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National Music Plan published at last

25 November 2011

After a string of delays and much criticism from the music education sector, the Department for Education (DfE) has finally published its National Plan for Music Education, entitled The Importance of Music.

The plan begins by asserting that ‘England is a world leader in music education, but Darren Henley’s excellent review published in February showed there is more that we can do.’ It goes on to outline the structures through which music education will be delivered from September 2012, emphasising that ‘for the first time, the government is publishing a National Plan for Music Education. The very existence of this plan underlines the unswerving commitment by both the Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to recognise the importance of music in the lives of young people and to ensure that we consistently give young people a music education that is of the highest quality.’

While a number of the plan’s proposed structures were being openly discussed in advance of its publication, having been originally proposed by Darren Henley nearly a year ago, funding details beyond April 2012 remained confidential until today. They are as follows: £77m will be made available for the financial year beginning April 2012, with £65m and £60m for the 2013 and 2014 respectively. (Current funding stands at £82.5 per annum and ends in April 2012, which means that current structures will have to operate until September 2012 on one-third of £77m, in effect a cut of £1.83m compared the same period last year.) In addition, the plan announces a new per-pupil system for allocating funding, with weighting for free school meals. In areas where this will result in a decrease in funding, the government has pledged ‘protection preventing large losses in any one area in 2012-13 and 2013-14’.

One of the biggest structural changes is that ‘music education hubs’ will ‘take forward’ the work of local authority music services. This means that where music services once received government funding to deliver music provision in their areas, they will now be required to ‘bid’ for this privilege, competing against arts organisations, social enterprises, chains of schools or any other body deemed to fulfil the government’s criteria. The rationale behind hubs, stated in the plan, is that ‘music education hubs in every area will help drive the quality of service locally, with scope for improved partnership working, better value for money, local innovation and greater accountability.’

Any organisation wishing to lead a hub must submit a bid by 17 February to Arts Council England (ACE), which has been charged with awarding leadership of hubs on behalf of the government. Application forms and full criteria for hub leadership are published on ACE’s website. ACE will also be responsible for allocating and distributing funding, a task currently being managed by the Federation of Music Services. ACE’s prominent role in the new structure has already led to warnings of a potential bias in favour ACE-sponsored organisations, although the plan states that ACE has been tasked to make judgments ‘impartially’.

The plan provides a degree of detail on how the government sees the hub-building process working. Crucially, in areas where no appropriate bids are submitted, or where there are no bids at all, the government will ‘solicit’ bids from other providers, which could involve successful bidders expanding their hubs to incorporate adjacent areas. Indeed, the government hopes for fewer hubs than there are local authorities: ‘Hubs that cover more than one local authority area will have scope to develop services (particularly specialist services or ensembles) that might not otherwise have been possible had the hubs been of smaller size. They also have potential to generate economies of scale and better value for money.’ Accountability is also discussed, with proposed measures including the ACE and Ofsted being charged with monitoring hubs, and a newly created ‘monitoring board’, comprising ‘impartial experts’ and others, which will ‘hold those responsible for delivery across the National Plan to account’.

The plan does not limit itself to the matter of hubs. It lays out a ‘vision’ for music education, which emphasises that all schools have a duty to ‘provide high quality music education as part of a broad and balanced curriculum’. However, the plan does not defend music’s place on the compulsory curriculum at Key Stage 3, which could change as a result of the current curriculum review. Otherwise, the plan endorses a musical education based around instrumental tuition, singing, ensembles and choirs, with an emphasis on progression through to the highest levels of achievement in the various National Youth Music Organisations. Whole-class instrumental teaching is stated as a requirement ‘for a minimum of one term’, suggesting that Wider Opportunities teaching will have a part to play in the new structure.

Elsewhere, the plan expresses support for the In Harmony programme and states that government funding is to be augmented by equivalent funding from ACE in order to roll out new incarnations of the project. It also promises ‘a new primary Initial Teacher Training add-on module to boost new teachers’ skills and confidence in teaching music’, and tasks ACE with a further role of developing a new ‘music educator qualification’ by 2013, to ensure that the ‘wider music workforce is more professionalised’.

