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Getting into vocational school in year 8


DanceMamma
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I was hoping for some insight into experiences of applying for vocational school for year 8.
 

After having a look through some of the threads on here, I noticed that lots of schools are no longer assessing out at the end of year 7 - which I think is great news! But, it made me wonder if applying for a year 8 place would be a pretty pointless exercise? Will there even be any places for year 8? I’m guessing not! DD will audition for the experience of auditioning though! She didn’t want to audition for year 7, covid made things really difficult and she just wasn’t ready - I do fear she’s missed the boat though. Perhaps continuing with associates and thinking about post-16 is more realistic? 
 

Any thoughts or similar experiences? 
xxx

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When Ds/Dd were at ballet school there were assessing out assessments in years 9 and 11. Some left by their own choice at other times and there were one or two taken in at every year group, apart from year 11. The school I believe now tries to keep the students for the whole of lower school but I guess there is still a chance to gain a place. 
Having experienced lower school and upper school verses just upper school I would advise that if you can access a good associate program and intensives along side local training then I would opt for that and try for upper schools only. In my experience there is just as much success from those who only did upper school as those who did the whole 8 years. 

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5 minutes ago, cotes du rhone ! said:

When Ds/Dd were at ballet school there were assessing out assessments in years 9 and 11. Some left by their own choice at other times and there were one or two taken in at every year group, apart from year 11. The school I believe now tries to keep the students for the whole of lower school but I guess there is still a chance to gain a place. 
Having experienced lower school and upper school verses just upper school I would advise that if you can access a good associate program and intensives along side local training then I would opt for that and try for upper schools only. In my experience there is just as much success from those who only did upper school as those who did the whole 8 years. 

Daft question, is upper school years 10-11? I had post-16 in my mind. 

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2 minutes ago, margarite said:

Children don’t just leave because they’re assessed out - two left in my DDs year 7 group as decided it wasn’t for them. 

I’d not thought about that aspect. I think she’ll give it a go, it’s all good audition experience if nothing else! 

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Posted (edited)
13 minutes ago, DanceMamma said:

 

Daft question, is upper school years 10-11? I had post-16 in my mind. 

Upper school is 16 plus. 6:1,6:2 and 6:3.

Lower school is years 7 to 11 x

Edited by cotes du rhone !
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2 minutes ago, cotes du rhone ! said:

Upper school is 16 plus. 6:1,6:2 and 6:3.

Lower school is years 7 to 11 x

Thank you! That’s what I’d thought but had a moment of doubt! 😂

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You’d be amazed how many reasons there are for students leaving vocational schools or changing schools.  Also, some schools make room for an extra one if they really want them!

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My DD auditioned for Y8 places in the knowledge that a place was highly unlikely and it was just for audition practice. She ended up being invited to finals at White Lodge and Elmhurst. WL only took one of the 6 finalists that year and Elmhurst none but she then was offered a Y8 place following summer school. For her, the knowledge that a place was so unlikely made her super relaxed in the auditions so she was able to thoroughly enjoy the classes without feeling under any pressure.


So I’d say go in with zero expectations other than to enjoy a day out having the opportunity to dance in fantastic studios with lovely teachers. And anything else would be the fairy dust!

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I’d advise continue with good associate program, summer schools, intensive courses instead of a yr 8 place at vocational school, audition at 16 for upper schools, from experience my dd who attended vocational school at 11 was at no more of an advantage at auditions at 16 then others who attended local dance schools/associate schemes. I’d say if your dd wants to audition for the experience that’s great, vocational lower schools do not always offer the ‘best’ training compared to intensive courses, competition experiences, summer schools etc. Good luck to your dd whatever she decides

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6 hours ago, Pointe3 said:

I’d advise continue with good associate program, summer schools, intensive courses instead of a yr 8 place at vocational school, audition at 16 for upper schools, from experience my dd who attended vocational school at 11 was at no more of an advantage at auditions at 16 then others who attended local dance schools/associate schemes. I’d say if your dd wants to audition for the experience that’s great, vocational lower schools do not always offer the ‘best’ training compared to intensive courses, competition experiences, summer schools etc. Good luck to your dd whatever she decides

I totally agree !!

