Get in! Academic standards at St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School in Basildon were on track at the end of the last school year, and James Rhodes and the tv crew from Fresh One Productions kept the headteacher onside.
Channel 4’s Don’t Stop the Music, which helicoptered instruments and tuition into the school, was great watching – if you managed to ignore questions of where long-term funding is going to come from, once ﬁlming stops, to continue lessons for every child.
The petition started by Rhodes, designed to hold Nicky Morgan to the National Plan’s promise to allow every child the opportunity to learn an instrument, still needs 10,000 signatures, and can be found here, as can information about the ongoing instrument amnesty.
Let’s not forget, in the coming general election year, that Rhodes managed to get a solid quote from shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan, who, when confronted with a camera, said: ‘I’m very passionate about music. I think music education should be taking place in every school. I agree with you, I think they should have opportunity to learn a musical instrument, it shouldn’t just be for those who have the resources to be able to have private tuition.’
It’s been a heavy month of self-reﬂection for the sector. As expected, the government largely took its own advice when formulating proposals for the new GCSE, AS and A Levels in music. The ISM is in the strange position now of rabble-rousing against a document it was supposed to be quality-controlling. Elsewhere, the ABRSM’s recent report, Making Music, highlights positives and negatives in its extensive investigation into music teaching and learning in the UK. It’s an impressive document – and a miracle of collaboration across the music education sector – but it is cosily presented to say the least, both in terms of the visuals and the rhetoric. A barchart illustrating some bleak data on music teachers taking second jobs actually uses cheeky little trombone slides instead of bars. The executive summary states that ‘increasing numbers of children are playing a wider range of instruments. As many young learners now play electric guitar as play the violin’. It then says that this is mainly due to ‘role models’ and ‘technology’. If The X Factor and popular musical apps are doing all the work, the report’s bright-eyed conclusion that ‘successive governments’ policies have helped bring about real improvement’ doesn’t seem to follow. In other (less cosy) news, public funding for the Tuition Service in Cornwall has disappeared (which doesn’t sit so well with the ABRSM’s assertion that ‘instrumental and singing teachers are remarkably fulﬁlled’).
It was great to see footage from Rhodes’ appearance at the Music Education Expo in Don’t Stop the Music, and that reminds me – nominations for the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence close on 24 October. If you want to see your favourite teacher, an inspirational initiative or your favourite resource get national recognition, please ﬁll out a nomination form here.