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MU and NUT agree partnership

16 February 2011

The Musicians’ Union (MU) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) have announced a new partnership to allow the two organisations to work together to promote music education in England and Wales, and to oppose cuts to music services.

Christine Blower, the NUT’s general secretary, said, ‘I welcome the opportunity to be working with the MU to ensure that our schools do not lose their music services.’ She added, ‘It is essential that music remains part of the national curriculum; it is only through timetabled lessons that a minimum entitlement can be guaranteed.’

Giving an indication of the campaigning the new partnership will undertake, Diane Widdison, the MU’s national organiser for teaching, said, ‘While we are pleased to see the recommendations made by the Henley Review, we are concerned that over a third of music services have already issued redundancy notices because of cuts in local authority funding. We strongly believe that every child should have a quality music education and we urge the government to act quickly to safeguard jobs and music education provision.’



28 February deadline set for submissions to GLA music education audit

16 February 2011

In response to the Mayor of London’s Music Education Strategy, which has ‘identified a pressing need for a comprehensive audit of music education provision in the capital,’ the Greater London Authority has commissioned the University of London’s Institute of Education to compile thoughts and opinions from London’s music education providers and users. The survey takes about ten minutes to complete online; MT readers living in Greater London should be sure to voice their opinions on the capital's music education before the survey closes on 28 February. Complete the survey here: www.musiceducationaudit.com

Henley Review and government response broadly welcomed by music educators

7 February 2011

The Henley Review of the Funding and Delivery of Music Education in England has been published on the Department for Education’s website, some five weeks after it was scheduled for release. A government response has been published to accompany it.

Darren Henley, chief executive of Classic FM, was commissioned by Michael Gove to undertake the review last September. Submissions from across the music education sector were invited, of which almost 1,000 were received, resulting in a lengthy but concise document containing 36 separate policy recommendations. The government response indicates that some of these will be adopted immediately, while others will be considered over time.

In the review’s introduction, Henley states that music education in England is ‘good in places but distinctly patchy,’ a failure for which ‘everybody involved with music education should share responsibility.’ He suggests that ‘large-scale initiatives and programmes in the last five years have not resulted in uniformity of provision’, a problem which he proposes could be remedied by ‘funding models which offer a more cohesive approach.’

Among the 36 recommendations are the suggestions that music remain on the national curriculum, and that it be included in the new English Baccalaureate at the next review. In addition, the review argues for the continuation of ringfenced funding and suggests that the current mixed economic funding model is essentially sound, as well as urging the government to devise a coherent ‘national plan’ for music, perhaps involving local ‘hubs’ which could merge the management of different providers.

The government response postpones the consideration of music’s place on the curriculum but is clearer on ring-fenced funding, of which £82.5m will be available for 2011-12 ‘as a basis for transforming the way music education will be funded across the country.’ No funding commitments are given for 2012-13 onwards. The achievements of the Sing Up and In Harmony initiatives are both recognised, with funding given for 2011-12, beyond which they will become the responsibility of Arts Council England and Youth Music.

Music education leaders have reacted positively to the review. Virginia Haworth-Galt, chief executive of the Federation of Music Services, said: ‘I believe this is a landmark report. Darren Henley has argued passionately for the value of music education and has provided clear recommendations to ensure that children, wherever they live in England, can benefit from it.

‘We congratulate the government for responding so positively and listening to the FMS and others across the sector. We welcome the news that music services will receive the same level of funding from the government and hope that this support will continue after 2012. We also urge all local authorities to continue their financial support too.

‘By backing the report’s recommendation for a "National Plan for Music Education", the government has also shown its commitment to work with us, schools and all music educators to make Darren Henley’s vision a reality – to provide all children with the music education they deserve.’

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said: ‘The review makes the key finding that ‘the provision of Music Education should remain a statutory requirement as part of the National Curriculum,’ which we heartily endorse. We also call on the government to act on the review’s recommendation that music should be included in the English Baccalaureate, something the government has so far failed to do, thereby threatening the place of music in secondary schools.’

She added: ‘We’re impressed by government’s commitment to music education and the news that the Music Grant will not be cut at all in the next year. Michael Gove has issued a challenge to local authorities to match the government’s commitment and continue to fund music education.’

The review contains many more recommendations than have been reported here; go to www.education.gov.uk to download it and the government response in full.

EBacc already hitting school music, says NAME survey

26 January 2011

A survey conducted by the National Association of Music Educators (NAME) has revealed that the widely predicted adverse impact of the English Baccalaureate on curricular music education is already being seen.

Music does not feature on the list of qualifying subjects for the course, as confirmed in December, and 57 of 95 music departments surveyed by NAME indicated that their schools are planning a cut-back of post-14 music provision from September 2011.

NAME is calling on the government to reconsider the exclusion of music and other arts from the Baccalaureate. Its chair, Sarah Kekus, said: 'The arts have long been recognised as an essential part of a broad and balanced education. Excluding the arts from the English Baccalaureate makes them invisible in school, not only leading to cuts in provision, but also reducing opportunities for young people to gain recognition for what they excel in.'


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.’



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