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Moonbeam

Advice on Primary Ballet Exam

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I was given the name of a good school by the mother of my elder daughter’s classmate. Her daughter had been at the school for several years and she recommended it. They went to a summer school there, liked it, had a tester class and that was that. 

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On 13/09/2019 at 15:29, Moonbeam said:

I know what you mean.  I had already queried it and was basically told if I didn’t like it to move them.  I’m not looking forward to the next conversation given the response I got in January.  My eldest will be in Grade 2 until she’s 13 now as they normally have 18 months between each grade is what I was told when I queried it before which I think is too long and waiting 2 years seems even sillier x

This is so familiar. DD did pre-primary aged 5, primary at 6, grade 1 at 7 and then due to a school move she took grade 3 at 9 and missed grade 2 out. However, had she stayed at her original school she would have had to spend at least 18 months if not 2 years plus in grade 3 before taking her exam as the teacher who took grade 3 told everyone that grade 3 was especially complex even for talented dancers who picked up the work quickly. What she actually meant was that grade 3 was the last class she herself taught and she wanted to maximise her income from the grade 3 students before they went on to other teachers...which she confirmed as the truth to a mutual friend, who passed this on to me without realising that DD had been a student at that dance school. 

 

I’m not for a moment suggesting that this is the reason why your DD is being held back. However, as you say, her confidence will suffer and she will become bored and quite possibly disillusioned with ballet altogether if she has to wait so long to take her primary exam. If it were me I would ask for her to skip the primary exam and to be moved up to grade 1 (and possibly to join in some grade 2 classes if she would appreciate extra ‘stretching’). I would also have a look at alternative schools and their usual age bands within each grade so that you have other possibilities if that is refused. I would certainly not leave the situation as it is at present, given your DD’s age and her quiet personality, which may mean she loses all confidence and interest in her ballet if she is told that she has to wait even longer to take her primary exam. 

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My apologies, for some reason my post has only just been sent and is now out of date - as you have been told that she may not miss her primary exam and may not move to grade 1 and she has reacted as might be expected to the news that she has to stay in primary for even longer, I think the only option is to move her to a different school. I agree with the advice to try out all of the possible schools, regardless of syllabus and to go with your gut feeling - and that of your girls - as to where they are best suited to progress. Lots of luck x

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13 minutes ago, Legseleven said:

My apologies, for some reason my post has only just been sent and is now out of date - as you have been told that she may not miss her primary exam and may not move to grade 1 and she has reacted as might be expected to the news that she has to stay in primary for even longer, I think the only option is to move her to a different school. I agree with the advice to try out all of the possible schools, regardless of syllabus and to go with your gut feeling - and that of your girls - as to where they are best suited to progress. Lots of luck x

Thank you, it’s crazy to think that this school keep them at each grade between 18 months and 2 years when most comments I’m receiving are saying it should be a lot quicker.  I think there’s some girls at age 14 just sat their grade 3 but I may be wrong.  It certainly doesn’t seem to pick up at any point down the line so I’ll keep my research going for other schools and see if we can get lots of trials to find a nice school that wants to push her a little bit or at least let her grow xx

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42 minutes ago, Legseleven said:

 she would have had to spend at least 18 months if not 2 years plus in grade 3 before taking her exam as the teacher who took grade 3 told everyone that grade 3 was especially complex even for talented dancers who picked up the work quickly.

Actually, this is perfectly true, and I even overheard people on the RAD teacher training course talking (moaning actually!) about the huge emphasis put on Grade 3 in their course.

15 minutes ago, Moonbeam said:

 I think there’s some girls at age 14 just sat their grade 3

When you have younger children who are learning right from the beginning, it may not be obvious,  but the RAD grades are not based on age and the exam grades don't match up with school year groups. Children who start at 5, 6 and 7 will almost certainly be in the class that corresponds to the minimum age for taking that exam. However that very often gets out of synch as they go along and students don't always do one grade per year. Not to mention students who only start ballet at 9,10 or older. From Grade 3 onwards there is usually an age spread of several years within a class. Grade 3 is the level at which many late starters begin taking exams -so those 14 year olds may well have been dancing only for a year or two. Some adults learners start at Grade 3 too!

