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Music Specialist School Discussion

(222 Posts)
Kutik73 Sun 10-Jun-18 22:58:05

Sorry, this is rather long…

We’d never considered specialist school route for our musical DS, especially at such a tender age (he is Y6). However, we’ve recently started seeing it could be an option in possibly near future.

The state secondary school DS is supposed to start from September has good reputation with a wide range of extracurricular activities and music is one of their strengths. However, they also hand out heavy amount of academic work daily, and basically keep their pupils pretty busy. Keeping teens busy could be a good thing, especially for those who may get in trouble or glue themselves to screen otherwise. But DS loves music and he likes to immerse himself in music more, but in reality, he’ll have less time for such freedom once he starts secondary school. The additional journey time is another thing. It takes 45 mins to get there, whereas it’s only 5-10 mins currently.

A friend suggested we could see specialist school as a small private school with strong music activities rather than a place where all DCs were aiming to be professional musicians.

Her logic is, the class size is a lot smaller than the state secondary school so pupils get more attention hence learn more efficiently, all the while there is no compromise in music studies. DCs who are keen to keep up academic work on top will manage to get good enough GCSE results for decent sixth form if they decide to pursue other than music for A level/uni. Although sixth form seems the most popular (and sensible) time to join specialist school, KS3 is actually the best time because if DCs change their mind on course, it’s easier for them to return to ‘normal education’ possibly at sixth form with good enough academic record and musical ability strong enough to be a music scholarship material. But if they stay focused on music and in fact decide to take it seriously, starting early will only become beneficial. Though, it depends on circumstance of course, and instrument. DS plays violin/piano for instance - hence early start can be rather important.

However, I heard and read some scary stories about music specialist school while I was researching. Some claimed they felt like they were living in a prison, some expressed unhappiness (even though they recognised the benefit and appreciated their fortunate position), some teachers talked about very able young musicians going to specialist school as a huge mistake, etc…

DS innocently expresses strong desire to go to music specialist school. I, as a parent, wish him happiness more than anything. By accepting his desire and letting him go where he says he likes to go, am I pushing him into a harsh and scarily competitive world unnecessarily? Or, like my friend suggested, it could be a lot more flexible than I may have been thinking and in fact could be good alternative KS3 education for musical and academic DCs?

Any thoughts/knowledge/experience would be greatly appreciated…

Paulweller11 Mon 11-Jun-18 07:32:31

As you say, if mini-Kutik finds by sixth form (or earlier- but I doubt it- from what you say) that he wants to be something other than a musician then he can move from music school then. (Check what A Levels the school offers- he might be able to stay anyway and do both).
I think you will know once Mini-Kutik spends any time there and how he feels about it. I would go with whatever he decides as he’ll be the one who is there everyday. Some may say that specialist music schools are highly pressured- I would disagree with this, (although can only speak of one), I think they probably were very highly pressured 10-20 yrs ago- but they’ve come a long way in appreciating that mental well-being is just as important as anything else.
Some may say that you’re specialising too early- but I would disagree, strings and piano need that focus early on.
Some will say that he can be a musician and still go to a normal school- again this is true, but at music school he’ll be surrounded by likeminded kids, and will be immersed and surrounded by music everyday (this is another reason why he has to love it- you wouldn't cope at music school if you didn’t love it!). In a normal school they’ll be other distractions and less practice time available.
Good luck with your decision, and I hope he enjoys his time there.

Trumpetboysmum Mon 11-Jun-18 07:49:11

What Paul says smile . I think your friend has a really interesting perspective on it all . You know your ds and I think once you've visited you'll know what's best. Hope he has a great time ( I think we all know what he will say !!) Good luck with your decision and fingers crossed it all works out.

folkmamma Mon 11-Jun-18 08:03:30

Following wit interest! Looking forward to hearing about Mini-Kutik's trial 😊

MismatchedPJs Mon 11-Jun-18 08:07:58

This is controversial but I think you can put too much stock on what a child says at this age. They just know they love the specialism, that's all. They have no life experience to weigh the downsides against the upside of that. You need to do that for them.

