending a significant amount of time within the family. But the OP's child is at boarding school, which I imagine dramatically reduced the amount of influence the family can have on education.

Piepie - remember that you are the consumer here. I think in any school or scheme where places are hard to come by (not just within ballet) it is really easy to get sucked in to thinking that because Your child has been selected and so many others would have loved that opportunity that you have to be grateful and accept whatever comes. But nowhere, no matter how sought after or prestigious, is going to be the right fit for every child,and you are paying handsomely for the school. If your gut feeling is that it isn't providing what is best for your child then I would listen to that inner voice. At 16+ there are lots of different opportunities that open up,and many students enter full time training for the first time at that point.

Different things will be best for different students and their families,and none of us can tell you what is best for yours, but be assured that there are many roads to Rome, and changing your mind at this stage doesn't have to mean the end of the journey.

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I think you have to just go with your gut. I just wanted to say that it is possible to still get lots of training whilst being at a normal school. I couldn't go to vocational school due to finances so I go to a state school and do lots of training during the week and associates on weekends so still have just as much training as some of my friends at full time school. The only thing that is hard is doing so much homework when I am always travelling to dance. I wouldn't have it any other way though and love being so busy. I think it just depends on what your DD wants but if like me you cannot afford it, it is still possible to get just as much training sometimes with a lot more GCSE's at the end.

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On the other hand, DD went to vocational school at 16, but although her GCSE results were good, she would have had more A's and B's if we hadn't been running round all week fitting the dance in. She only had Friday evening off, then there was RBS associates on a Saturday, which took up most of the day, CAT scheme all day Sunday and 2 other evenings, plus 3 evenings ballet class (one straight after CAT class). It didn't help that we are very rural so a lot of travelling was involved but things like coursework (especially Art) and concentration suffered and by the time the auditions were all over it was a bit late to get to where she could have been. Saying that, she wouldn't have it any other way.

Not really a simple answer to this is there - think where you live is also a factor.

Oh strewth - yes, the dreaded art coursework, I remember it well. :wacko: My dd was hardly ever physically at home for long enough to actually do hers, something that her GCSE art teacher found difficult to understand. With hindsight, it was probably not the best subject she could have chosen!

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Good advice no doubt - if the child is in fact spending a significant amount of time within the family. But the OP's child is at boarding school, which I imagine dramatically reduced the amount of influence the family can have on education.

 

Yes I was thinking out loud for if/when the OP's DC comes back from vocational school. But these are all things which can be done in the holidays home from boarding school as well. But I also think my mother's dictum "Never let your schooling get in the way of your education" is a good one - it means you can think about a child's education as much more than just GCSEs.

Edited by Kate_N

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Did anyone see the news report the other day? [it would have been either Sky News or the BBC]. Schoolchildren in Norway,encouraged to climb trees and chill out during class times; and their academic results are fantastic. Apparently because they are happier and less stressed. Makes you think. 

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I think the thing that worries me slightly in OP first post is that the family are struggling with the finance and their DD will be aware of this probably even if not openly discussed......amazing what children pick up and "overhear" in families!!

 

It is difficult as at 13 their DD will most likely have strong feelings about schooling and if she is happy at the current vocational school that's difficult too .....as we all want children to be happy at their schools.

 

However as a child brought up on a council estate myself who managed to gain a place at an independent school after failing the eleven plus ...but as a non boarder....I know my parents made sacrifices to keep me there even though the school were on the generous side when assessing what parents like mine should pay according to their income.

I was so happy at this school and blossomed accordingly going from a class of 45 to 15!! What a difference!!

 

BUT I did feel a great pressure .....because my parents were paying .....to do well which was good in some ways but not in others.

Luckily it all worked out well but if I had failed my "O" levels as then called.....I think the guilt for me would have been a bit overwhelming. As it was at 16 I then won a place back in the state system at an excellent local Grammar School and di feel some relief parents weren't paying any more.

So what I m trying to say is if it is really a huge struggle with finances it may not be fair without openly discussing with DD at least to keep her there.....or warn her that it may not be possible all the way through to 16 as it is so expensive.

