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Whitgift School launches International Music Competition

29 November 2012

Whitgift School, an independent boys’ secondary school in South Croydon, has launched a new International Music Competition, offering music scholarships as prizes.

The International Music Competition is open to string players only, with three age categories: 12-13, 14-15 and 16-17. To apply, musicians need to submit a YouTube video of them performing a piece of their choice along with brief programme notes. The winners will be selected by a jury after a series of live performances, taking place between 29 June and 3 July 2013.

Among others, the jury will consist of Royal Academy of Music professor Remus Azoitei, cellist and former BBC Young Musician Guy Johnston and Whitgift’s director of music development, Rosanna Whitfield. Winners will be announced at a special gala concert on 3 July 2013 and will perform the first movement of their chosen concerto with the school orchestra in a public concert.

Rosanna Whitfield said she was ‘hugely proud to be part of this educational initiative, which gives us the chance to offer so many wonderful performing opportunities to talented young musicians from around the world’.

The school, which opens new boarding facilities next year, has a 300-seat concert hall, suites for percussion, guitar, brass and string instruments, eight practice rooms and a music library. One scholarship, which will comprise boarding accommodation, full fees and instrumental lessons, will be given per age category. There are also cash prizes and performance opportunities with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Winners will begin studying at Whitgift School during academic year 2013-14. The application deadline is 1 March, and application forms are available at

New funding for national youth music organisations

29 November 2012

Eight national youth music organisations are to receive a total of almost £2.25m from Arts Council England (ACE) and the Department for Education (DfE) to help them run their programmes from April 2013 to March 2015.

ACE’s director of learning, Laura Gander-Howe, confirmed its continuing commitment to the projects in a speech at a Music Education Council seminar in London, saying: ‘We have exceptional talent in this country, and the national youth music organisations are crucial to ensuring that the musical stars of the future are nurtured and developed. Gaining a place in one of these orchestras is a significant achievement both for the young person concerned and for the teachers who have helped them get there.’

The organisations are: Youth Music Theatre UK (£300,000); National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (£500,000); South Asian Music Youth Orchestra (£236,280); National Youth Choirs of Great Britain (£214,800); National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain (£161,100); Music for Youth (£343,680); National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain (£236, 280); National Youth Jazz Collective (£257, 760).

National Music Council honours music services

19 November 2012, Rhian Morgan

Oxfordshire County Music Service and SoundStorm, which works in Bournemouth and Poole, have been jointly awarded this year’s National Music Council (NMC) Major Trophy at a ceremony at London’s Southbank Centre. Diplomas went to Barking and Dagenham, East Ayrshire, East Lothian and Southwark.

Liz Stock, deputy head of service at Oxfordshire, said they were delighted by the award. ‘Like most music services we have been extremely busy responding to the National Plan for Music Education and bidding to become the lead partner in a hub,’ she said. ‘2011-12 was a particularly eventful year for Oxfordshire, entailing a significant expansion of activity and broader engagement of children and young people, and it was this that was particularly recognised by the NMC.’

She believes it was the music service’s work with disadvantaged and vulnerable children that particularly caught the eye of the awarding committee, as well as the development of new partnerships, both within the local authority and with a wide range of charitable and other organisations, including Youth Music, to develop programmes and performance opportunities for looked-after children and those at risk of educational and social exclusion.

Julie Spencer, head of community music at Barking and Dagenham Music Education Hub, said their award was ‘a testament to the commitment and high quality of our team of teachers and staff’. ‘We see our relationship with schools and headteachers as key if we are to ensure children experience enjoyment and success from the earliest stages of musical learning,’ she said.

The NMC promotes the interests of the music sector as a whole, with membership drawn from professional and amateur groups. It aims to ‘celebrate and promote the value and enjoyment of music, which contributes, in all its forms, to the cultural, spiritual, educational, social and economic wellbeing of the UK’.

Another winner, Dan Somogyi, team leader at SoundStorm, said the council’s awards had recognised their successes, including the fact that they have been given more than £1m of music education funding until 2015, providing a strong foundation for the future. ‘I think the fact that SoundStorm is very much a modern music service, with a very small core team, fully embracing partnership working, impressed the panel,’ he said. ‘We have more than 35 delivery partners in our new hub, ranging from the locally based Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to the Utterly Butterly Ukelele Project from Leicester. We have great relations with our local authorities and some fantastically supportive schools, teachers and music organisation and venues. The award reflected the not only the work of SoundStorm but also that of our partners.’

Music Educators welcome Ofsted's new music criteria

14 November 2012, Rhian Morgan

There’s been a broad welcome to Ofsted’s revised subject-specific criteria for music. David Ashworth, a music education consultant and manager of, said the new guidelines 'incorporate some of the key messages from Ofsted's most recent music reports and guidance documents, making them both up to date and consistent. I would like to think that these guidelines will impact on the way music is taught in schools and that there will be a steady and incremental improvement.'