 

I'd say that you don't need to worry terribly that your daughter will be so behind that she will never get anywhere (my own daughter entered vocational school at 11 having only done up to Grade 2) but you don't want her feeling unstimulated, getting bored and losing enthusiasm.

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43 minutes ago, Moonbeam said:

Thank you, it’s crazy to think that this school keep them at each grade between 18 months and 2 years when most comments I’m receiving are saying it should be a lot quicker.  I think there’s some girls at age 14 just sat their grade 3 but I may be wrong.  

14 and grade 3?! That's ridiculous, and quite frankly absurd. If the teacher can't get them to a sensible grade by that age then he/she is an appalling teacher.

 

I know my dd was pushed along a bit quicker, but she'd taken her grade 7 by then. Average recreatiional students who have been dancing a while should be in grade 5 or 6 at 14, and the very keen ones would probably starting a little pointe work in a vocational grade as well. Most teachers would probably start a 14-year-old complete beginner in grade 4.

 

Around 18 months for a recreational dancer is about right, although many schools only have exam sessions annually so some grades might take a year, others 2. One would normally expect a child of 8 to have already taken grade 1 (or be about to) and starting on grade 2. Not being held back so much that they haven't even taken primary yet.

 

In my view you need to get your dd out of there as soon as possible.

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40 minutes ago, The_Red_Shoes said:

Actually, this is perfectly true, and I even overheard people on the RAD teacher training course talking (moaning actually!) about the huge emphasis put on Grade 3 in their course.

When you have younger children who are learning right from the beginning, it may not be obvious,  but the RAD grades are not based on age and the exam grades don't match up with school year groups. Children who start at 5, 6 and 7 will almost certainly be in the class that corresponds to the minimum age for taking that exam. However that very often gets out of synch as they go along and students don't always do one grade per year. Not to mention students who only start ballet at 9,10 or older. From Grade 3 onwards there is usually an age spread of several years within a class. Grade 3 is the level at which many late starters begin taking exams -so those 14 year olds may well have been dancing only for a year or two. Some adults learners start at Grade 3 too!

 

I'd say that you don't need to worry terribly that your daughter will be so behind that she will never get anywhere (my own daughter entered vocational school at 11 having only done up to Grade 2) but you don't want her feeling unstimulated, getting bored and losing enthusiasm.

She really sad about not sitting her exam and I am worried she’ll be put off as you’ve  said under stimulated. 

 

The 14 year old I mentioned has been dancing at least as long (5 years) as my daughter and probably a lot longer I just can’t comment on how long.  I know the children that start at the school are put into class based on age and one 9 year old that hadn’t danced before  went straight into the grade 2 class when my dd won’t be allowed  into that class until she’s 11 even though she started dancing before 3, it just doesn’t make much sense at all. 

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31 minutes ago, taxi4ballet said:

14 and grade 3?! That's ridiculous, and quite frankly absurd. If the teacher can't get them to a sensible grade by that age then he/she is an appalling teacher.

 

I know my dd was pushed along a bit quicker, but she'd taken her grade 7 by then. Average recreatiional students who have been dancing a while should be in grade 5 or 6 at 14, and the very keen ones would probably starting a little pointe work in a vocational grade as well. Most teachers would probably start a 14-year-old complete beginner in grade 4.

 

Around 18 months for a recreational dancer is about right, although many schools only have exam sessions annually so some grades might take a year, others 2. One would normally expect a child of 8 to have already taken grade 1 (or be about to) and starting on grade 2. Not being held back so much that they haven't even taken primary yet.

 

In my view you need to get your dd out of there as soon as possible.

The more and more I think about it we definitely need tonic her or I fear she may want to stop ballet at some point in the not too distant future.  I would like her to continue as long as possible as I believe it’s very good for her even if she never goes on to dance in any other way other than for fun. 

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2 hours ago, The_Red_Shoes said:

From Grade 3 onwards there is usually an age spread of several years within a class. Grade 3 is the level at which many late starters begin taking exams -so those 14 year olds may well have been dancing only for a year or two. 

