6th form or extended diploma

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Robin64
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6th form or extended diploma

Post by Robin64 » Sat Feb 14, 2015 1:30 pm

Sorry I know this has been asked before but I can't see a previous thread. I really need some advice on this for DD. Thinking through the options for next year. DD is a bright girl and is at a state grammar school and although she is dyslexic she should do pretty well at GCSE so could stay and take A levels which would be dance theatre studies english language and probably philosophy and ethics. She will continue with dance lessons outside school which will be at intermediate and advanced for modern ballet tap and jazz. She is a good singer but has not had singing lessons and she would start with those. The other choice is an extended diploma in performance arts at a FE college that is specifically for art music and performance art (state not fee paying). My worry is that this option might narrow her choices if she didn't get into a MT degree. The FE college is nice but I don't think the dance would be at the level she is at because they did say some of the students won't have done any or much dance before - the 2nd year has options of dance or performance (which is more general with acting etc). We have been to an open day at the college and still not sure what to do - eldest was in similar position and went to the college to do art instead of A levels and is off for art degree interviews but art seems somehow more straight forward to choose than performance arts somehow. DD is an all rounder at performing but is unlikely to do more than intermediate ballet due to her physique (ankles) she always achieves distinctions in modern and tap (touch wood so far). She would likely go for an MT degree and was thinking of Bird or similar (we have not looked round at that level so don't know a great deal about degrees yet). Any advice would be most gratefully received and sorry to ramble on - DD had a no from NYMT recently and we are wobbling a bit.

2dancersmum
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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by 2dancersmum » Sat Feb 14, 2015 5:33 pm

Personally I would opt for the A levels, continuing dance lessons and taking the singing lessons - if she has enough good quality training that she can continue to take alongside her A levels. If she wants to audition for MT courses at 18, getting in will depend on how she does in the audition and the standard she is at. I don't think having A levels or Btec on your application form makes any difference to them - it is what she shows in the audition that counts. That advice is based on the fact that you say you don't think the level of dance will be at the level she is at and the worry of narrowing her choices. The extended diploma can be a very good choice but it does depend on the quality and level of the course. DD's friend is doing an extended diploma at reputable college, not being able to do A levels and being unsuccessful in her auditions for entry to vocational school for year 12 and she is finding that the level of dance is lower than she hoped for, with a lot being repeated for the less experienced dancers.
With regard to A levels, I would look carefully at how many your DD does though. If her aim is MT she will need enough time for dance/singing and the workload for A levels can be huge. Had my DD stayed at school for A levels (she went vocational at 16), we were looking at her doing 3 subjects only from the start to give her some free time in school to do the homework so she could get in enough hours of dance.

Robin64
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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by Robin64 » Sat Feb 14, 2015 8:47 pm

Thanks for that. I agree about the A levels and asked if she could do 3 from the start - her school said that wasn't possible which I was quite annoyed about especially as DD is on the SEN list for school. I might go back in and see if I can talk to the head. Their reason was that taking less than 4 was not counted as full time education (sounds like rubbish to me). I'm grateful for your advice - we did think about vocational school at 16 but we can't afford to pay for a course or any expensive accommodation and DD isn't sure about living away from home already (and we would miss her too much I think!). However hopefully she will do either YMT (fingers crossed) or a MT summer school this summer. I will speak to school again and maybe that will work with the lessons outside school too. I appreciate you taking the time to reply x

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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by paulears » Sat Feb 14, 2015 11:46 pm

Two things really. The decision really needs to take into account her SEN status - will it be a barrier to good grades? It is unlikely to be a barrier to good grades on the vocational programme - assuming it's a BTEC or UAL.

The dance in the BTEC will be better than A Level Dance, which is also going to be a lower standard than what she does at a proper dance school, and neither option is for already good students - they will be almost certainly held back by the weak ones, as there is so much group work. No point seeing complex choreography if the majority can't do it!

For what it's worth, the PH + ethics A level is a rather unusual subject - it's popular in GCSE too, and frankly, from teaching it from time to time, I don't quite see it's worth? English, maths, sciences - that makes sense. Serious subjects with genuine usefulness. The dyslexia isn't supposed to be a problem nowadays, but any subject that uses written language to a great extent will be a serious extra amount of effort to get past. I guess the only person who can decide is her. If she really wants to perform, then A Levels is two years with minimal performing - a bit of average dance will be the best it gets. If she does the performing arts college course, then performing is the very core of it.

Do check if it is the first year of the new specification if it is BTEC, many colleges are dropping BTEC in favour of the new University of Arts London qualification, which is very much like the old BTEC was - lots of flexibility and no new daft rules - lime BTEC losing the repeat and get better grades feature. Load of kids will end up with Pass overall now because the initial grading in their first year can put a stop to grade progression, in the old BTEC manner - it's now become very much a one shot assessment, then move on.

Is she practical? Does she like performing, leaning new stuff all the time and then doing it, or does she like 'learning', researching and analysing?

