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A Performing Arts Place at a State Secondary School

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 17 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Performing Arts Secondary School Child

If you believe your child is exceptionally gifted in any of the performing arts, it could make a lot of sense to have them apply for a performing arts place at a secondary school.

Gaining such a place can be difficult, but it does have several advantages. Your child could attend a school you consider "better" than others in your catchment area. And he or she could also reap the benefits of having special tuition in their specialist subject, due to their gaining a place.

For example, some state schools designate performing arts "scholars", who enjoy extra lessons in their chosen subject, as well as school trips relating to that area. These can include watching regular professional dance performances for dance scholars, and making frequent theatre trips for acting scholars.

You may instead choose to have your child apply for a place at a school with Performing Arts status, or one that has performing arts as one of its specialist areas. Either way, you will be encouraging and fostering your child's love of the performing arts, whilst helping them to get a good general education at the same time.

About Performing Arts Places

What is considered a performing arts place will vary from school to school. Some schools qualify the following as performing arts: music, music technology, dance and drama. Others put music into a separate category, while some only offer music places under this rubric.

To apply for a specialist place, you will have to fill out the Common Application Form, which you will get through your local authority. You will also need to fill out the supplementary admission form, stating your intent to apply in either music, dance or drama.

After you apply, depending on the school, you will told what to do next. This can be:

  • Take a music aptitude test. A relatively new requirement. Some schools now require pupils to take this aptitude test, which looks for those with musical promise, regardless of whether they have had any previous formal instruction in music or not. Some schools accept the top scorers for admission; others will invite the top scorers to audition on their chosen instrument.
  • Audition on one or more instruments. Some schools base their admissions criteria purely on an instrument. In some cases, a child is required to have attained a certain grade before auditioning. Some schools require two instruments, but will count voice as one.
  • Attend a master class. Pupils are asked to dance in a group or take part in a drama workshop, where their progress will be watched closely.
  • Prepare a dance piece. Pupils will be asked to perform a prepared dance piece in front of a judging panel.
  • Prepare a song or drama piece. Like the dance performance above, pupils will be asked to perform before a panel.

Know Before You Go

The secondary school transfer process can be a difficult time for both parents and pupils alike. Pupils who are interested in gaining a performing arts place are advised to prepare well in advance, to maximise their chances of getting in.

Each school is different, and it is important that you know exactly what is required before you apply. It makes sense to start early, especially as many schools require that a child attain a certain level of mastery before they apply. For some schools, that can mean starting music lessons as early as in Year 2.

Do Your Research

Keep in mind that some schools also look for a certain level of commitment to the arts. That can mean your child must take drama lessons beginning in Year 3, or be active in the school orchestra or drama group. Again, it all depends on the school, so do your research early on, well before you actually apply.

If you think your child would benefit from a performing arts place, start looking early and make sure you – and your child – are aware of what is required. Staying on top of the game could really make a difference in the end!

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