This was certainly the case in my dd's grade 3 class. A mixture of 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 year olds. My dd did her Grade 3 exam with a 14 year old girl who had been learning ballet for almost 2 years (she started in grade 2 before moving up to the grade 3 class without ever taking the grade 2 exam). Two of her year 8 friends started ballet this September in grade 3 (ISTD), and I know of another girl who started learning ballet in grade 4 (RAD) whilst also in year 8. 

 

1 hour ago, taxi4ballet said:

14 and grade 3?! That's ridiculous, and quite frankly absurd. If the teacher can't get them to a sensible grade by that age then he/she is an appalling teacher.

 

In my view you need to get your dd out of there as soon as possible.

 

This.

 

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1 minute ago, OnlyDance said:

 

This was certainly the case in my dd's grade 3 class. A mixture of 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 year olds. My dd did her Grade 3 exam with a 14 year old girl who had been learning ballet for almost 2 years (she started in grade 2 before moving up to the grade 3 class without ever taking the grade 2 exam). Two of her year 8 friends started ballet this September in grade 3 (ISTD), and I know of another girl who started learning ballet in grade 4 (RAD) whilst also in year 8. 

 

 

This.

 

 

Ds started dance age 13. He took Grade 2 (private lessons as the only grade 2 class had only littlies in) 9 months later and took Grade 3 age 15. 

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3 hours ago, taxi4ballet said:
  4 hours ago, Moonbeam said:

Thank you, it’s crazy to think that this school keep them at each grade between 18 months and 2 years when most comments I’m receiving are saying it should be a lot quicker.  I think there’s some girls at age 14 just sat their grade 3 but I may be wrong.  

At 14, my daughter had passed (with distinction) her Grade 8 and Advanced 1 ballet exams .... Grade 3 sounds very far behind for a 14-yr old.

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definitely move her. If they aren't prepared to find a way to make it work for her then they obviously aren't really looking at the children as individuals.

 

don't worry about swapping from RAD to ISTD. Both are good, there are differences (RAD have 8 grades, ISTD 6 so they don't map across directly, RAD has character work which ISTD doesn't, ISTD has a lot more free work from a lot earlier and there are, I believe, some naming differences or different arms or something - I am not a dancer - but nothing that a child can't pick up/relearn). Just pick a school where you think she will be happy and be in with her age group.

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Perhaps if you could tell people roughly which area of the country you are based in? Then people will be able to give you recommendations for schools.

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I think on here we can sometimes get a bit of a distorted idea of what constitutes normal progress through the grades as most of us have children who are serious dancers and will be quicker. Plus we will have tended, where possible, to seek out teachers and schools where the standard is higher.

So its not always useful to compare what many of our children achieved at a given age with what the typical once a week recreational dancer might do.

I've also got some sympathy with teachers wanting to run their school their way. As a (volunteer admittedly) sports coach  it can be very frustrating to have parents who push to have their children moved up when they are not ready and on rare occasions we have indeed had to suggest to parents that if they are not happy with the way we coach at our club they should look elsewhere. So I can see that perspective.

However.....all that said, I think the timescales the OP is describing are beyond normal. That sounds far too long in one grade to me, especially primary. If the pupil knows the work then they surely need to be moving on and developing, whether they have done the exam or not. If the pupil doesn't know the work after that length of time there is something wrong with the teaching. Either way, that's a red flag to me, as is the poor communication and inflexibility of the teacher. The suggestion to move to another school may not be unreasonable but I would expect there to be dialogue first.

OP, I would move now. This is likely only to get worse with time. Don't worry about the syllabus. Quality of teaching and happy pupils are far more important than the exam board. 

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25 minutes ago, Pups_mum said:

I think on here we can sometimes get a bit of a distorted idea of what constitutes normal progress through the grades as most of us have children who are serious dancers and will be quicker. Plus we will have tended, where possible, to seek out teachers and schools where the standard is higher.

So its not always useful to compare what many of our children achieved at a given age with what the typical once a week recreational dancer might do.

I've also got some sympathy with teachers wanting to run their school their way. As a (volunteer admittedly) sports coach  it can be very frustrating to have parents who push to have their children moved up when they are not ready and on rare occasions we have indeed had to suggest to parents that if they are not happy with the way we coach at our club they should look elsewhere. So I can see that perspective.