There are so many fantastic teachers and opportunities out there which I find are restricted when attending lower school. Years 7 to 11 cost us in excess of £60,000 and that was with an MDS. Think of all the fantastic summer intensives etc Dd could have attended for that 🤔🤣

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7 hours ago, Pointe3 said:

I’d advise continue with good associate program, summer schools, intensive courses instead of a yr 8 place at vocational school, audition at 16 for upper schools, from experience my dd who attended vocational school at 11 was at no more of an advantage at auditions at 16 then others who attended local dance schools/associate schemes. I’d say if your dd wants to audition for the experience that’s great, vocational lower schools do not always offer the ‘best’ training compared to intensive courses, competition experiences, summer schools etc. Good luck to your dd whatever she decides

I think this sounds like a very realistic option! She’s starting 2 associates schemes in September. I’ll look at intensives, pop ups and summer schools too. 

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56 minutes ago, cotes du rhone ! said:

I totally agree !!

There are so many fantastic teachers and opportunities out there which I find are restricted when attending lower school. Years 7 to 11 cost us in excess of £60,000 and that was with an MDS. Think of all the fantastic summer intensives etc Dd could have attended for that 🤔🤣

The more I think about it, the more I’m moving towards this thinking!

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I can totally understand why boarding isn’t for some families. To replicate the amount of hours that would happen at a vocational school plus travel time plus going to a ‘normal’ academic school who will generally expect homework in the next day, afterschool sessions in later years etc must be incredibly difficult! I guess it depends on where you live etc but I would have thought for some parents it would not be manageable in terms of cost and time commitment. Everything does ramp up considerably after year 9! I know some parents have managed it on here, and imagine it’s more achievable if parent/ relative is a ballet teacher!

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I personally think it’s better to stick with a good academic school and good extra-curricular dance classes.


However, it does depend what you have available close by, not just the quality and number of dance classes, but an academic school, or the surroundings. It may be that a vocational school and its environment is a real step-up compared to what you have available for an academic school, or if you live in an insalubrious area with low expectations, or if your child may be at risk in some way.

It also depends on cost. Depending on your income, it may be that a vocational school is considerably cheaper than paying for dance lessons independently, unless you can get a scholarship or bursary. 

 

My DD’s ballet classes were only a couple of streets away and she went by herself, so there was no travel time involved.

 

However, I’ve known several children drop in and out of the various vocational schools in different years, so it seems eminently possible - although I take the point that if some schools are now guaranteeing a place for several years, there may be less flexibility for new starters in the future - especially if they need funding. If people can pay full fees, there’s probably a lot more options.
 

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I just don’t see how it’s possible to fit in enough ballet around secondary school. We want to try vocational upper school but honestly can’t see how we can ever manage to fit in enough training, with academic school taking up a lot of time particularly from year 9. Even two hours of ballet per day will be difficult.

 

how do you do it? 

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There are so many schools of thought on this, and there will always be stories of students that got into a top vocational upper school without attending a lower school first. Every child is different, and every situation is different. For DD, the overall experience of a vocational lower school is really enriching. Inspirational teachers, beautiful working environment, lots of ‘wider dance education’ and the opportunity to relax with her friends in the evening because the art of juggling academics with vocational training is done for her.


She has friends back home who are opting to audition to go straight into upper schools. At the moment their lives are full, going from school to dance every day and almost no down time, but this works for them, just like vocational school works for DD.

 

Would DD do just as well at upper school auditions without lower school training? Impossible to say. Is her life richer for being at a lower school? Absolutely! We are definitely doing what works best for DD, which is all each child needs.

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6 minutes ago, Medora said:

I just don’t see how it’s possible to fit in enough ballet around secondary school. We want to try vocational upper school but honestly can’t see how we can ever manage to fit in enough training, with academic school taking up a lot of time particularly from year 9. Even two hours of ballet per day will be difficult.