Two years of not enjoying something can be rather soul destroying.
The hours for BTEC and A Levels are almost identical and BTEC inevitably requires lots of ou
tside time for rehearsing and shows - A Level teachers rarely work evenings, as they have more paperwork to do than the students. Homework will usually be research and writing up so fairly flexible and not hard to manage.

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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by Robin64 » Sun Feb 15, 2015 1:46 am

Thanks for your reply Paulears. The college said they were introducing the UAL extended diploma and stopping BTEC Is this better? I'm not too sure but the college explained they felt the UAL one was a better option than the new BTEC. You have made some really good points and it does make choosing quite hard. I think DD would enjoy the diploma and they mentioned lots of trips and interesting projects but my worry would be whether she would make it to the next step? It's even more competitive for good degree level colleges than art and design which oldest DD is doing. It's not that I don't believe in her - she has a lovely voice and has danced since she was 2 - it is not a straight forward thing though - DD has bad feet and ankles for ballet and is tall at 5'9 so dance alone is not an option.

DD's dyslexia is mainly in the form of trouble with spelling and it takes her longer to write essays which is why I only wanted her to do 3 A levels not 4 and you are right the phil & ethics was just a filler choice.
No I'm no clearer yet. More thinking needed and your points have helped a lot, much appreciated.

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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by carriecrafts » Sun Feb 15, 2015 12:51 pm

Hi Robin64,
Just my two-penneth worth, my dd did the Extended Diploma (BTEC) before starting the degree at Urdang - but we never faced your dilemma as she had no interest in A Levels at all. She is my youngest of 3; eldest did art BTEC followed by degree in Illustration, dd2 did A Levels followed by degree in Law, so I understand your thinking.

As 2dancersmum says, the colleges such as Bird won't care whether she has done A Levels or BTEC, just how she performs in audition, how quickly she picks up a routine and takes direction etc.

My dd's BTEC college were upfront straight from her audition that her dance standard was ahead of their typical other students (same level as your dd) but that they could help with her singing and acting - and they really, really did. They also introduced her to street dance that she was less comfortable with, and got her over thinking she 'just isn't' a commercial dancer. Although she had done lots of dance festivals and shows with her dance school, the BTEC really gave her lots of experience of being part of bigger productions and working with West End guest teachers. She became a much stronger performer.

Based on my 3 daughters' courses, the BTECs were a way heavier work load than A Levels! DD2 did 5 subjects to AS and continued with 3 in second year to full A Level (not sure if they still do the AS/A2 split...?) but she had much shorter college days and more free periods. The Art BTEC had the most homework and the MT BTEC was the longest hours.

Is it too late to audition this year, just to get a feel for the standard and her likelihood of getting offers at 18? It may help her to decide whether to throw everything into her MT training and do the diploma or whether to keep a back-up plan and do A Levels.

Good luck x

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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by moleseymum » Sun Feb 15, 2015 2:32 pm

Have to say I agree with Paulears. DS started A levels including Performance Studies and Theatre Studies and really did not like it and struggled to get good marks, the practical work was minimal and not well taught. He left after his first year having passed 3 of the 4 AS levels with CDD. He transferred to another college and is doing a BTEC level 3 extended diploma in performing arts. He is now in his second year now and on track for a triple distinction - a huge difference! The training is much more like what a musical theatre degree course would be like which he is currently applying for. We have found that some colleges do have grade requirements although a lot also say something along the lines of lower grades may be accepted for outstanding candidates.

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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by Welsh Mum » Sun Feb 15, 2015 6:42 pm

My Dd did BTEC but that is because she was so focussed on performing. No interest in anything else, she was determined that is what she wanted to do, so the BTEC made sense. Yes she was a better dancer than most, and better singer than some, but the course broadened her experiences and really helped with acting, audition technique etc (her college had an excellent track record f getting students into voc training. .

However, it all depends on how good the teachers are - but this sounds as if it is not an issue at the college offering it.
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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by paulears » Sun Feb 15, 2015 10:23 pm

When you work for the exam boards, like I do in my empty diary periods, you come across some truly dire stories. The teachers are as said, the real key, and if they are keen and set exciting stuff, the courses can be really useful for progress in real theatre later. If the teachers, on the other hand, went school, college, uni, back to teach in a centre, then they have no idea what professional theatre is all about. In schools, the same thing, and having to teach some of the stuff they have set to kids just makes your mouth drop -it really has no use whatsoever, and they don't realise. School and college performing arts (and music) is VERY variable!