I'm sure if she did stop going to vocational but continued with her Dance locally it is possible to achieve success but only if the child is really keen.......as the workload is high ......But then this is true for anyone's DD or DS.

You are not in an easy position I must say but if you are thinking of changing probably best by end of year 9

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The academics at Tring are excellent. When my daughter was there they were in ability sets. My daughter after leaving Tring with an excellent bunch of GCSEs went off to a classical upper school. Two years in she started five A levels at a local college. She is now at a Russel group university reading Russian and Czech languages. I must say I am surprised that the academics at your dds school are not great as the four well known voc schools do very well with their exam results. The only down side might be that less subjects are on offer but in reality you dont need more than five good GCSE results to study for A levels. I am wondering if you felt that if the academics were up to scratch you could continue to afford the fees as you must have known how much you would be paying before she started at the school. If your dd is happy and settled where she is, then your decision to pull her out will be devastating for her. I would speak to the school to try to sort things out.

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My DD went to vocational school abroad and has consequently no GCSEs. This has not held her back academically, she is very bright and was accepted to all the schools in the UK she applied to for post 16 without them. I believe sometimes there can be too much emphasis on qualifications like GCSEs. Most countries around the world do not have any academic qualifications at 16, in fact if you speak with somebody in Finland ( supposedly one of the best educational systems in the world) the kids do not go to formal school until they are 6, there is no homework in Finland AT ALL and the students are certainly not suffering academically. As an experienced teacher the most important time in a students life is between 16 - 21, it is during these years that students are able to think independently and apply their knowledge best. The most important thing before this is to install a love of learning and to give students the skills they will need for higher level thinking and application of knowledge in these older years. If your DD is bright then she will do well whether she has 10 GCSEs or not. If she loves ballet and dance and since she has an MDS, she must be talented, then taking her away may mean she starts to hate school and learning and this does much more damage than a softer approach to academics. Of course if it is a matter of finances this is a different matter, as a teacher I know how that feels! Think very carefully before you make any decision and I would definitely speak with your DD before you make any decision, I do not envy you for that!

 

Good luck with everything

DRSC

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It may be interesting to think along these two lines (after re reading OP) and as I was reminded of the last sentence about Dance maybe not being a suitable career.

 

If you suddenly had an increase in funds so that there was no longer such a financial struggle would you be happier for DD to stay on?

 

If the academic side of school were to suddenly settle down for a while but you still had a struggle financially would you be happy for daughter to stay on?

 

If both things substantially improved would you be happy for your DD to stay on

 

I don't know whether this would help to clarify what the most important issues are in all of this for you.

There must be many parents considering whether to go the vocational route who have these various pulls in different directions because most want the best for their child in the end. It is just SO difficult at 11 or 12 to know what this might be.

 

I would say if money was no issue to go along with what the child wants and has rightly earned in gaining a place etc.

However reality is reality and sometimes sharing this with a child( of at least secondary age) is the best policy. It can make a child feel really grown up to be included in family discussions about issues which effect them and everyone else in the family. And they will respect your honesty in this even if it means they have to accept they cannot continue at the school they may love.

If it is at all possible I would try to keep your DD at the school until at least the end of year 9 so she has had that advantage for a while at least but if you are still worried about academics by then it may be time to consider a move but keep all the dance going if she is still keen etc.

Easy to give advice I know but I hope it all works out for your family and DD.

I know I was lucky ....as an only child... but my mum says if there had been other children then the independent school would have been out of the question!!

Many tough decisions in Life!

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Everyone has given very good advice on here, and I think that those of us with kids at vocational school are well aware that there is always a trade off with academics, namely less choice and the child will come out with fewer GCSEs.

However, I think none of us are prepared for suboptimal academic standards and nor should we be. When my child started at vocational school we were assured that small class sizes (which they are) and excellent teaching would mean that she would reach her maximum academic potential. This has sadly not been the case.

