01 FebProposal for a new qualification: Early Years Dance specialist

Before attempting to add this latest post I have spent some time investigating the courses and accreditation options available to those wishing to train to become practitioners or carers of early years. On investigation it seems that an accredited course or qualification for those wishing to teach dance to early years is absent. Even the availability of CPD courses are few in number and very general in content.
In the previous post I suggested that the teaching of dance to early years could be effectively taught by anyone with a competent level of physical demonstration together with knowledge of the stage of development of the specific age group. In addition they would also require an age appropriate dance programme on which they could reliably depend.
If such an accredited course was available I am convinced that there would be a take up by many young people (and not so young!) who are looking to work in the early years sector.
Imagine for example if a classroom assistant, a nursery assistant or a playworker also had
a specialism in early years dance. They would bring a new specialised skill to the workplace.
This would not only be of benefit to the centre of learning but more importantly to the children themselves.
Since creating the Lafour Prima Dance programme and running trial workshops in nursery schools I have become increasingly aware of the potential benefit that there would be to the takeup of this initiative.
I do have the expertise, the experience and an effective dance programme which has been trialled and tested. The workshops that I’ve run have been practical and for the purpose of accreditation would need to be ‘academised’. It would be a very welcome project though and I would love the opportunity to develop such a course.
Admittedly it feels as though I am rather a lone voice on the subject but if this is an idea which resonates with anyone it would be interesting to hear your comments.

18 JanDance teachers for different age groups

In the state sector it is rare that a teacher is qualified and employed to teach in Nursery, Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, University and 3rd Age education. It is standard practice for most teachers in the education sector to pursue a career in one specific area. Not so dance teachers in the private sector. They are expected to teach all the age groups with equal confidence and competence. Surprisingly some of them actually manage to achieve this although I would suggest that if truth be told the majority are far more comfortable teaching one specific age or ability group. Teaching some classes can present a teacher with a weekly nightmare!It might be a class of adults, teenagers or the under fives or a combination of any of the three. Newly qualified teachers starting out in their careers who are at first simply trying to earn a living seldom have the luxury of choice in the matter. As feelance teachers they will often teach anywhere and to any age group.
It has been my privilege to travel around the UK and abroad teaching the Lafour Prima Dance syllabus. In my travels I have come across many people who do not possess the required physical demonstration and knowledge of dance technique to teach dance at an advanced technical level. They do however possess an acceptable standard of personal dance performance and a natural rapport with young children. These qualities in combination with a syllabus on which they can depend and a training programme which instructs and inspires almost guarantees that they become excellent communicators of dance to early years.

15 JanTeachers need to be effective communicators of their subject

The title contains an obvious statement and one which rings true in many an individuals’ personal experience as student or teacher – or both.

As a student of dance, to be told by a teacher that a particular movement is not being performed correctly can be frustrating (even depressing) if the observation is not followed through with practical advice to enable the student to identify the problem and then work towards correction.
There are dance teachers who rely on their own proficient demonstration as a means of communicating knowledge of their subject to their students. In my experience this can only ever achieve limited success. The aim of the teacher is to assist students in the mastery of dance technique and artistic performance. The vital skill of identifying the faulty execution of a movement and then communicating methods of correction in such a way that students can understand is not always evident in the teaching practices of even the most ‘qualified’ dance teachers. There are teachers whose personal demonstration is of a highly commendable standard but who cannot understand or see for themselves why their students are unable to achieve a similar standard.
If teachers are either frustrated by the slow improvement or despairing of the no improvement in the students that they teach I would challenge them to look again at their own methods of communication.

  • Why aren’t the students making progress as expected?
  • What don’t they understand?
  • What can be done to help them understand?

07 JanDance Teacher Training and Qualifications

Deciding to train to become a dance teacher is the first step on what has become a complex and often confusing journey.
A plethora of colleges and universities offer courses of study to degree or diploma level. Degree status gained at universities and Further education colleges generally leads to employment in secondary schools and colleges in the public sector.

In the private dance sector students usually study to gain a teaching qualification from an awarding dance body or teaching society, enabling them to enter students for that organisation’s examinations. The Council for Dance Education and Training (CDET) currently has four registered and accredited dance awarding bodies.

