1. What ages of children come on your courses?
- Our courses are for children aged 8 to 18.
- We have children of most ages on every course, though 16-18 year olds are rarer on our Easter Course.
- In the summer, we tend to have more teenagers than we do at Easter, as so many older children are concentrating on exams in the Easter holidays. At Easter, usually about a quarter of the children are teenagers, whereas in the summer, half of them are.
- On every course, we have had eight year old boys and girls boarding: we do not have many as young as this, but those that have boarded have done brilliantly and coped really well.
2. How many children come on your courses?
We tend to have around 60-75 children on each course (Easter can be a little quieter), of whom around two thirds tend to board and a third attend daily. Usually roughly a quarter of the children are girls, three quarters boys: though on a recent Easter course it was half girls, half boys - noisy!
3. Will my child be playing with children much more (or less) advanced than she is?
- Children are put in groups with others of similar ability. Usually those that have passed Grades 1-3 will be together, as will those that have passed Grades 4 and 5, and those that have passed Grades 6 and 7. Children who have passed their Grade 8 or Diploma will be in The Workshop.
- In the masterclass sessions, from 11.30 until 1pm each day, children are in groups with all those that play their instrument (with trumpets – by far the most numerous instrument on the course - further divided into ability groups). These masterclass groups usually have 5-15 children in them, of all abilities.
4. My child has never stayed away from home before and I’m a bit worried.
- On each course, there are many children who have not stayed away from home before. Having been told by my children’s teachers in the past (Year 5 trip to the Isle of Wight, anyone?!) that almost always it is the parent who struggles missing their child, rather than the other way round, it has been fascinating on our courses to see it now from the teachers' point of view - and they are precisely right!
- The children settle incredibly quickly, and they make friends so easily – we are amazed on every course at how they are chatting away as they come in from the first morning’s break with new friends they have only just met. And the afternoon sports sessions are brilliant for making the children feel part of something and helping them to make friends with the other children. They are kept too busy morning, afternoon and evening to think too much about whether they are missing home.
- We have had very few instances of homesickness, and where they occur we will look after your child and take the most appropriate action in the circumstances to make sure they become happy again.
- A few children come on the course with a friend, or there are children on the course that they are friendly with from meeting on previous courses; but the large majority of children do not know anyone when they arrive on the course. They have, however, lots of new friends when they leave at the end!
5. My teenager is worried there won’t be many older children on the course
- They needn’t worry. Consistently on our Summer Courses, half the children are teenagers and half are aged 12 and under.
- We treat all children appropriately for their age, and the teenagers tend to prefer less structured evenings to the younger children – maybe an impromptu game of football after supper, chatting in the evening sunshine, playing cards in the teenagers’ common room or watching a film with friends before bed.
6. My eight year old is worried all the other children will be much older than him
Well, it's true that most of them will be older, as eight is the youngest age of child we take on our courses. But there will be other children the same age and just a year or two older, and your child will very quickly make friends. He or she is very likely (unless they are extremely musically advanced for their age) to be in music sessions with other children around their age, and the various different age groups have a knack of quickly gravitating to each other at break times. And for some unknown but very happy reason, our courses seem to attract extremely nice children of all ages, who really help to create the very friendly and warm atmosphere are courses are known for – so the older children are not the scary sort anyway!
7. Who will be teaching my child?
- Each small ensemble has one lead tutor, helped by two or three other tutors. They will all be contributing in many ways: from explaining, demonstrating and inspiring, to pointing out notes and helping with sightreading where necessary. The masterclasses are taken by the instrument-specific tutors. All our tutors have clear enhanced DBS checks, and also have been known by us personally for many years.
- For details of the individual tutors who work on our courses, please click here
8. What is the accommodation like? Will my child be able to share a room/have a single room?
- The purpose-built boarding accommodation at Purcell is modern and bright, and (for a school!) of a high standard. At St John's, it is within the main school building and again is spacious and of a very high standard.
- There are one, two, three and four person rooms, and so far we have just about managed to ensure that those who want to share are sharing and that those who want a single room have a single room.
- Both schools work very well for us as venues: they are secondary schools, and so the accommodation is suitable for all ages of children (some prep schools tend to have only large-dorm accommodation, which is not what most older children want, nor is it condusive to younger children getting to sleep at the end of a busy day). Everything we need at both schools is relatively close to hand. And we are the only course being held at the time at each school, which helps children settle in quickly and easily.
9. My child has special dietary requirements – can you cater for this?
Yes. The catering at the schools we use is excellent, and the chefs are used to catering for allergies and intolerances. All the food is freshly made on-site, the kitchens are nut-free, and they are very experienced in catering for all manner of things such as dairy-free or gluten free diets, egg allergies and so on. Matron is also on hand at mealtimes to ensure that the right children are eating the right food.
10. Can you attend just a day or two of your courses?
Our courses are designed for the children to attend in their entirety, and each day builds on the work done on the previous one. If it is a case of, say, having to miss the first or last day because of holiday commitments, or needing an afternoon away for an important appointment then we can work round that: but any more than that doesn’t really make sense, as your child will not be able to get the best out of the course.
11. We live abroad – is it possible for my child to attend your course?
Yes! We have had children on our courses from France, Spain, Ireland, Norway, Dubai, Poland and Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore and China, as well as from all over the UK. Your child is welcome wherever you live, and children have found the courses great for developing their language skills as well as their musical ones: as well as getting a great feel for British boarding school life.
12. Do I need to provide a packed lunch for my child?
No - all food is provided during our Easter and Summer Courses: lunch and breaktime snacks for the day children; and breakfast, lunch and supper (and breaktime snacks) for those staying on a residential basis.