However.....all that said, I think the timescales the OP is describing are beyond normal. That sounds far too long in one grade to me, especially primary. If the pupil knows the work then they surely need to be moving on and developing, whether they have done the exam or not. If the pupil doesn't know the work after that length of time there is something wrong with the teaching. Either way, that's a red flag to me, as is the poor communication and inflexibility of the teacher. The suggestion to move to another school may not be unreasonable but I would expect there to be dialogue first.

OP, I would move now. This is likely only to get worse with time. Don't worry about the syllabus. Quality of teaching and happy pupils are far more important than the exam board. 

I completely agree with all of your points, i know sometimes children aren’t ready to move.  I’ve never been a pushy parent and have been more than happy to let them progress when the dance school have said it was time but seeing my child at her pre primary exam in a group that were all a year below her and the quality of her dancing made me question it when she wasn’t sitting her primary exam the following March and I was told it would be November as 18 months between exams is how they do it.  I let it go but to find out that’s not happening not because they informed anyone but because my dd came home 2 weeks in a row telling me exam letters had been handed out and she didn’t get one so I asked if she was mistaken and when they’d be out to be told she wasn’t sitting her ballet exam until next March.  I don’t see I have any other choice as I’m not happy with the decision to not hold a RAD exam in November and there is no compromise to be had as they won’t move her up.  My dd is very upset as she can’t fully understand why there isn’t an exam in November and has been getting told she’s moving up in November to find out, not from her teacher but me that that isn’t happening.  I am in the process of making  enquires elsewhere, they have a non core trial on Friday but I still need to find a ballet, tap and modern class for them both.  

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1 hour ago, Lisa O`Brien said:

Perhaps if you could tell people roughly which area of the country you are based in? Then people will be able to give you recommendations for schools.

We are just outside Glasgow. 

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Linda Lowry School of Ballet - teaches to a high standard. Royal Conservatoire of Scotland also does the RAD grades I believe, for children.

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31 minutes ago, valentina said:

Linda Lowry School of Ballet - teaches to a high standard. Royal Conservatoire of Scotland also does the RAD grades I believe, for children.

Thank you, I’ll have a look at Linda Lowry.

 

I was really interested to see that the royal conservatoire of Scotland did RAD grades for children, the classes started last week, also they said they prefer if the children have taken the primary exam before commencing grade 1 but given she’s been in the class for a year and a half I’m sure this would be fine. 

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On 16/09/2019 at 21:10, The_Red_Shoes said:

Actually, this is perfectly true, and I even overheard people on the RAD teacher training course talking (moaning actually!) about the huge emphasis put on Grade 3 in their course.

When you have younger children who are learning right from the beginning, it may not be obvious,  but the RAD grades are not based on age and the exam grades don't match up with school year groups. Children who start at 5, 6 and 7 will almost certainly be in the class that corresponds to the minimum age for taking that exam. However that very often gets out of synch as they go along and students don't always do one grade per year. Not to mention students who only start ballet at 9,10 or older. From Grade 3 onwards there is usually an age spread of several years within a class. Grade 3 is the level at which many late starters begin taking exams -so those 14 year olds may well have been dancing only for a year or two. Some adults learners start at Grade 3 too!

 

I'd say that you don't need to worry terribly that your daughter will be so behind that she will never get anywhere (my own daughter entered vocational school at 11 having only done up to Grade 2) but you don't want her feeling unstimulated, getting bored and losing enthusiasm.

This was 12 years ago now so it was the previous children’s grades syllabus grade 3    and on observing my DD’s older friends in the class, on one occasion along with a qualified RAD teacher friend who was considering moving her DD to the school as she was giving up teaching - she chose not to do so - it was not at all clear that absolutely every child did indeed require at least 18 months if not 2 years in grade 3 as we were all told. There were students who did need additional time, as there are in every grade, but there were also students who had attended all the classes available plus unset classes, who picked up the new work and then the syllabus work quickly and were clearly frustrated at being told that they could not take the exam until they had had at least 18 months of classes and that no individual consideration of individual students’ readiness would happen. The teacher’s later ‘confession’ of her motivation for keeping everyone in the one grade for at least 18 months made me feel that moving DD to a different school was definitely the right decision. 

