As we put the final touches on this December issue, the MT staff can’t help but reflect on a rollercoaster week. The Music Education Expo is shaping up a treat, and we were overwhelmed by the hundreds of nominations we received for the Music Teacher Awards 2014, which will be presented in a gala ceremony on the Friday night. We spent a humbling couple of days reading through them all and narrowing down the entries to four or five from each category. Our panel of judges, to be announced shortly, has the unenviable task of picking winners from an extremely strong field.
And the inspiration kept on coming. The Music for Youth Schools Proms outdid themselves this year, and the final concert was something else. Just how did Co-create Cornwall get that many players to sound that good? How is it possible that Lauren Brant’s Dulwich Hamlet Junior School Fusion Ensemble can be that accomplished? I rode the waves of inspiration for a whole 24 hours, right up until I was packing my bags to go to the Music Mark conference in Manchester – still whistling Highlands-based student group Hosta’s rendition of Dashing White Eejit – when Ofsted produced its damning report card on the current effectiveness of hubs. Speaking at the conference just hours later, Ofsted’s national lead on music HMI Robin Hammerton said that he had no doubt that hubs were the answer, but that he was fed up with poor music delivery and that we needed to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’. Everyone had something to say. The MU and NUT rounded on both the government and Ofsted, drawing attention to funding cuts and the ‘completely unrealistic timeframe’ in which hubs have been expected to get up and running; the ISM dialed the diplomacy up to 11 and accentuated the positives, echoing the report’s call for greater collaboration between schools and hubs; and teachers across the country shared tales of ‘diffi cult-to-engage’ schools. Ominously, many of the head-screwed-on contingent of commentators voiced concerns about whether Arts Council England is up to the job of leading hubs through the planning measures that Ofsted is demanding.
What became clear in the report and Hammerton’s presentation was that Ofsted cares deeply for the subject, and at a time when hubs across the country are being forced to play fast and loose with teachers’ contracts, a reality check on what is achievable with the resources available seems like a good idea. But there’s simply no way that this report is going to prompt more funding. Hubs are going to be asked to do more with less. Again.