Would you consider a vocational school?

(10 Posts)
ontheginalready Mon 22-Feb-16 14:33:07

DS is due to start secondary in September. We do not yet know where he will be allocated locally. He passed the 11+ and we were encouraged to apply to the local grammar school but it is about numbers now and he may well not get a place. He also dances to a high standard and is down to the final auditions for two very highly regarded dance schools. This does not mean he has a place at either. Basically we know absolutely nothing but on the very unlikely scenario that he gets offered a place at both schools (grammar and dance) we have a very difficult decision to make.

Both are excellent schools but for completely different reasons. He absolutely loves dance and spends the majority of his spare time dancing. If he went to the dance school he would be able to carry on with this and also hopefully meet a male peer group which he is currently missing. However they do not do any structured sport which he also enjoys and they also don't do any DT. Their subject options at GCSE are a little limited (but not much more so than our local comp) but they get very good academic results and long term I don't think this would hamper him even if he decided not to carry on with dance. The dance schools are independent schools which he would have scholarship for but this is means tested so we would also have to pay (although not too much hopefully) and he would have to board.
The grammar school excels academically and has a broad range of subjects. They also offer excellent sports. However I don't think DS would be able to commit to dancing as much as he does now. I think he would also still not have that dancing peer group and would either struggle socially or drop out of dance.

I really have no idea what to do for the best. If you have any experience I would love to hear it or any advice.

TIA

ErgonomicallyUnsound Mon 22-Feb-16 16:32:48

I'd go for the grammar, especially if he can continue some dance outside school. Our DS is very talented at a popular sport, and we have not only ruled out an education for him based around his, but have also ended up putting him in a school that doesn't even offer it! shock

We decided that as much as he loves it, what is most important is his wider education, so we chose the school where we thought he'd do best academically and be happy and fit in. He's not top of the tree where he is but I think that's a good thing for him.

He plays enough of the sport outside school for the time being.

What would you do if you your DS stopped being interested in dance, having based his secondary education around it?

ontheginalready Mon 22-Feb-16 17:23:29

See that's the thing, I think if he went to the dance school and decided to give it up at 16 then it would be fine. He would still have had a good education and still be able to go and choose a wider range of subjects for A level or whatever he wanted (academic results are also good just not huge choice for GCSE). However I am not sure if the reverse is true. He would have to significantly reduce his hours if he went to the grammar. With that and the combined social and other pressures would he still be able to follow a dance career. I worked in a professional sport and we found the peak time for drop out was at 14. A huge part of this was due to peer support and network, or lack of, and this is what worries me for him.

Zodlebud Mon 22-Feb-16 18:08:58

My sister is a talented dancer and won a place at The Royal Ballet School at 11. However my parents didn't feel it was right at such a young age so waited until 16 before going there (following another audition of course).

She learnt a lot about juggling work and extra curricular commitments, left "proper" school at 16 and stayed there for two years. After 12 months of auditions and living the life of a performer she packed it in and became an air hostess!!!!!!

With your support your son can dance to an exceptionally high standard on an extra curricular basis and still be in good stead when he's 16 and has a more focused outlook on what he wants to do as a career.

hemihypostrophe Mon 22-Feb-16 20:39:02

Well hopefully the decision will be made for you if he only gets a place at one. I guess that is probably the moment you realise what you really feel about the two options.

What does your son think? Apologies if I have missed that bit. Is he equally torn?

I also have a son who dances to a very high standard and puts in many hours outside school with people who are already in full time dance training. However, he has always been adamant that he didn't want to go to a vocational school as he didn't think he would want to pursue a career in dance and there were plenty of other things he could imagine himself doing which would need a more conventional education. Crucially we are in London so he has plenty of opportunities to dance and if he wanted to concentrate on this later he wouldn't have jeopardised his chances.

So I think that unless your son is adamant that all he wants to do is dance and is not academic I would choose the grammar. But if his opportunities to dance were going to be seriously limited by this I would find this a very much harder choice. I would think he needs to have a large say in it himself and I would only let him choose the vocational school if it were pretty strong academically as well.

NewLife4Me Mon 22-Feb-16 20:51:16

There are a few Mnetters with children at specialist dance schools, who will hopefully be here soon.
However, this sounds exactly the same as dd specialist music school.
What I will say is these types of schools are great for those passionate about the subject who can thrive with the pressure of the work load.
There will be a large part of the day dedicated to dance mixed in with academic lessons and I believe specialist tuition in there too.
My dd is thriving but there are those who only last a year or so and could be put off for life.
There is only you who knows your son, I am biased and would say go for the dance school.
If it doesn't work out, well at least you tried, and for us it was better than attending a local satisfactory high school where music is at the level she was at at 8.
Academically there aren't many choices at GCSE, but as you said similar to the local comps/ high schools.
What does your son want to do? Ours told us she would never forgive us if we didn't let her go, so was taken out of our hands.
Could you cope with him boarding? It broke my heart and took me a long time to settle, but she loves it and is thriving.

I am happy to answer any questions if I can, I know the schools operate in a similar way, just specialism differences.

ontheginalready Mon 22-Feb-16 22:47:24

Thank you for your messages. I think he is equally torn. We live in a rural area where there are very few opportunities for boys to dance. I really don't think he would carry on if he ended up at our local comp. It is not a very accepting place and they don't have a culture of celebrating achievement which is what I think would be different about the grammar.
I think we would be okay with him boarding. Neither boarding options are too far away. We have 4 dc so plenty to keep us occupied.
We find out in the next three weeks if we have any choices to make so there is probably no point in stressing about it now. I just wish I bloody knew already!

JudgeJudySheindlin Tue 23-Feb-16 02:33:57

I've been in your shoes OP. Suggest you research the dance schools. Are their numbers stable? How many boys would be in your son's year group? Check out the schools reports. Ask the schools if they have details of current parents who don't mind being contacted by prospective parents. I found this very useful for those boarding questions where the school thinks they know the answers. Parents & pupils always know the real answers!

In the end we declined the full time dance school because after researching their finances, it was obvious they were in a dire financial position. They closed a year later. The other school was an independent which housed a dance school. My son decided not to go for a dance scholarship & instead got an all rounders. This way he wasn't committed to the hours of dancing & instead carried on doing it for fun.

My DS realised at 13 that a dance career wasn't for him. At 11 he was going to be the next Billy Elliot so it showed how things change once pubity hits! Wishing you & your son all the best with this choice. Hope my son's story hasn't muddied the waters.confused

ChalkHearts Tue 23-Feb-16 06:06:04

If he lives and breathes dance I'd go for the dance school. He'll (probably) never get a chance like it again.

In the end they all sit the same GCSEs. If he's passed the 11+ he'll almost certainly do very well at GCSEs at both schools.

Dance school sounds like a wonderful opportunity I'd never turn down.

NewLife4Me Tue 23-Feb-16 20:06:41

OP, I think you have answered your own question."He couldn't carry on at a local comp".
This was exactly the same for us, plus the schools around here are dire.
With dancing and music to a certain extent peer pressure can be so bad for children, especially boys and dance.
I think you should give it a shot, for my dd it was important to feel as though she belonged and from first visiting the school she felt at home with like minded people.
I will warn they are typically like boot camp and the dc get so tired.
However, they are amazing schools for the children who fit and we are so glad that dd got the opportunity. I have never seen her more happy and with her own.

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