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On 17/09/2019 at 23:44, Legseleven said:

This was 12 years ago now so it was the previous children’s grades syllabus grade 3    and on observing my DD’s older friends in the class, on one occasion along with a qualified RAD teacher friend who was considering moving her DD to the school as she was giving up teaching - she chose not to do so - it was not at all clear that absolutely every child did indeed require at least 18 months if not 2 years in grade 3 as we were all told. There were students who did need additional time, as there are in every grade, but there were also students who had attended all the classes available plus unset classes, who picked up the new work and then the syllabus work quickly and were clearly frustrated at being told that they could not take the exam until they had had at least 18 months of classes and that no individual consideration of individual students’ readiness would happen. The teacher’s later ‘confession’ of her motivation for keeping everyone in the one grade for at least 18 months made me feel that moving DD to a different school was definitely the right decision. 

That really is quite a disturbing “confession” isn’t it.  All children learn at their own pace so to say they all need 18 months is quite unfair on the ones doing extra practice.  I have a class I would like my daughter to try out and we’ll take it from there, she’s not keen as she’s been there for 5 years but I’ve explained this is for her and if she doesn’t like it she doesn’t have to move.  I’m hoping she enjoys the challenge of the grade 1 class as I think she needs to hear she’s doing well just now. 

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Hey Moonbeam

 

I think you need to find out a bit more about the dance school.  Some schools push through exams really quickly, offering a number of ballet classes a week and pushing up the more able.  Other schools concentrate more on comps, shows and performance in general.  DD's dance school is a small one and most kids only do 1 ballet class a week until they get to grade 3 then its 2, and they alternate between doing a big show one year and exams the next.

 

It is frustrating being in the same grade for 2 years, especially for the more able dancers, but for the smaller dance schools with a limited number of studios and teachers I think it can be hard fitting everything in.

 

If your DD is enjoying it and has lots of good friends I would not worry too much unless she wants to be a ballerina.  Alternatively, ask her to be moved up to Grade 1 or find a school that is more focussed on getting through the grades.

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2 hours ago, poodle said:

Hey Moonbeam

 

I think you need to find out a bit more about the dance school.  Some schools push through exams really quickly, offering a number of ballet classes a week and pushing up the more able.  Other schools concentrate more on comps, shows and performance in general.  DD's dance school is a small one and most kids only do 1 ballet class a week until they get to grade 3 then its 2, and they alternate between doing a big show one year and exams the next.

 

It is frustrating being in the same grade for 2 years, especially for the more able dancers, but for the smaller dance schools with a limited number of studios and teachers I think it can be hard fitting everything in.

 

If your DD is enjoying it and has lots of good friends I would not worry too much unless she wants to be a ballerina.  Alternatively, ask her to be moved up to Grade 1 or find a school that is more focussed on getting through the grades.

They do focus a lot on competitions and do a show annually which understand is a lot for a school to cope with. My dd wants to learn more ballet and doesn’t want to repeat the same class she’s already spent a long time in and we did ask if she could move on and were told “we don’t do that here” meaning without the exam she won’t be moved on even though they have a 5 year old that just joined in the primary class and my other dd is 6 and still in pre primary.  I can’t get my head around what they’re doing if you join you get put into age appropriate classes but if you’ve been there you can’t without the exams. 

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3 minutes ago, Moonbeam said:

They do focus a lot on competitions and do a show annually which understand is a lot for a school to cope with. My dd wants to learn more ballet and doesn’t want to repeat the same class she’s already spent a long time in and we did ask if she could move on and were told “we don’t do that here” meaning without the exam she won’t be moved on even though they have a 5 year old that just joined in the primary class and my other dd is 6 and still in pre primary.  I can’t get my head around what they’re doing if you join you get put into age appropriate classes but if you’ve been there you can’t without the exams. 

 

It's a shame they won't just move your daughter up and I do wonder if they worry that everyone else will want to do the same.  And yes, it's the same at our school that a new joiner might get put in a higher (age appropriate) grade than someone who has been there for 2 years waiting for their exam to be booked in which is frustrating.