I was sent away to boarding school at 10. I say "sent". It was always held over me that it was my "choice" but I was offered 2 schools and I didn't enjoy my visit to the day school, so I accepted the boarding place. It was also academically one of the very best schools in the country, and I knew I was bright so it seemed logical. Absolutely no insight into the downsides of being separated from parents for weeks at a time etc and I'd never been near the school. I was 9. That shouldn't have been my call to make.

I'm not saying music specialist school is the same as boarding, and I'm not saying the idea is a bad one. I'm just saying your son lacks perspective to judge what is in his best interests. By all means consider his views but the weighing of pros and cons needs an adult's insight. Don't be afraid to use your judgement.

Wafflenose Mon 11-Jun-18 08:25:20

Ditto all of the above. But it isn't at all unusual to go at 11 - I think 8 would be considered early, but quite a few do go at 11. He is telling you in the strongest possible terms what he wants, and you need to do the trial and see how it goes. He will be fine academically, and you can reverse the decision at any time.

Paulweller11 Mon 11-Jun-18 08:29:28

Plus he doesn’t need to board, you live close enough to drive him.

foundoutyet Mon 11-Jun-18 09:56:34

Not any personal experience and not in a position to consider, but from people I know there is indeed some flexibility. Someone who started music school, went back to "normal" school, back to music school , all within a few years.
As far as homework at secondary school vs primary school goes. Even with " a lot" of homework officially, this can be managed with being efficient. (no car journey without a school book)

Trumpetboysmum Mon 11-Jun-18 10:09:00

Ds is managing the homework at regular school ( sometimes only just but he hasn't had to hand in anything late yet !!) I know some manage by doing homework etc at lunch Ds would never do this as he likes to play football with his friends !! I think you just have to help them be very organised and also prioritise. For example Ds has a geography test this week . He's dropping it at the end of this term and so is going to have a quick flick through his book the night before as he also has a music exam and 3 science exams the following week which he sees as more important ( I did tell school we were going to take this approach and they seemed fine with it)

claraschu Mon 11-Jun-18 10:13:22

Are you looking at several schools, or are you close to one of them, and just considering that one? They are quite different from one another...

TaggieOHara Mon 11-Jun-18 10:52:42

It is a difficult choice. I agree with trumpet, paul and waffle, but I also think that what mismatched says has a lot of sense. Children of 10 cannot be expected to take responsibility for these sorts of choices.

But rather than not sending him to the school, I would take that to mean that if it doesn't work out that you will resolve to be there, in his corner, to help unravel the situation and get him into the right school. I'm 100% sure that you never would do this, but there are some parents (perhaps mismatch's parents?) who take the 'you made the bed; you lie in it' philosophy.

To be honest, kutik any of the comments/concerns you have about the music specialist school could be applied to any other school. It is possible that mini-kutik would be unhappy at the state secondary, and ultimately feel frustrated about his music. It is also possible that he will struggle in the more intense music school atmosphere. Or (perhaps most likely) he would be fine at either school smile.

Good luck with it all. I will be following this thread with interest!

MismatchedPJs Mon 11-Jun-18 11:34:48

That's a fair point Taggie and I'm not particularly arguing against the idea generally. However I think a lot of DC would rather stick with what they know in KS3/4, even if it's tough, than ask to move to a radically different school they know little about.

If either option would be fine - and Taggie's right, that's plausible - then does it raise the question of whether there's a third way in the middle? Maybe a private school that's big on arts and music, and not so pushy academically.

I'm really not trying to talk you out of it OP! Just talking round it.

pigmcpigface Mon 11-Jun-18 11:39:22

I think your DS is very young to be specialising, and I would be very cautious of pushing him down that route unless he is absolutely insistent that it is all he wants to do. Much can change between the ages of Y7 and Y11. Music is also an odd world - it can be very stressful and competitive.