 

how do you do it? 

Medora this is why our little Dd is off to vocation school this sept. We just couldn't get anywhere near that level of training locally and she would have spent every weekend travelling down round the country to access the associate schemes...maybe it depends where you live and if you have good training on your doorstep? It's such a hard decision to send them to boarding school but it was the only way we could give her the chance to train more seriously. I think in other parts of the country though it would be possible to stay home and train and have comparable training but I'd imagine it wouldn't be easy xxx 

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These are all incredibly helpful and insightful answers! Thank you!

 

For us, it’s a juggle to manage all the classes but manageable, just. She will be doing two associate schemes from September, alongside 4 hours of ballet (private class, grade class, IF class and an open class) , 2 hours of strength and flex, and tap plus contemporary. It’s a packed schedule but every element is from high quality dance schools. 


But, and it’s a BIG but, I have absolutely no idea how she’ll manage it all alongside increasing demands from secondary school?

 

There’s lots to think about! 

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1 hour ago, Medora said:

I just don’t see how it’s possible to fit in enough ballet around secondary school. We want to try vocational upper school but honestly can’t see how we can ever manage to fit in enough training, with academic school taking up a lot of time particularly from year 9. Even two hours of ballet per day will be difficult.

 

how do you do it? 

What do you mean by “enough training”? It’s the quality that matters more than the quantity. Mine did, I think, about 2 hours a day - I can’t really remember now - and quite a bit on Saturday. It gradually ramped up as she got older. She started off doing three classes a week at the start of secondary school and then more. She came home from school (maybe 35 mins away) ditched her school bag, got changed, went to ballet, and came home for tea and homework. There was enough spare time left over for seeing friends, etc, and other hobbies too. Mine did 13 GCSEs - in the days when students seemed to do more subjects than they do now. So it was perfectly possible. The only thing ballet affected was that she couldn’t do an extra twilight GCSE (taught after the normal school day) on offer by her school, because that meant she couldn’t get to ballet in time. However, as I say, it was made easier because we lived close by a dance school with good-quality classes. This is key, I think. If the only thing you’ve got available is one class of RAD grade 5 within a 30-minute drive, that is much harder. 

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Remember choosing vocational school does not mean it’s an easy ride juggling training with GCSEs demands.. my dd at voc school has just finished her GCSEs which has meant revising into the early hours and waking very early to fit revision  in .Ballet training of course was prioritised and rehearsals regularly over ran into any revision time even during the ‘mock/ assessments’ weeks. Of course this year was unusual as there was no study leave etc .... 

 

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1 hour ago, Medora said:

I just don’t see how it’s possible to fit in enough ballet around secondary school. We want to try vocational upper school but honestly can’t see how we can ever manage to fit in enough training, with academic school taking up a lot of time particularly from year 9. Even two hours of ballet per day will be difficult.

 

how do you do it? 

With great difficulty, but we managed it.

We live in Cornwall and Ds did associate class on a Saturday at Elmhurst for 2 years. It was a whole day out 😅 He was years 10 and 11. Then he started 4 A levels and did SAs in Covent Garden for a year before successfully auditioning for vocational school. He did ballet 3 times a week locally but did not do any other forms of dance. He felt he didn’t need too. He performed with Matthew Bourne and Brb before graduating with a classical contract. He has A/A* GCSEs and 2 A levels and 3 As levels. Only doing ballet didn’t hold him back. He can’t tap to save his life 🤣 He also did English Schools and club cross country and athletics and county, club and school rugby. That’s probably the trick. Streamlining the activities 🤔 Dd only did ballet too before going at 11 but lots of other sports. 
I think you just have to be very organised and if they love what they are doing it’s so much easier. Personally for us Dd would have been happier had she had a normal lower school experience and did associates etc like her brother. I watched the lights go out in her eyes at the end of year 11 😢 The passion and happiness sucked out, you can see why bright eyed, fresh and keen non vocational dancers compete very successfully for upper school places. 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Medora said:

I just don’t see how it’s possible to fit in enough ballet around secondary school. We want to try vocational upper school but honestly can’t see how we can ever manage to fit in enough training, with academic school taking up a lot of time particularly from year 9. Even two hours of ballet per day will be difficult.

