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MU and Gove clash over physical contact with pupils

10 January 2011

A row has broken out between Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove and the Musicians’ Union (MU) over a series of training videos produced by the MU in association with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), Youth Music and ABRSM.

The series, entitled ‘Keeping Children Safe in Music’ has been produced to support a remote training scheme for MU members ‘to gain a better understanding of their child protection responsibilities and avoid situations that could lead to accusations of misconduct.’

In a letter to the four organisations, Michael Gove stated that the scheme ‘plays to a culture of fear among adults and children, reinforcing the message that any adults who touches a child is somehow guilty of inappropriate contact.

‘We must move away from this area and the Department for Education is taking steps to restore common sense,’ he wrote, adding that the DfE will be ‘changing the rules to give teachers more protection… I will shortly publish revised advice to schools setting out the procedures I expect to be followed to ensure staff are properly protected.’

Gove later appeared on BBC News saying ‘we all know that if you are teaching someone to play the piano, or if you’re teaching someone how to use drumsticks, or if you’re teaching someone how to hold a violin, that it’s almost impossible to do so without actually touching the child.’

Diane Widdison, the MU’s national organiser for live performance and teaching, responded that ‘[the MU] feels that when musicians who teach are more creative with their teaching, that you can teach in an equally effective way – in fact sometimes in a more effective way.'

Widdison told MT: ‘What teachers want to do is to get pupils to know what good technique is and you can do that through a variety of ways. For example, if you teach in group situations like Wider Opportunities, you can’t physically correct every pupil’s technique – you’ve got to have the tools to be able to show a class what good technique is.

‘We are dealing with society as it is today, and the reality is that if you had an allegation made against you today, you’d be suspended pending an investigation – with or without pay, depending on what your contract says – and those investigations can last months, and in some cases up to two years. That of course has a devastating effect on teachers' careers and their lives in general.

‘Mr Gove should address how long these investigations last. There should be a timeframe so that once an allegation is made the initial meeting should be within a week or two weeks – as opposed to this initial meeting happening sometimes two months later. And the other thing is that when an allegation is made against teachers it can still come up on a CRB [Criminal Records Bureau] check and it’s impossible to take that off. These are two practical problems which he could address.

Asked about Gove’s accusations that the MU was playing to a ‘culture of fear’ around physical contact with children, Widdison responded that the MU was reacting in the best interests of its members – but would consider adapting their advice if the devastating effects of unsubstantiated allegations were mitigated.

‘We produced this course in that context. If Michael Gove is going to address that, fine, and we can then look at our advice in that context. But there are issues he needs to address, like how long an investigation takes. We feel that what Michael Gove missed is that a lot of musicians work outside the system of classroom teaching – and the course we developed is to meet the needs of musicians who don’t have access to the same training opportunities.’



London Councils axes £3m of grants to London arts organisations

7 January 2011

London Councils is to axe £3m of funding to arts organisations across the capital, in a move which affects many organisations which provide cultural opportunities for children.

Sound Connections, which works to increase opportunities for young Londoners to be involved with high-quality music and music-making, is to have its grant of £313,736 withdrawn in June this year – funding which had been scheduled to continue until the end of August 2012. The loss relates to around 25% of the organisation’s turnover.

Philip Flood, director of Sound Connections, told MT: ‘Due to the early withdrawal of this investment music activities for young people will be cut short, with some community music organisations losing a significant proportion of their work… We are currently exploring other ways to continue to support those organisations who provide very vital and transforming opportunities for young Londoners.’

Meanwhile the London Symphony Orchestra’s Discovery programme may lose its £122,748 grant ahead of time, money which had been earmarked for its Fusion Orchestra and digital technology groups. These projects would have reached 1,200 10-18 year olds from five of London’s poorest boroughs; it is not yet clear whether Discovery will be able to continue with these projects unaffected.

Many of the other organisations losing funding also provide music education as part of a broader portfolio of arts and community work, such as the Barnardo’s Heshima Family Support Centre in Norwood and the Arts Depot Trust, which provides cultural opportunities for children and young people at Pupil Referral Units in London.


BBC Young Composers competition 2011 announced

6 January 2011

Young composers will have the opportunity to see their work performed as part of the 13th BBC Proms Young Composers competition, which launches on 13 January.

Open to 12-18 year olds, the competition’s winners will have their work performed by BBC groups and are also granted a commission for one of the BBC’s chamber groups. The winners of the 2010 competition had their works performed by the Aurora Orchestra at a Proms concert held at the Royal College of Music (RCM).

Entries for the competition must be received before 27 May, and this year’s Inspire day, when the winning entries will be performed at the RCM, is 6 August.

The BBC is also calling for young composers to sign up for its series of Composer Labs, which will be held on dates between February and April 2011. These will take place in London (6 February), Exeter (13 February), Cardiff (26 February), Glasgow (3 April) and Manchester (10 April), and provide an opportunity for budding talents to meet professional composers, musicians and industry figures as well as to share ideas and experiences with their peers.


Music lecturer dead as boat capsizes on freezing river Thames

4 January 2011

Music lecturer Keith Lowde is one of two men feared dead after the small boat in which he and five others were travelling capsized on the river Thames on Sunday evening.  He was using the boat to ferry his wife and four guests to shore from his house on Pharoahs Island, Surrey, when the small vessel was turned over in freezing conditions.

Mr Lowde, 66, and an unnamed man in his 70s, were not able to reach the shore and are thought to have been taken downstream by the river’s strong currents. Police and environment agency staff conducted a search of the river, including use of a helicopter and specialist divers, and have so far recovered one body.

The four occupants who were able to reach shore were treated in hospital for minor injuries before being sent home.

Mr Lowde lectured in Music Business at the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford, and previously worked for the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society, the Copyright Hotline, and actors’ union Equity. He was considered an expert on international copyright law.

A website post on the Daily Mail’s website, claimed to be from a former student of Mr Lowde’s, read: ‘He was a truly lovely guy, really friendly, very intelligent and knowledgeable about his subject, and someone who really loved what he was doing… Hands down, he was the best teacher I had through my entire 20 years of education in this country.’


Music educators feature in New Year's Honours list

4 January 2011

Howard Goodall, the national ambassador for singing, has been awarded the CBE
Howard Goodall, the national ambassador for singing, has been awarded the CBE

The work of several music educators has been acknowledged in the New Year’s Honours list.

Howard Goodall, the national ambassador for singing, has been awarded the CBE for services to music education while John Wallace, principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dance, was also awarded the CBE for his services to dance, music and drama education in Scotland.

Professor Wallace said of the award: 'I am genuinely delighted with this honour, it came out of the blue.'

Nicholas Chisholm, who recently retired from his position as headmaster of the Menuhin School, was awarded the MBE for services to music education, while Graham Smallbone, chair of governors of the Purcell School, was also awarded the MBE for voluntary service to music education.

Pamela and Simon Majaro, joint trustees of the Cavatina Music Trust, were both awarded the MBE for their voluntary service to the trust, which runs chamber music concerts in schools with the aim of raising awareness of chamber music. The trust was founded in 1998 and as well as running its own concerts also provides subsidised tickets to chamber music concerts for 18-25 year olds, sponsors music competitions, and grants bursaries to young musicians in exceptional circumstances.

Other musicians honoured include composers Colin Matthews, awarded the OBE, and Eileen Betty Roe-Bishop, awarded the MBE. Sarah Aaronson, piano accordionist and the founder of the London International Orchestra, was awarded the OBE, while the founder of Ireland’s Apex Jazz Band, George Chambers, was awarded the MBE for services to jazz music in Northern Ireland.





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