Virginia Haworth-Galt, chief executive of the Federation of Music Services, said: ‘The FMS welcomes the government’s introduction of a National Plan for Music Education with protected funding over three years. We are pleased that the ambition of the plan focuses on core music service principles of first access, progression, ensembles and singing; we believe that hubs can build on the work of music services and schools and will improve the opportunities for all children and young people. We note the government’s anticipation that music services will be well placed to drive this work forward within the new hub structures and look forward to rising to the challenges ahead.’

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, commented: ‘We are delighted that the government agrees with the ISM and acknowledges the importance of music education in maximising children’s progress in education and increasing their self-esteem. Ninety-seven per cent of adults believe that children should be taught music in school, and the government’s recognition that high quality music education is a vital part of the school curriculum is a clear indication that they agree. Their call should be heard loud and clear by the national curriculum review team.’

Julian Lloyd Webber, chairman of In Harmony, said: In Harmony has proved that music really does have the power to transform the lives of children and their communities and its success has been a triumph for all the children, parents and teachers involved. It is wonderful that the government has backed this visionary programme which I am certain will become an asset for England to treasure.’

Diane Widdison, the Musicians’ Union’s national organiser for teaching, said: ‘What is important is that access to quality music education is available to all children and young people, and that music tuition is delivered by a skilled and well-resourced workforce. Over two-thirds of our 30,000-plus members work in music education and it is imperative that these teachers are engaged in the implementation and delivery of the National Music Plan as it is the workforce who will be responsible for inspiring the next generation of musicians.’

Alan Davey, chief executive of Arts Council England, commented: ‘I know from my own experience that early opportunities to get involved in the arts can enrich a young person’s life and help develop their potential. That’s why I’m so pleased that the Arts Council will now be working with the Department for Education to make the vision set out in The Importance of Music: A National Plan for Music Education a reality. Music education hubs will play a key role in ensuring that every child in this country has the chance to experience the richness of music. We value the wealth of knowledge and experience that many music services have and the excellent work they deliver throughout the country. We look forward to working with them, ensuring that more children and young people have access to high quality music education at a local level.’

Sign up for the free Music Teacher e-newsletter (top right) for a special ‘extra’ edition, to be published soon, for more digest and opinion on the plan.

New board for graded music exams launched

23 November 2011

A Berkshire music teacher has launched MTB Exams, a new exam board with the aim of making instrumental and vocal exams less stressful.

'MTB Exams is a music teachers' board providing an exciting new way to take instrumental exams from MTB Levels 1 to 8,' says chief examiner Mark Kesel, who has taught the trumpet for more than 30 years. Describing the new system as 'an imaginative new resource for instrumental teachers,' Kesel believes that MTB exams will 'by making some simple but fundamental changes to traditional methods, reduce stress levels for pupils and teachers and offer complete flexibility over exam dates.

'The main difference between the new board and ABRSM and Trinity Guildhall is that pupils are examined by their own teachers. The performance is recorded and a certain number are moderated, 'and assessed in the same way that GCSE performance is examined,' says Kesel. 'We are aiming to complement rather than rival the traditional boards,' added Kessel, who has been a member of the quintet Chaconne Brass since it was founded 26 years ago.

'Music should be enjoyable but at the moment there are sometimes some very stressed pupils as well as stressed teachers. This system also has the benefit that the pupil can do the exam when he or she is ready rather than waiting for an exam date.

'The syllabus, which has been set by specialist teachers, is broadly in line with ABRSM standards. Pupils do not need to have passed Grade 5 theory to move on to Grade 6. Kesel adds, 'When a pupil spends months preparing music for an exam it is a pity if they find playing to a visiting examiner makes them nervous and they do not play to the best of their ability. The idea of playing to your teacher is an attempt to allow them to show what they can do. I would argue therefore that it is more representative of their standard and not less. Also, it seems a pity that the person best placed to assess their performance - the teacher - is excluded from the process. We’ve had a very positive response. We are very new but we hope to attract a lot of entrants.'