 

how do you do it? 

Hi. I think the answer is in your geographical location and availability. 
We balanced secondary school and ballet (amongst other genres) purely because of the distance between home/school/studio. 
School was about a 10 min slow stroll from school. My DD was not alone as some of her peers at school also attended the same studio. They completed their homework and revision on the floor of the changing room amongst hair spray, hair grips & other parents! Goodness knows how but they thrived on the discipline and pressure that their surroundings put upon them. They did and their grades were testament to their dedication. Not forgetting the interruptions for US auditions. Everyone that applied, secured a place at their chosen School/college with one student opting for Medical School. 
The added bonus for us was that home is a 6 min drive from the studio (traffic lights permitting!). 
By the time my DD sat her GCSE’s along with her cohort were attending on average 11/14hrs  dancing per week as they all had RAD exams thrown into the mix. 
I still look back at that time and ponder on ‘How did she do it?’  But they are all so driven focused and determined to reach their end goal they rise to the challenge. 
We even flew back home (after her audition) in the morning for a GCSE

examination that afternoon!
Pressure? What pressure 😂 

 

Upon reflection it could have boiled down to behaviour breeds behaviour. Not that she followed because her cohort were pursuing a dancing career but rather she was ably supported by her cohort as they were all in it together.  There was absolutely no pressure from the teachers at all. I can’t deny that being surrounded by others was incredibly beneficial. It must be so much harder for those who are on their own amongst their peers. 
 

ps. During a parent/teachers consultation one of teachers announced that they all wanted dance students in their class. As “they are all so focused and dedicated”. Work was always in on time unlike those students who don’t have sport or dancing as a focus. They lose track of time as they have too much time on their hands and therefore are distracted, their work suffered as a result. 
 

Just to conclude the key to all of this is to stay in control of the school work don’t let the school work overwhelm your DD (if that makes sense), maintain a regular bedtime routine, well balanced diet with a dose of fresh air ie a good walk,  to escape from everything and time to talk and touch base and stay connected to their siblings. Which actually is relevant to any student who is studying for any exams be it GCSE’s or A Levels. 
 

Good Luck. 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by balletbean
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, rowan said:

What do you mean by “enough training”? It’s the quality that matters more than the quantity. Mine did, I think, about 2 hours a day - I can’t really remember now - and quite a bit on Saturday. It gradually ramped up as she got older. She started off doing three classes a week at the start of secondary school and then more. She came home from school (maybe 35 mins away) ditched her school bag, got changed, went to ballet, and came home for tea and homework. There was enough spare time left over for seeing friends, etc, and other hobbies too. Mine did 13 GCSEs - in the days when students seemed to do more subjects than they do now. So it was perfectly possible. The only thing ballet affected was that she couldn’t do an extra twilight GCSE (taught after the normal school day) on offer by her school, because that meant she couldn’t get to ballet in time. However, as I say, it was made easier because we lived close by a dance school with good-quality classes. This is key, I think. If the only thing you’ve got available is one class of RAD grade 5 within a 30-minute drive, that is 

I totally agree quality over quantity...but there does need to be a certain amount to give a fighting chance...locally my dd does two 55 minute ballet classes per week with her dance school...even with associate classes it would definitely not be enough...I think it depends on what is available really...I so wish she could have access to the training locally but where we live its just not possible really....xxx 

Edited by Raquelle
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1 hour ago, balletbean said:

Hi. I think the answer is in your geographical location and availability. 
We balanced secondary school and ballet (amongst other genres) purely because of the distance between home/school/studio. 
School was about a 10 min slow stroll from school. My DD was not alone as some of her peers at school also attended the same studio. They completed their homework and revision on the floor of the changing room amongst hair spray, hair grips & other parents! Goodness knows how but they thrived on the discipline and pressure that their surroundings put upon them. They did and their grades were testament to their dedication. Not forgetting the interruptions for US auditions. Everyone that applied, secured a place at their chosen School/college with one student opting for Medical School. 
The added bonus for us was that home is a 6 min drive from the studio (traffic lights permitting!). 
By the time my DD sat her GCSE’s along with her cohort were attending on average 11/14hrs  dancing per week as they all had RAD exams thrown into the mix. 
I still look back at that time and ponder on ‘How did she do it?’  But they are all so driven focused and determined to reach their end goal they rise to the challenge. 
We even flew back home (after her audition) in the morning for a GCSE

examination that afternoon!
Pressure? What pressure 😂 

 

Upon reflection it could have boiled down to behaviour breeds behaviour. Not that she followed because her cohort were pursuing a dancing career but rather she was ably supported by her cohort as they were all in it together.  There was absolutely no pressure from the teachers at all. I can’t deny that being surrounded by others was incredibly beneficial. It must be so much harder for those who are on their own amongst their peers. 
 

ps. During a parent/teachers consultation one of teachers announced that they all wanted dance students in their class. As “they are all so focused and dedicated”. Work was always in on time unlike those students who don’t have sport or dancing as a focus. They lose track of time as they have too much time on their hands and therefore are distracted, their work suffered as a result. 
 

Just to conclude the key to all of this is to stay in control of the school work don’t let the school work overwhelm your DD (if that makes sense), maintain a regular bedtime routine, well balanced diet with a dose of fresh air ie a good walk,  to escape from everything and time to talk and touch base and stay connected to their siblings. Which actually is relevant to any student who is studying for any exams be it GCSE’s or A Levels. 
 

Good Luck. 

 

 

 

 

 

So, so helpful! We are lucky enough to have good training within easy reach. I’m really starting to question the idea of lower school. I’m not sure it’s ‘the answer’ for us. 

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Thank you Balletbean, Balletmummy and Cotes du Rhone, and everyone else. So interesting to see how you all get it done.

 

Balletbean, what an absolute dream scenario, so lovely to have the support from both your daughter’s school and peer group!

 

Our challenge is that we have a bit of a commute (about an hour) between home/school and the ballet studio. I’ve been advised that they need to train 6 days per week to have a chance at upper school auditions. Add to this homework, and hopefully a social life for dd on the odd occasion... 

 

I know that top level athletes often do really well academically, there are clearly some benefits to combining high level training and academics. Just have to make the logistics work somehow!

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3 hours ago, Raquelle said:

I totally agree quality over quantity...but there does need to be a certain amount to give a fighting chance...locally my dd does two 55 minute ballet classes per week with her dance school...even with associate classes it would definitely not be enough...I think it depends on what is available really...I so wish she could have access to the training locally but where we live its just not possible really....xxx 


So many girls auditioning, I think they can pick those with quality and quantity personally. I think you’d have to be providing around the same amount as a vocational school. Boys more flexibility maybe but at upper school they would be competing with international students as well. Ultimately I think you just have to go with what you both think is best, how keen your child is to go to a boarding school will be a big factor. The audition would be a good experience for her though as there will be many more in the future!

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We took my DS out of a vocational school after year 7 - found a fantastic school who were flexible and with a combination of private coaching (an hour away) and various associate schemes he got a place at white lodge for year 10 this year so yes it can be done from home.  Rather than go to white lodge he has opted to carry on training from home.  So many different paths to take and vocational school is not always the best path to take 

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Posted (edited)

We’re coming to the end of our journey

- JA’s - 3 very very happy years

- voc school 1 - a nightmare we would not want to repeat

- voc school 2 - better - came out with 9 GCSE’s all of which she would never have got in voc 1

- voc Dance College - despite covid coming along - the best 3 yrs yet!

What would we have done different!  I don’t know! If current voc college had had a lower school then would have gone there (and I’ve told the head this!). It’s such a hard decision to make at 11, we’ve had loads of ups and downs but we’re finally coming out happier and still dancing, and still wanting to dance! 

Edited by Dancing unicorn
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