 

Are there any other schools that might provide more of what you want as, in my experience, these schools don't change the way they do things?  I have never moved mine because she is so happy there, does a number of different dance genres and has made great friends (as have I).  We are always at dancing doing something or other and when DD does do exams she gets distinctions so staying in the class a bit longer does get her good marks.

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1 minute ago, poodle said:

 

It's a shame they won't just move your daughter up and I do wonder if they worry that everyone else will want to do the same.  And yes, it's the same at our school that a new joiner might get put in a higher (age appropriate) grade than someone who has been there for 2 years waiting for their exam to be booked in which is frustrating.

 

Are there any other schools that might provide more of what you want as, in my experience, these schools don't change the way they do things?  I have never moved mine because she is so happy there, does a number of different dance genres and has made great friends (as have I).  We are always at dancing doing something or other and when DD does do exams she gets distinctions so staying in the class a bit longer does get her good marks.

There probably is a feeling that if my dd was moved up then others would be asking for the same thing.  It’s such a hard balance as they both like where they dance but the questions are being asked by my dd about why she’s not being allowed to learn more and I have spoken to 2 other schools that have said they’d start her in grade 1 but they’re both a bit further away than our local school which is handy.  I’m just trying to help develop her confidence as she can be quiet and I would hate this to put her off dancing if she becomes bored of the syllabus that she’s said herself she knows well and wants to do more. 

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As an RAD teacher myself,  I think it's rather unreasonable to make your daughter wait so long just to take an exam.  The exams give the students a goal and maķe them work harder, but I find that working for the exam longer than necessary has a detrimental effect on their progress.   Some children do take longer than others,  but not being in the UK we only have one exam session a year. If a child really isn't ready by then for the exam, we put them up anyway at the end of the year in the hope that they'll catch up.  I very often find that sooner or later they'll be ready for an exam,  and in the meantime their interest and enthusiasm has been  maintained.  Exams can't be compulsory- what if a parent can't afford them?   If the school is being unhelpful I would definitely suggest you look fof an alternative.......

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18 minutes ago, Dance*is*life said:

As an RAD teacher myself,  I think it's rather unreasonable to make your daughter wait so long just to take an exam.  The exams give the students a goal and maķe them work harder, but I find that working for the exam longer than necessary has a detrimental effect on their progress.   Some children do take longer than others,  but not being in the UK we only have one exam session a year. If a child really isn't ready by then for the exam, we put them up anyway at the end of the year in the hope that they'll catch up.  I very often find that sooner or later they'll be ready for an exam,  and in the meantime their interest and enthusiasm has been  maintained.  Exams can't be compulsory- what if a parent can't afford them?   If the school is being unhelpful I would definitely suggest you look fof an alternative.......

They’re not compulsory which is why it’s so frustrating that they won’t let her move on, I am hoping to take her to a trial tomorrow night for a grade 1 class as I believe continuing in the same class during primary ballet for another year isn’t a good use of her time or my money and I think it will definitely put her off as she’s not been rewarded for the hard work she’s already done and is just expected to wait without explanation from her teacher.  I’ve told her the reasons the teacher gave me but I don’t think she understands why they’re not holding a rad session in November I really feel quite loyal to the school but I don’t feel that is the way the school are behaving and it makes me quite sad that they don’t value part of the school enough to be reasonable about it. 

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18 hours ago, Moonbeam said:

I really feel quite loyal to the school 

They haven't done anything to deserve your loyalty.

 

You are a customer paying for a service you are not happy with. You have voiced your concerns and dissatisfaction, and been told to do as you are told or leave. So leave. You owe them absolutely nothing, and your first loyalty should be to your dd and what is best for her.

 

Hope the trial lesson elsewhere goes well.

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2 hours ago, taxi4ballet said:

They haven't done anything to deserve your loyalty.

 

You are a customer paying for a service you are not happy with. You have voiced your concerns and dissatisfaction, and been told to do as you are told or leave. So leave. You owe them absolutely nothing, and your first loyalty should be to your dd and what is best for her.

 

Hope the trial lesson elsewhere goes well.

You know you're absolutely right.  The trail tonight was wonderful, dd loves it and I love it too,  the only downside is for a 1 hour class it was 3.5 hours with travelling time, which isn’t ideal but if we can fully move then maybe the weekend will work better.

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