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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by missmoneypenny » Sun Feb 15, 2015 10:47 pm

We are going through exactly the same dilemma! Dd2 is very academic, but is very unhappy in school, all she wants to do is MT - her singing is very strong, then acting, dance is fair - but she has auditioned for and been offered a place at a MT 6th form (extended BTEC level 3) She has also been offered a music scholarship at an independent school - so could do A levels, and has another audition for a performing school coming up - I do worry about her being limited. She will get excellent GCSE's but she doesn't want to do A levels. She wants to go on to drama school at 18 (MT) and I am trying to find info as to whether the drama schools see a performing 6th form as an advantage or too limiting? Would love to hear opinions

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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by Robin64 » Tue Feb 17, 2015 11:14 am

Thanks for all the replies which are very helpful. Can I ask those whose DCs have followed a MT or performance path what outside of school experiences have helped the most over the years? How did you and your DC know if they were enthusiastic and good or at a standard to make a career of it? I realise with dance it often is excellence in ballet that leads to associate schemes, vocational school etc but I would love to hear what showed you that a performance career was for your DC especially the girls (I say this because in my experience it does appear to be harder and more competitive for girls - but I'm not trying to underplay all the fab boys out there honestly). Thanks again in advance - I do find everyones input very enlightening and it is great that you take time to reply. I am just trying to be very pragmatic and see the whole picture for DD as I am not from any sort of performing background - I have been able to help eldest DD with her art passion but performance is less straight forward for me.

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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by pg » Tue Feb 17, 2015 1:23 pm

My dd went to a specialist music school for 6th form -A levels (voice as principal instrument) and had a great time - and is now working in a job totally unconnected with the performing arts (which she is enjoying).

DS went to his local community school and did A levels - and drama at that school was really quite weak at the time - he did very little performing there. He had far more experience out of school with his friends, a Saturday club and some amateur theatre. He went on to RADA and is now working as an actor doing reasonably well.

I don't think it's possible to predict - but I do have a feeling that very often those who do well have it "in their bones" as it were. They are interested in it and seek out opportunities to do it all the time - wherever that is.

I recommend going to open days if you can - and some of the public performances. That can give you a flavour of the schools and a bit more of an indication of standard perhaps?

In the end though, I think its so subjective that trying to second guess what is wanted is ultimately pointless. They'll either want your unique skills and personality or they won't.

I don't think schools can tell you what they want really - but they'll know when they see it. :)

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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by Welsh Mum » Tue Feb 17, 2015 2:50 pm

Alongside her BTEC course my DD continued dance classes and singing classes. She also carried on with her youth theatre group, and did NYT and YMTUK. She got plenty of performance practice through her course as well as all these activities. She took any opportunity to perform eg singing in charity shows.

How did I know she "had it"? As pg says difficult to judge and I was always worried I was biased as her mum :). That's where NYT and YMTUK helped validate that others saw potential as well. Also her college tutors were very experienced and their input as to whether she had the ability to go for vocational training post 18 was very valuable.

My DD is finding it tough after graduating (as are the vast majority of her friends). Between acting jobs she is scraping a living at poorly paid work and living costs in London are horrendous. She amazes me at how up beat and positive she manages to remain. That has told me in retrospect that it was the right thing for her. If you didn't LOVE it, and couldn't see yurself doing anything else than quite simply you could not stick it out.
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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by Robin64 » Tue Feb 17, 2015 5:56 pm

Thanks both. Welsh mum I have followed your DD's progress on here with interest, she sounds very talented and hard working and I hope she manages to get the performance work she wants. At least the experience of living in London is an interesting one too. However it does seem to prove the point of how tough a career it is - you need resilience don't you or a lot of luck. I think like your DD mine would enjoy the performance and team work of the diploma but A levels are the "safe option" which I know is not always right - Eldest DD did BTEC after a grammar school and it was definitely right for her - I never gave it that much of a second thought as it just seemed perfect.

Sometimes I feel I have let DD down by not knowing enough about how to find the right opportunities for performance experience especially as there are not masses around here anyway. I have always taken her to MT shows, ballet, plays and Shakespeare so she does love them. She is a very good dancer at a high level for her age and I would say her voice is very good but she hasn't had enough acting experience and I think that is what must show - no call back this year or last for NYMT and reserve for YMT last year which was her first try (don't know about this one yet). Maybe that is what the diploma could be good for - I'm not sure A level theatre studies will do that much on that score really will it?


I think I will go back to the college as the dance teacher wasn't there on the open day we went to and have another chat. Also look at some other colleges too. Her school will be happy to have her and maybe I can negotiate the 3 A level idea if I see the head.

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Re: 6th form or extended diploma

Post by Welsh Mum » Tue Feb 17, 2015 7:46 pm

[quote="Robin64"]T
She is a very good dancer at a high level for her age and I would say her voice is very good but she hasn't had enough acting experience and I think that is what must show - no call back this year or last for NYMT and reserve for YMT last year which was her first try (don't know about this one yet). Maybe that is what the diploma could be good for - I'm not sure A level theatre studies will do that much on that score really will it?
quote]

As the diploma is far more practical then I would say that it would help her acting more as Theatre Studies is an academic rather than vocational qualification. I know it improved my DD's acting hugely - like yours it was the skill she had developed the least. As for the 3 A levels, I would make your case. As a Head of Sixth Form myself I don't have hard and fast rules as each student is different. ATM I have 2 students who are only doing 3 because they are applying for voc performance courses.
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