I think you might be better off adjusting your schedule to accommodate his music a bit more. When I was young, I was very committed to it, and I used to get up at 6am and do two hours of practice before school started, then the hours between 4 and 7 were devoted to either lessons or ensemble practices of various kinds. That left plenty of time for schoolwork from 7 to 10.

stringmealong Mon 11-Jun-18 16:08:12

DD won an academic scholarship to a very academic school at 11 & she only lasted a year before we moved her. New school is a very large private school & she has a music scholarship instead now, but it is not a specialist music school. However, they have a top performing choir, good bands/orchestras and a very nurturing outlook. Yes it can get busy, but going into the private sector gives you many more options. They can easily let you off games to practice, have days off for music courses, drop your number of GCSE's/A levels etc without any worry about ofsted coming down on them. I know musicians & sports people do any combination of above according to their individual needs at her school. Some of their musicians have also gone "all the way" to conservatoire & beyond. She also happens to have a conservatoire Saturday school instrumental school come to her school & very regular performing opportunities.
It is also worth remembering that many of the music courses your child is likely to want to do happen in the private school holidays whilst the state schools are still in - I know state school pupils can have a real problem with this!!!
So I think private is better for your type of child but not necessarily music school. They can then divide their time according to what they actually want to do which could even change from term to term!
I think the most important thing to consider is who the instrumental teacher is at the schools you are looking at. Even in top private schools, you are very much looked down upon for taking your lessons outside of school!

druidsong Mon 11-Jun-18 16:27:09

Re driving kutik as I know whereabouts in London you live I can tell you the drive would be hellish confused If he went there I think he would gradually have to board otherwise he'll be spending all that practice time in a car and that clearly defeats the objective.
My other thought is that even though everyone says he can start in A then change to B then change to A or the other way around, that's far from ideal. Kids make friends and settle in a place. It's sometimes tough to move them. Music wise, I know DS would probably be better off in a specialist school for sixth form but there's no way he would consider changing school now. Not in a million years. So whatever decision you make now, though not irreversible in any way, matters quite a lot. Just making things easier for you lol wink

Trumpetboysmum Mon 11-Jun-18 17:10:53

Druids grin

W00t Mon 11-Jun-18 18:03:48

How academic is he? We made the decision to send DD to grammar rather than music school, as we felt 11 was too early to specialise.
My sibling went to Chet's, and it was absolutely the wrong choice for him- he was extremely sporty, and missed many opportunities due to being in specialist provision so early. He is an amateur musician now, not a professional.

Finewine54 Mon 11-Jun-18 22:21:51

My 2ps worth: A musician mum I know has kept her (highly talented violin playing) daughter at an academic girls school, plus JD rather than send her to a specialist school to keep her daughter's options open and give her (she feels) a better all round education. Plus last year an amazing violinist (with musician parents) joined the same school from a specialist music school - not exactly sure why, but believe because of level of academics/sport offered? Having seen these two, I do wonder whether, as your DS is bright and enjoys sport as well as his music, he wouldn't be better off (for now anyway) at either the school he is already signed up at, or perhaps go back to looking at other general private options?

AlexanderHamilton Tue 12-Jun-18 00:03:07

Not music but my (academic) Dd went to a specialist dance school at the age of 11. Its not been perfect but we’ve had no regrets. She turned down a place at a selective independent to go there & she’s been so much happier.

Kutik73 Tue 12-Jun-18 02:11:07

I'm sorry for the late coming back. I've been reading but couldn't write until now. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate all the inputs. MismatchedPJs, I know you are not trying to talk me out of it. I would like to hear many different views so you are only helping me here. And, I must give druid my special thanks for making things easier. grin

Re; independent school route, I can see why some people suggest the option instead of jumping into full time music education. But for now, the option is put on hold. DS tried and won a music scholarship for 11+ entry. But that actually ended up triggering DS starting his music school ambition campaign. In the end, we turned down the offer and decided to send him to a state secondary with a strong music department (he won a music scholarship there too). However the plan has started to be wobbly because of DS's never ceasing strong desire of wanting to go to this particular music school.