The degree or diploma qualification gained in any of these 4 organisations is ‘tied in’ to the learning of the particular syllabus specific to the organisation offering the degree or diploma .

This is quite restrictive. Within the current system there seems to be little flexibility. In the private sector a teacher is locked in to the particular organisation which provided the training and accreditation. The current system also means that a teacher accredited by one Dance Organisation in the private sector would need to pay to register with another dance organisation.
There is also very little opportunity to move freely between the private and public sectors because of the different qualification requirements.

Would it not be clearer and simpler for there to be one qualification at degree or diploma level for all trainee dance teachers that would lead to a National Qualified Dance Teacher status ie A National qualification. This would demystify the confusing number of Dance Teaching qualifications currently available and provide parents with a recognisable qualification status when choosing a dance teacher and dance classes for their child.
Those with Qualified Dance Teacher status could then choose the syllabus or syllabi that they wish to teach rather than being locked in to one system over another. Surely this would allow teachers to teach more creatively and be free to think outside each Organisation’s box.

04 JanIs it right that dance teachers are expected to teach all age groups?

One thought which I’ve been pondering is that a ‘qualified’ dance teacher in the private sector is expected to teach competently and effectively to all the age groups.In the academic sector there can be very few teachers qualified to teach their specialist subjects with equal skill and expertise to early years, primary, secondary,higher education, undergraduate and Third Age students.And yet this is the common expectation of most dance teachers in the private dance sector. In practice many dance teachers do have a preference with regard to the age group or standard of classes that they teach. In most cases this can be put down to where they feel the most comfortable, confident and effective as teachers.It might be teaching a particular age range or students who have gained a certain mastery of technique.
There is no option as far as I am aware in the private dance sector for a teacher in training to specialise in a specific category of dance training eg Early Years or Secondary. Would this be a welcome option and if it were possible how would it impact on dance teacher training, employment opportunities both in the private and academic sectors and consumer choice.

02 JanExperiencing a problem in your pre school dance classes?

After teaching dance to children for more then 30years my purpose now is to assist young dance teachers and early years carers to avoid making the mistakes that I made as a rookie dance teacher. Comments and suggestions that I make are based on my own experience. I don’t claim to be an ‘expert’. I’m sure that most teachers find a solution to a problem in the end although it can be a painful process! If any of the suggestions that I propose are of help to anyone I would be pleased to hear that I’ve been able to help. My own career has led me to focus largely on teaching dance to younger children 3yrs – 8-9yrs. It seems to me that teaching dance to pre-school children in particular requires a very special teaching approach and this is the area on which I will be concentrating. If there is a particular difficulty that you are facing in any of your classes please leave a comment and I will try to help.

01 JanNew pre school students joining an established dance class

For many teachers the start of a new term will bring new children into the pre school dance class. The new with the old, not always a comfortable mix.You will have the confident children who have known you for a while and will be eager to tell you all that has happened to them during the Christmas break. And there will be the new children, some of whom may not have attended a dance class at all. In this situation particularly when the children are as young as 3yrs it can be helpful for the teacher to greet the children before they enter the dance space. This will mean going to where the children are waiting or getting ready.Welcome the new children by name, chat with them, make them feel welcome. Ask all the children to link together and ‘make a train’ to go into the studio. Choose a special place on the train for the new children. Perhaps ask a child who has been attending for a while to ‘look after’ a new child who is standing either infront or behind them.
Imagine the scenario in the studio/hall if all the children who have attended the previous term are sitting with the teacher chatting about holiday activities and a new student enters accompanied by a parent. There is instantly a physical separation between the main body of the group and the new child and the parent. It is a big ‘ask’ to expect a 3 yr old student new to the class to walk across and join the main body of the group. Quite a bridge to cross. For the child who is not confident this can result in a reluctance to leave the parent and I have witnessed occasions where the reluctance has progressed to absolute refusal with tears and upset.
All of this is more likely to be avoided if a welcoming atmosphere is created before entering the dance space. If the teacher goes out to meet the children, to talk to them to know their names, they are more likely to enter the studio as a united and harmonious group!

15 FebLafour Blog

Welcome to the Lafour Blog. Details of Lafour news will follow.