The controversial English Baccalaureate is here to stay, at least for the next five years, and the chances of music (or any creative subject) finding a place in it are slim. If that means that music teachers retain the freedom to teach KS4 in whatever way is best for their pupils – not necessarily through a GCSE – then we might be well shot of it. After all, the need to ensure music isn’t marginalised from schools’ priorities will be the same as it always has been (and there will still be slots to fill in Progress and Attainment 8).
For Nicky Morgan and Michael Gove before her, academic rigour is the key to social mobility – and for some pupils, it may indeed turn out to be. Yet there is the lingering sense that a back-of-an-envelope list of subjects drawn up by Gove is being treated with the same reverence as a religious artefact – and while rhetoric goes only one way, a policy such as this will be working in the real world.
Will holding a prized English Baccalaureate really be enough against a privately educated colleague whose experience in school drama productions allows her to nail presentation after presentation? Will it demonstrate the skills required for a job in the UK’s booming creative sector? Will it develop the perspective, the existential self-confidence, that comes from making one’s own creative mark on the universe? Will it heck. More fool the Department for Education for being so rigorously stubborn.
Having taken on this new job full in the knowledge that I would be getting married (and going on honeymoon) after barely two issues, my time as MT’s editor has so far been a rollercoaster few months. But the joys of the job are becoming abundantly clear even through the newly married glow. Over two consecutive weekends last month, I spent a couple of days at the Music For Youth National Festival, hearing music of so many different genres performed to an impressively high standard. Then a week later I was at the BBC’s Ten Pieces Prom, when the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and conductor Thomas Søndergård were frequently joined by younger musicians from schools whose enterprising teachers had shared with the BBC their pupils’ impressive achievements.
In both instances, the young performers were fearless at some of the most prestigious venues in the country – the Royal Albert Hall and various venues in Birmingham including the imposing Symphony Hall – but even more impressive were some stunning creative works: jazz combos performing their own tunes, primary pupils leading a professional orchestra in their own response to one of the Ten Pieces. MFY already provides a platform for such brilliant creativity, and it was good to see the BBC team cramming as much as possible into the Prom as well. Long may they both continue.