Classic FM 2011 Music Teachers of the Year announced

18 November 2011

Six of the country’s top music teachers have been honoured in the 13th Annual Classic FM Music Teacher of the Year Awards, presented at the Music for Youth Schools Prom Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. The awards recognise and reward teachers 'who have made a real difference to the musical life of young people'.

Classic FM’s managing director Darren Henley said, 'There can be a tendency for music teachers to be the unsung heros of the music world, yet without them, many young people would not have music introduced into their childhoods in a structured way.

'Music has the power to touch our lives in a far more complex way than many subjects that we study at school and gives us life skills far beyond what we learn in the classroom.'
Primary School Music Teacher of the Year was Kathryn Smith of Silkstone Common Junior and Infant School, Barnsley, South Yorkshire. The Secondary School Music Teacher of the Year Award went to Sheila Cornall of Wycombe High School, Buckinghamshire.

This year’s Peripatetic/Private Music Teacher of the Year Award was Fran Sixsmith of Warrington Schools’ Arts and Culture Service. Sheila Oglethorpe, a teacher who has specialised in teaching music to dyslexic pupils was presented with the Special Education Needs Music Teacher of the Year Award.

John Hall of Norton Knatchbull School, Kent took the Lifetime Achievement Award. A special award was given by the judges to Matthew Hunt of Kingstone High School, Herefordshire as New Music Teacher of the Year. They described him as a ‘whirling dervish’ and ‘inspirational’.

The winning teachers' schools will each receive musical equipment and instruments from Yamaha and software from Avid.

Derry’s schoolchildren to get free instruments and lessons

14 November 2011

Up to 9,000 children in Derry in Northern Ireland are to receive free music instruments and lessons in a new initiative that organisers claim is the first project of its kind anywhere in the world, and 'could change the way music is taught in the curriculum'.

The Children’s Music Promise will be launched as part of year-long celebrations when Derry becomes the UK’s first City of Culture in 2013. It will operate in 15 newly created, localised 'projects' and be delivered by the multimedia, youth arts-focused Nerve Centre in partnership with the Ulster Orchestra, the Western Education and Library Board, and Neighbourhood Partnership Boards.

Part of a raft of participatory schemes currently in development in a wider programme of events with estimated costs of £20m, the programme aims to ensure participation by all of the city’s schoolchildren aged 13 and younger.

Garbhan Downey, director of marketing and communications for the City of Culture Company overseeing the celebrations, said the scheme was already attracting international interest 'as a model of excellence on how to teach children music. Creative and cultural provision for children and young people has been declared a 'top priority' for Derry’s tenure as City of Culture, and has also seen it shortlisted for designation as a UNICEF Child Friendly City.

The Children’s Music Promise will be one of the largest individual projects mounted in the city during 2013 and is expected to also include opportunities for the young musicians to perform in public.


Southbank Centre's head of music leaves to take two roles with El Sistema

8 November 2011

Marshall Marcus, head of music at London’s Southbank Centre, is to leave the role in order to take up two new appointments which link the venue with El Sistema, the Venezuelan social initiative which has brought orchestral music to thousands of disadvantaged children.

'I feel privileged to be able to carry forward my commitment and enthusiasm for Venezuela’s revolutionary El Sistema, while at the same time retaining a close connection with Southbank Centre.' said Marcus. 'I have enjoyed five spectacular years at Southbank Centre and am honoured by the invitation to establish an orchestra in Venezuela alongside the project to further cement ties between Southbank Centre and Venezuela.'

The two positions are special project advisor for Southbank Centre’s El Sistema project, and director of the Simón Bolívar Music Foundation’s Venezuelan Baroque Music Programme. Marcus, who will remain based at the Southbank, has spent much of the autumn in Venezuela as a guest of El Sistema. He has had a longstanding relationship with the organisation since its establishment in the 1970s, and believes the project will allow him to focus his work on the international development of El Sistema. The project, said a spokesman at the Southbank, will see Marcus working on the development of a business plan which supports a wide range of music partnerships nationally and internationally, advising the Centre for Social Action Through Music in Caracas, and facilitating staffing exchanges between the two organisations.

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