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Conservatives free to implement education policy
8 May 2015
10 Downing Street: David Cameron's Conservatives should be able to legislate without support from other partiespcruciatti / Shutterstock.com
The Conservative party, led by prime minister David Cameron, has secured an outright parliamentary majority following the 7 May general election.
The result leaves the party free to move forward with its manifesto proposals, which include a commitment to ‘require secondary school pupils to take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography’.
Ofsted would be ‘unable to award its highest ratings to schools that refuse to teach these core subjects’, and the policy will open a new line of pressure on school leadership teams to prioritise these subjects.
In a pre-election interview, David Cameron identified ‘a bit of a muddle’ over the importance of music education. ‘Sometimes people look at the core of the curriculum and they want everything to be in it,’ he said.
‘I’m a great believer that at the heart of a good education you’ve got to get the basics right. And so we’ve been quite tough saying the basics have got to be the reading, the writing, the numeracy.’
The introduction of the Progress 8 and Attainment 8 performance measures, planned to be published alongside performance tables from 2016, is also now expected. Under the system, which will measure pupils’ progression at secondary level, musical achievements might not count towards a pupil’s score if not studied alongside English Baccalaureate subjects.
Away from education policy, the Conservatives’ fiscal plans include continued reductions in public spending. Local authorities expect further real-terms budget cuts, and the impact of these is likely to be felt disproportionately on services which local authorities are not legally obliged to provide, for example in supporting music education hubs. Many councils across the UK have already made significant reductions in their support for local music education.
In his acceptance speech, Cameron hailed a country ‘with unrivalled skills and creativeness, a country with such good humour and such great compassion. And I’m convinced that if we draw on all of this, then we can take these islands, with their proud history, and build an even prouder future’.
Downing Street has as yet made no announcements on ministerial positions, but incumbent education secretary Nicky Morgan, school reform minister Nick Gibb, culture secretary Sajid Javid and culture minister Ed Vaizey have all been re-elected. The Liberal Democrats’ schools minister, David Laws, has lost his Yeovil seat.
Andrea Jenkyns, the Conservative MP who ousted former Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls from his seat in Morley and Outwood, is an amateur soprano and has previously worked as a music tutor, ‘teaching in three secondary schools’ according to her biography.
Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England, said: ‘We’re confident that in the coming weeks we’ll be working with a team in government that understands the value that arts and culture can bring. In the last parliament we saw arts and culture get a more favourable grant in aid settlement than many for 2015/16. We’ve also seen an £18m increase in the money going to music education hubs.
’Arts and culture make a tremendous contribution to England’s way of life. Now we will focus on making the important arguments – from health and well-being, education, and the economy – as well, of course, the intrinsic value of great art, great artists and great arts organisations, museums and libraries. We will ensure that all the key decision-makers fully understand the vital role that public investment plays in our cultural ecology.’
Stockport Schools Brass Band plans open day to boost membership
The Junior Band Open Day, which will be held at the headquarters of Stockport Music Service on Saturday 9 May, will include workshops, musical games and the chance to meet existing members of the junior band, as well as a live performance.
Founded in 1978, SSSB has three bands for brass players aged six to 18. Membership of all three has fallen in recent years: the senior band has shrunk from around 50 members in the 1980s to only 20 today.
The junior band, which caters for beginners, now has only ten members.
Alice Bell, administrator for SSBB, said: ‘We don’t have the number of players coming through that we used to have.
‘There are definitely fewer people playing brass instruments in this area. Music education is being squeezed in many schools, with more pressure on those subjects that feature in the EBacc.’
She added that brass instruments were often seen as less ‘cool’ than other instruments. ‘Where you used to see racks of brass instruments in schools, there are now often racks of guitars.’
Bell said she hoped the open day would highlight the benefits of playing in a brass band.
‘I often have parents of band members telling me how much the band has done for their child’s confidence. I also see what a fantastic social side it brings to band members, which lasts into their adult life.’
Students achieve diploma success at Hertford's Simon Balle School
The Southbank Centre’s Britten’s War Requiem project has won the Learning and Participation award at the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Music Awards.
The project, which took place in November 2014, was part of a day of activities to mark the 100th anniversary of World War One.
Talks and workshops were held throughout the day and in the evening the work was performed by the Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop (pictured).
The judges said: ‘Britten’s War Requiem at the Southbank Centre was a truly immersive experience introducing, exploring and ultimately performing Britten’s epic War Requiem.
‘An ambitious project encompassing talks, participatory workshops, films and the creation of a new children’s choir. The Southbank team – including the committed input of Marin Alsop – drew participants of all ages and experience into the creative and rehearsal process.
‘The project reflected the profound nature of Britten’s work and was distinctive for its overall quality and its attention to detail.’
Other winners included the Philharmonia Orchestra’s iOrchestra, which won the Audiences and Engagement award, and the Royal Opera’s Opera Machine, which took the Creative Communication prize.
BBC Ten Pieces extended to secondary schools
6 May 2015, Katy Wright
The BBC’s Ten Pieces will be extended to secondary schools from October 2015.
The initiative, which has worked with nearly half of UK primary schools, launched in the autumn term of 2014 with a week of free cinema screenings for primary schools across the country.
The scheme invites young people to respond to a selection of works through music, dance or digital art.
A new film will feature footage of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra performing the chosen pieces (which the BBC will announce within weeks).
Cinema booking for secondary schools opened last month, with screenings taking place from October. Curriculum-linked resources will be available on the Ten Pieces website, with DVDs posted to schools on request.