We have raised concerns, both at parents evenings and in private meetings, we have complained and we have practically begged for help. Most of the time we have been patted on the head and assured that it will all be ok.

It is only now (with 1 year to go) that we have made any sort of progress, and only in one subject.

This elite school with the wonderful reputation has let my child (and us) down very badly.

 

I get the feeling that I am talking about the same school as the original poster, and I agree with all the concerns raised. We are on an MDS, but we struggle to afford the contributions and we do not feel that we have had value for money in any way. There may be a scarcity of teachers, but up until this year the posts have been full as far as I am aware- yet if you speak to many of the parents of children in older years they will tell you that they are in no way happy with the academic standards.

 

My advice to the parents of children considering vocational school at 11 is do not believe the hype. Talk to the parents of children who have been there a long time (years 10 and 11) rather than the year 7 parents. Find out what they think of the academic teaching, the pastoral care, the dance tuition, and equally importantly the performance opportunities. Ask them to be honest with you. This will give you the best indication of what standards are like.

 

My child has had a great experience and I would not necessarily have changed it, but I do think we were blinded by the reputation and the hard sell. Look deeper before you leap!!

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This has been really valuable to read, as we're just debating the whole vocational/mainstream school issue for our dd, who is academically bright (but also spends a large amount of time dancing!). Bestfootforward, thanks for what you say. And good luck to Piepie for such a hard decision...

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I don't think any of the vocational schools education can be compared to excellent independant academic schools - firstly, they do not select on academic ability. Secondly, the children's focus is not on academic success, in the main. The academic education at Tring is good, not outstanding. We have experienced some truly dreadful teachers, yet most are excellent. There has certainly been some staffing issues with some subjects, with the replacements being nothing short of terrible, not helped by the head of academics last year 'leaving' at very short notice.

 

My DC was at a very high performing state school until the end of year 9 and no, the academic teaching in some subjects does not compare, in others it is just as good. I guess it all depends on the subjects being taken and your child's learning style and of course personality clashes. There are plenty of teachers in my others child's excellent academic school which leave a lot to be desired too!

 

I feel at Tring, the children have to be very self motivated to succeed academically. I also feel that science and maths is very strong there, certainly in our experience. The humanities staff turnover seems to be very high and therefore variable. I truly believe that a clever child will succeed anywhere but if you send your child to a vocational school and believe they are getting an education on a par with a top independent/grammar school then you will be sadly disappointed. But a clever, self motivated child can certainly come out with 9 top grade GCSE's and go on to study anything they like, be it medicine, law, vetinary science etc.

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Piepie I do sympathise with your difficult situation. The decision to send and keep a child at vocational school is always hard and a trade off between dance opportunities , academics , family life , career prospects and finances !

 

I made a list of pros and cons and decided as long as my DS wants to stay we will find a way ....but I think the decision is easier for boys as normal school is harder in terms of bullying and high quality dance training for boys harder to find locally and more career opportunities as well ....

Holidays are one of the many things we've sacrificed all birthday and Chrismas presents go towards dance and luckily he only has a low maintainece brother .

As to academics DS Is well motivated to study and brings home lots of prep , though I do keep a eye on what he is doing as far as I can! I know that he is bright enough and curious enough to research extra on his own so I hope he will get the requisite number or GCSE's to give him a reasonable academic base to go on to A level whereas he would not be well motivated studying at a mainstream school without others who are obsessed with dance !

If he were a girl however I would have more doubts !

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Harwel I am really sad to hear that the academics are not what they used to be as just a few years ago they were excellent. Prior to Tring my daughter did attend one of the leading prep schools and I have to say Tring within the top sets offered a comparable but slightly limited education. The head of academics would not allow dance to invade education and I always felt that the dance and education was very well balanced. I do know that many students who chose an academic route come away with excellent grades and are currently attending our top universities my daughter included.

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I don't think any of the vocational schools education can be compared to excellent independant academic schools - firstly, they do not select on academic ability. Secondly, the children's focus is not on academic success, in the main. The academic education at Tring is good, not outstanding. We have experienced some truly dreadful teachers, yet most are excellent. There has certainly been some staffing issues with some subjects, with the replacements being nothing short of terrible, not helped by the head of academics last year 'leaving' at very short notice.