DS is off to the 3 days trial at a music school tomorrow....

2ndSopranos Tue 12-Jun-18 07:08:45

Reading with interest as dd has an advice audition at a specialist school next week. I highly doubt she'll get in but why not let her try. The school in question has impressive academic results too and as she's also academic would be a good fit for her.

We're exploring this route because the secondary she'd be going to simply does not offer decent music provision.

Paulweller11 Tue 12-Jun-18 07:20:41

What does she play 2’nd? Which school is it?

ealingwestmum Tue 12-Jun-18 09:11:25

unless he is absolutely insistent that it is all he wants to do

This. Not an easy one to determine at 10, I know, and whilst he has continued to show an extremely strong desire to go, he also has many, many other interests.

Anecdotally I have got to know 2 young adults who went to specialist schools, one highly respected London music and Millfield. Both have shown regret for taking the specialist route at 18. I won't share all the reasons, but what they did have in common were they were very bright people, and whilst they felt their schools offered reasonable core teaching, they were now feel that they are at a disadvantage against their peers that come via the the non-specialist route due to not quite fulfilling their academic potential, yet their peers still excelled in their specialisms.

Your DS's next few days will be of such value kutik, and I wish you all the best in coming to a clear cut decision. One thing is for sure, specialist school or not - we all wish we had a crystal ball when our DC are entering secondary years as we never really know if it'll be a good match. Not everything is in the school's control, and the cohort mix can play a large part of whether a school us suitable or not, on top of the teaching, extra curricular etc etc.

littleladsdad Tue 12-Jun-18 16:12:57

I think you are aware Kutik that our ds is joining a specialist school in September. He's currently in Y8 at a prep school, so decisions had to be made about future schools. He auditioned for 2 specialist schools and was offered places by both. They were both fantastic but very different and it was a tricky choice!

We all feel comfortable about boarding but not sure we would have been any sooner. Our reasons for feeling happy about boarding at this point are:

He'll get to play music - lots of it!
He won't get to play Fortnite lots!
He'll be home every three weeks (to play Fortnite)
Class sizes are small.
He'll get to spend lots of time with friends, which he doesn't do currently due to our location.
He's close to the Junior departments in London and will be attending one on Saturdays.
He'll get amazing opportunities to meet and learn from professional musicians and peers.
If he wants to have a career in music, he'll be well placed to do so.
We will be making a contribution to fees but the Music & Dance scheme is very helpful! Bear in mind that full fees at specialist schools are in the region of £32k per year. Even with a generous music scholarship, independent school fees are far more painful!
Ultimately, having received offers from specialist schools, we felt that we had to give him the chance to follow this route. Working lives are very flexible these days and if he decides, for instance, to retrain as a lawyer in his 30's then it's possible. It would, I feel, be more difficult to do the reverse.

I feel that I've rambled, but happy to answer questions about the process etc if helpful.

folkmamma Tue 12-Jun-18 16:33:10

I think you will find people on both sides of the fence who regret the choices / paths they took or were guided down. That's just life!! As a child, I was both musical and academic. I went down the academic route. Do I regret it? Hell yes. Every single day. But whose to say it would be any different if I'd made the other choice or been steered differently?

My 10yr old is not yet equipped to make a choice like this - but from what I know of Mini Kutik I believe he is a very different child. I genuinely think he is one of few 10yr olds who CAN have a valid opinion in this situation. He also has a Mum who is extremely in tune with his personality and desires, appreciates his strengths and weaknesses, and will always listen to him with an open mind. He has the confidence to tell you what he wants, so even if he goes and it turns out to be the wrong thing, you will know. So take comfort Kutik, I am sure you will agonise over the decision that faces you but you will ultimately make the right choice and Mini-Kutik will fly!

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