choristerships and special needs

(20 Posts)
nellitza Thu 08-Sep-16 11:29:31

Does anyone have any experience of a child being accepted as a chorister with special needs? Specifically, my son has mild aspergers, plus a bit of dyspraxia and SPD. He was accepted for St Paul's, but they changed their mind when they found out about the SEN.

I am wondering whether it is worth trying to find another place somewhere else.

onlymusic Thu 08-Sep-16 12:20:18

Look at the admission policy and what it says about SEN. Does he need support? If he can function independently it should not be a problem. Some places have SEN policy but some omit it all together - perhaps it is not worth sending a child to a SEN unfriendly place

nellitza Thu 08-Sep-16 22:27:24

I think he can function independently, he's quite bright and very sociable, but perhaps they thought differently. Interestingly, they have a SEN policy for the school, and SEN co-ordinators, and have SEN children in the school, but haven't had a chorister with it before, which is why I was wondering whether anyone else has had experience of a chorister being accepted with anything out of the ordinary about them. If it's not been done elsewhere, I won't try to apply anywhere else.

raspberryrippleicecream Thu 08-Sep-16 23:43:12

Yes, there have been children with SEN in DS's Cathedral Choir, including foreign tours with daily medication needs. It is an 'unattached' Choir, without its own school.

We are a long way from London though.

nellitza Thu 08-Sep-16 23:59:03

Would you mind telling me which cathedral that is? I have been thinking about moving out of London anyway.

Witchend Fri 09-Sep-16 10:10:24

I would be amazed if they could legally do that.

However I doubt it's the right place for your ds if that's their attitude anyway.

TheatreTaxi Fri 09-Sep-16 13:12:02

OP I'm sorry to hear of your experience. However I'm very surprised that you should have had it with this particular school. I've known several choristers and non-choristers who've gone through St Paul's very recently, and their SEN provision and attitude towards SEN is very good, from what I've been told. They have certainly had a number if pupils with dyslexia and mild ASD, including choristers. Rather than the academic side or musical side being the issue, could it have been that they didn't think your son would cope with boarding?

onlymusic Fri 09-Sep-16 13:28:37

Could it be that they needed to know about SEN issues in advance to arrange their internal provisions for each individual child? Just a guess....

nellitza Fri 09-Sep-16 23:18:13

Yes, they did know about him having SEN in advance, as I told them about SENS that I knew about at first audition. They put him through the audition process, and academic tests, and two days in school assessing his personality and social skills. He passed them all with flying colours. Then we decided to postpone it a year to give him time to mature and time to get proper assessments of his SEN done. He then went through another set of academic tests and assessments in school, which he passed again, only to tell me three weeks before term starts that they'd decided that they couldn't provide the level of support they felt he needed, and had decided to withdraw his place. I haven't had a chance to talk to them to get the details of why they rejected him yet, but according to the email they sent, it's because they don't feel that they can provide the level of care they feel he needs in a boarding environment in a small, crowded site, in a large school.

I don't question their decision. It's their school, and their choice. I'm not trying to get them to change their mind. Although, as his mum, I think they have probably made the wrong decision. But it's their decision. I just need to know if there are other choir schools who will look at him with an open mind.

He has so many positive qualities. He has an amazing voice with a two-and-half octave range, an incredible musical ear, is at grade 6 level on his main instrument, has been speaking Latin for 3 years, has a reading age of 16, and has been tested as being as being in the 99th centile for IQ, and on top of that is a really lovely little boy, who loves everyone and is friendly in a sweet, aspie way. He's eight years old and he wants to sing, and I know that if he wants to achieve something, he can and will do it, special needs be damned. He just took part in an international music course with 13 hour days of full-on rehearsing and performing, including two solos in front of hundreds of people to standing ovation, and refused to take time out (even though he was tired), because he was determined to do everything the other children did. I am sure that if somewhere would give him a chance and take him on as a probationer, they'd find that he would be a wonderful asset, not a liability they have to provide for.

Am I upset? Yes. Rant over. None of which is directed to people here on this site. It's just my first experience of my child being discriminated against because of his special needs. I'm sure there will be other experiences to come .

TheatreTaxi Sat 10-Sep-16 09:54:53

OP, your son sounds lovely and very talented. The school sound like they have not handled communication at all well.

If you think a boarding environment would suit him, have you considered Westminster Abbey Choir School? A much smaller school and might be more geared up to provide individualised attention (disclaimer: no personal experience of this school).