The revisions include replacing the term ‘satisfactory’ with ‘requires improvement’ and new references to music hubs, the National Plan for Music Education and provision of first access to instrumental learning and GCSE/A Level courses. Retention rates in additional tuition, extra-curricular activities and curriculum courses at Key Stage 4 and 5 have also been added.

Mark Phillips HMI, Ofsted's National Advisor for Music, said: 'The term "musical provenance" brings together the important historical, social and cultural origins of music that help support pupils’ musical understanding. We have also included reference to the use of movement, alongside singing and listening, to help pupils internalise musical ideas.' There are also references to literacy, used to support musical learning, and to spiritual, moral, social and cultural education, recognising the importance of music’s contribution to a school’s overall effectiveness.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, described the guidelines as superb news. 'This is a real boost for music teachers in schools where they are often asked to sub-level against their own expertise,' she said. 'To explicitly state that “manufactured sub-divisions of levels” is a sign of inadequate teaching will empower these teachers and send a clear message to those still sub-levelling that this is simply inappropriate for music education.

'On top of this good news, Ofsted has recognised that progression into Key Stage 3 and beyond is an important indicator of a good music department,' added Annetts. 'There is a clear signal here that music must not be sidelined, and that schools – if they want to avoid getting a bad report from Ofsted – should strengthen music and provide opportunities at Key Stage 4 and 5.'

The changes were also welcomed by Lincoln Abbotts, teaching and learning development director at ABRSM. 'The guidance set out in Ofsted’s report can only be positive as we all work towards achieving consistent high quality in music education. The "Outstanding" descriptions remind us of the incredible power that music has in inspiring young people and the wider community around their schools.'

But David Ashworth also sounded words of caution, saying that there needed to be an overhaul of restrictive whole-school assessment procedures. 'We are chipping away at this problem, but you reach a point when you just wish someone with the authority and muscle would, once and for all, work with music teachers to sort out what and how we should assess,' he concluded.

Campaign to include arts in EBacc steps up

9 November 2012

Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber and violinist Tasmin Little are among a growing number of high-profile musicians, artists and educators who have publicly lent their support to Bacc for the Future (, a campaign which is urging the government to include creative subjects in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), set to replace GCSEs from 2017.

‘The absence of creative subjects like music from the EBacc beggars belief given how important creativity is to children and our economy,’ said Lloyd Webber. Little commented: ‘Music plays a central role in our education, culture and economy. I urge everyone to sign the Bacc for the Future petition, and I urge the Education Select Committee to hold an inquiry into these proposals.’

Brought in to replace what the government sees as the failing GCSE system, the EBacc already exists as a league table performance measure and is currently awarded to pupils who achieve a C or above in the following five GCSE subject areas: maths, English, science, a language and a humanity (history or geography). From 2017, GCSEs in these subject areas will be replaced by new EBacc certificates, with the ‘full EBacc’ being awarded to pupils who pass six EBacc certificates (two sciences will be required). It is not yet clear what qualifications will exist for subjects excluded from the EBacc.

The Bacc for the Future campaign is arguing for a sixth subject area for creative subjects to be added to the EBacc. It argues that although the EBacc will notionally leave room for pupils to pursue non-EBacc subjects, many schools will hedge their bets by entering pupils for extra science, language and humanities certificates in order to increase the numbers of pupils who will pass the required six – leaving little or no room for the arts.

Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, said: ‘The proposals do not provide for the arts as being one of the core subjects, and the way in which the proposals have been formulated makes it very clear that art, design, music, drama and dance will be pushed to the margin with very little time in the curriculum for those subjects.’

Speaking to the Guardian, which featured the story on its front page on Saturday, Sir Nicolas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, said: ‘Our concern is that many children and young people will simply miss out: not just on the enjoyment of theatre, but on the important learning and development that comes through taking part in drama from an early age.’ Martin Roth, director of the V&A, commented: ‘The UK is one of the greatest creative nations in the world, as exemplified during the Olympics this summer, but if subjects such as art, design, music, drama and dance are pushed out of the curriculum, Britain’s creative economy will be destroyed within a generation.’

A full list of people who have lent their support to the campaign is available on the Bacc for the Future website, along with news of the campaign’s latest developments. The website also carries a petition – with over 11,000 signatories to date – in support of including creative subjects in the EBacc. The secretary of state for education has so far declined to comment, although the Department for Education told the Guardian that the EBacc ‘does not prevent any school from offering GCSEs in art and design, dance, drama and music. We have been clear that pupils should take the GCSEs that are right for them.’

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