 

My DC was at a very high performing state school until the end of year 9 and no, the academic teaching in some subjects does not compare, in others it is just as good. I guess it all depends on the subjects being taken and your child's learning style and of course personality clashes. There are plenty of teachers in my others child's excellent academic school which leave a lot to be desired too!

 

I feel at Tring, the children have to be very self motivated to succeed academically. I also feel that science and maths is very strong there, certainly in our experience. The humanities staff turnover seems to be very high and therefore variable. I truly believe that a clever child will succeed anywhere but if you send your child to a vocational school and believe they are getting an education on a par with a top independent/grammar school then you will be sadly disappointed. But a clever, self motivated child can certainly come out with 9 top grade GCSE's and go on to study anything they like, be it medicine, law, vetinary science etc.

 

 

I see what you mean, but aren't there non-selective independent academic schools? Or are their standards generally not as good as academically selective independent schools? (We have to keep in mind though, every child is different so some children, even if they are in the 10% and get in a selective independent school, they may be borderline and struggle to succeed in a selective school but thrive in an excellent non-selective independent school or comprehensive, while there are also children who thrive at a selective independent or a grammar school. But as the OP mentioned their child is really quite bright, so their child seems to be in the 10% and perhaps a mixed-ability school such as a ballet school isn't the best fit for their child academically. The issues with hiring and retaining academic staff are obviously a concern, as it would be for any child and school. I strongly agree though that one should be concerned if their child isn't fulfilling their academic potential, and for a child aspiring to become a ballet dancer their balletic/artistic potential as well.)

Edited by DancingtoDance

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It might be helpful to know which school the OP is referring to, for people contemplating sending their children there.  I presume it is Tring is it?

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To balance my concerns I'd mentioned about dds education in previous posts yesterday I gave her an old year 9 sats maths paper & she was just 3 marks off a level 8 having not yet covered one of the topics (about to start)

 

I know some schools have abolished levels but I felt it was a good indicator.

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As for studying at a ballet school post 16 without going through Lower School, I think it depends heavily upon the quality and quantity of dance training you can get locally. Locally is the standard good enough to get your child up to par at age 16 and can you fit in enough classes locally.

 

Obviously the upsides include broader options academically and more family time but another upside I also see is that post 16 students do A levels and to do A levels students need to have to gotten a B or above in the subject they want to study in, so there may be closer abilities... but then again, although not knowing the OP's child's academic ability there is a difference between a B student and an A* student so I don't know if this really is an upside...

 

But even in Lower School vocational schools do set their students based on ability in certain subjects (although some vocational schools only do this from a certain year, and the subjects in which they are set by ability may change as they progress in the school) so if some subjects are set by ability in the OP's child's year in those subjects not being with those with similar ability shouldn't be a problem.

Edited by DancingtoDance

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To balance my concerns I'd mentioned about dds education in previous posts yesterday I gave her an old year 9 sats maths paper & she was just 3 marks off a level 8 having not yet covered one of the topics (about to start)

 

I know some schools have abolished levels but I felt it was a good indicator.

Good for your DD. But I feel we have to be careful about levels as whether or not the level they are at is good is relative to the child's ability in that subject - some students may achieve a high level yet be underachieving, while other students may achieve a low level yet be achieving their maximum potential.

Edited by DancingtoDance

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Absolutely. And she didn't do sats so I don't know for sure what she was on entry.

 

But assuming she was Level 5 on entry in maths (lower in English) it demonstrates excellent progress as an ed psych & school reports show she was underachieving on entry with regards to her innate ability.

 

If it was my son I would be more than satisfied with 6/7 at the end of key stage 3.

 

Dds friend from juniors on the other hand would be thoroughly bored there (she came 3rd or 4th in the child genius programme a few years ago)

 

Parents have got to work out what's best for their child. I sought help from a teacher friend when we were concerned who posted out that we wernt making fair comparisons.

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