Another option if you are in London is Temple Church Choir - very high musical standards but non-boarding. I know one chorister there - he is very happy and his parents rave about it.

onlymusic Sat 10-Sep-16 14:19:00

nellitza thank you for your post-it is very useful info! I will pm you

nellitza Sat 10-Sep-16 21:51:40

I am waiting for a meeting with Westminster Abbey, having spoken to them about his special needs and the St Pauls decision last week. They don't seem hopeful that he will be suitable for them due to his SEN and the boarding situation (though to me it seems ideal, being tiny), but are willing to meet him to have a chat about what other avenues might be possible. I think unless a cathedral has had personal experience of SEN and Aspergers, they won't be open-minded enough to give him a chance. Will try the Temple, thank you. A school would have been lovely, but at least he will have a singing education there.

Wibbs Sun 11-Sep-16 12:06:35

I have spoken to a friend who has children at this school (not choristers) and she is very surprised and concerned. She is certain that the school does have experience of children on the spectrum both in an out of the choir. She has always been very vocal about how inclusive and supportive the school is.

She did suggest that this may have been a decision made by the New Head and the timing of the place withdrawal supports this.

If so, it might be worth contacting the old head, Neil Chippington who is now at St John's in Cambridge for either general advice or possibly a chorister place there. She also suggested contacting Clive Marriott, head of Salisbury Cathedral School. She knew him when he was at St Paul's and she describes him as a 'wonderful man'.

Withdrawing a place 3 weeks before the start of a term is awful behaviour by any school. I hope you find a suitable place for your son who sounds amazingly talented.

As a parent of a child with autism, I think you should also challenge the schools decision. They are still bound by anti-discrimination law so need to outline why they can't meet his needs with reasonable adjustments. It might be worth contacting IPSEA for help.

nellitza Sun 11-Sep-16 13:53:01

Thank you for this post, and for going to such lengths to speak to people that have insight - it is very helpful to understand what might be the issues, and some ideas about what to try. I appreciate the advice, and will follow up on your suggestions.

buffalogrumble Sun 11-Sep-16 19:56:31

Hi OP, I have sent you a pm - I have a chorister son at a school which is excellent with SEN.

Moominmammacat Tue 13-Sep-16 15:40:37

My heart bleeds for you on this one and I despair at the attitude of a school which accepts and then rejects a child. It is do-able though, with a fair wind and a lot of help, and the routine, killer though it often is, can be good for this sort of child. Your description of your son sounds very like mine, who was a day chorister, 15 years ago. I ... possibly foolishly ... didn't own up to severe dyspraxia ... but it became hyper-apparent with tumbling down the nave, setting fire to music in evensong and dropping music all over the place. 15 years on, with a music degree and a job, and very happy, I am pleased I persevered but you will need a supportive director of music. I would have thought if your son's attributes (voice etc) outweigh his difficulties you should be ok. Very best wishes with it all.

nellitza Tue 13-Sep-16 16:37:14

Thank you, moominmammacat, for the encouragement. Interestingly, the autism report and CAMHS report both mentioned the same thing that you have - that he would probably respond very well to the routine and structure of a choir school. I think the small class sizes in a choir school and the peace and calm of the choir training would be very good for him as well, as he loses focus in noisy, chaotic surroundings and begins exhibiting typical ASD behaviours such as hand flapping and head rocking, but becomes completely focused when there is classical music happening. It's always been that way since he was a baby. If he could do music all day long, he would be completely happy, and seem quite, quite normal!

In my life I have met lots of musicians who are probably somewhere on the spectrum and I wonder if that's why they chose music as a career -precisely because it provides peace and structure in a chaotic world.

Aftershock15 Tue 13-Sep-16 16:56:22

I vaguely know someone with a young choirister at St John's in Cambridge. Little boy was very home sick, and as parents lived locally (and were willing) Mum went in every morning and sat with him while he did his music practise. So although not a SEN specifically it does show they are willing to adapt to make it work for the children. I assume now she doesn't go and he settled in, it just took him longer others.

onlymusic Tue 13-Sep-16 23:04:10

nellitza, have a look at this research, pages 10-11, you seem to be quite right about ASD
www.researchcatalogue.net/view/87580/87581

raspberryrippleicecream Wed 14-Sep-16 00:46:21

Have sent a PM

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