MU survey reveals dissatisfaction amongst music teachers
6 February 2014
The Musicians’ Union (MU) has issued a report calling on the Government to work with Ofsted to ensure that schools recognise the importance of music education.
Over two thirds of the MU’s 30,000 members work in music education. In 2013 it saw a rise in the number of legal cases and calls for support by members who teach. After the publication of the November Ofsted report on the progress of Music Education Hubs in England, the MU consulted with its members who are working for music services and within Hubs and asked how the report reflected what was going on in their area of work and what impact the transition to Hubs has had.
The report raises concern that teachers are being blamed for problems relating to funding and administration. It also suggests that Hubs are being blamed for problems that fall out of their remit, such as schools not having a music specialist. Hubs seem in some cases to be unsupported and in many cases undermined by the Coalition Government’s policy of encouraging schools to have greater independence from their Local Authorities.
The MU reports that some music services have made the whole of their teaching staff redundant, re-engaging them on zero hours contracts or as self-employed teachers. Some of these teachers are being subject to employment covenants restricting the work that they are allowed to undertake outside of their hours with the music service.
The MU’s recommendations are:
1. Government works with Ofsted to ensure that schools get a consistent message that music education is both important and relevant.
2. That future national funding decisions are made quickly and that the current level of funding is at the very least maintained.
3. The data collection requirements from Hubs are revised to ensure they are fit for purpose.
4. That governance arrangements of Music Education Hubs are more closely scrutinised to ensure greater accountability and transparency.
Read the full report here
Michael Gove under fire for funding policy
4 February 2014
Michael Gove has made a speech in which he expressed wishes for state schools to be ‘indistinguishable’ from fee-paying schools.
Delivering a keynote speech at the London Academy of Excellence, Michael Gove said he wanted the country's schools to be among the best in the world and that the ‘Berlin Wall’ between state and private schools must be torn down. He also said teachers should be willing to use disciplinary measures such as detentions, line-writing and litter-picking to combat poor behaviour. Hailing the achievements of academies and free schools, which are already able to run longer school days, Mr Gove said he would be providing resources to allow all state schools to extend the day to 10 hours. The extra time would make room for extra-curricular activities such as music.
Gove has come up against criticism for failing fully to address the issue of funding for such an ambitious policy. Average funding for a state school pupil is currently less than half that of the private sector.
Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: ‘Teachers are already desperately overworked. They work the most unpaid overtime of all the professions and they can’t work harder. If this is going to happen, there needs to be significant extra funding.’
Gove has also come up against criticism for funding free schools by cutting funding for sixth form colleges. There is concern that funds will be further diverted from sixth forms to make way for plans to overhaul secondary education.
Research by the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) claims that the Government is spending more than £39,616 for every student at the free schools, compared to £4,000 on those at sixth-form colleges. SFCA claims that its analysis shows that budgets were slashed by 10 per cent three years ago, 6 per cent in 2012 and a further 1.2 per cent in 2013. The cuts stem from the fact the Government's pledge to maintain funding for education only covers the years of compulsory education from the ages of five to 16.
‘Slashing sixth-form funding to protect schools means the Government is building a very well appointed road to nowhere,’ said James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the SFCA. ‘Courses are being cut - particularly those that the Government is keen to see grow - modern foreign languages, STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths], class sizes are increasing and industrial unrest is on the increase. The curriculum is being seriously impoverished.’
Baroness Morgan accuses Tories of ousting non-Conservative supporters
4 February 2014
Baroness Sally Morgan has hit back at the Conservatives following the announcement that Michael Gove will not be renewing her term as head of Ofsted. Her current term, which was due to end this month, will be extended to the autumn while a successor is found, but she will not be given a second spell.
Major new composition resources from SaM
30 January 2014
Following recent scrutiny from Ofsted of the effectiveness of hubs, low expectations in music and the ‘lack of rigour’ in the curriculum, Sound and Music is publishing the results of an action research project, which it says has ‘pinpointed the key elements to teaching composition through bringing together research teams of composers, teachers and researchers in classroom settings’.
Music Teacher magazine will be publishing a series of articles from big-name composers and teachers with resources on how to use the approach in the classroom.
‘The talent of many young British composers is being lost as we are simply not effective enough in spotting and growing the next generation and the ones losing out are our young people,’ says Sound and Music chairman John Knell. ‘Just like instrumentalists, singers, designers, or writers, composers need their talents to be challenged, supported, trained and developed. They need a progressive approach over time to train their capacity to generate original musical ideas which are then developed and explored creatively – skills incidentally which a growing body of evidence indicates can directly enhance wider social and creative thinking skills, and therefore broader school improvement too.
'We have to transform the desiccated musical experience on offer in too many of our schools. How can we make a change?
'Today, we are publishing the results of our action research project Listen Imagine Compose, (executive summary here, project page here) which uniquely has pinpointed the key elements to teaching composition through bringing together research teams of composers, teachers and researchers in classroom settings.
'Listen Imagine Compose is revolutionary in that it takes apart the act of composition itself, in ways that can be applied in the classroom. It gives teachers the tools and confidence to enjoy and explore their own musical creativity as they better support that of their students. It is genuinely progressive, encouraging pupils not only to have ideas but then to develop them into a coherent musical whole, and then reflect and critique the outcome. It helps young people find a compositional voice and creative self-confidence through practical and enjoyable work.'
The approach of Listen Imagine Compose, which was developed and delivered in partnership with Birmingham City University and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, has generated some compelling evidence:
- Pupils who undertook the project became better at composing as a result of it
- Taking apart the process of composition – generating what can be a very simple idea, then developing and reflecting upon it – is not only very effective and rewarding for pupils and teachers. It also takes pupils very rapidly towards higher order thinking. This points to the need for further research to be undertaken around the links between composing and creative thinking.
- Teachers, composers and musicians (or, put another way, hubs and schools) can work together with pupils for more sustained progression. When these different skills are brought together in delivering music education, increased quality of pupil learning results.
Knell added: 'We are excited about these findings and future possibilities, and we will do all we can to ensure that Listen, Imagine Compose plays a full role in enhancing the quality of music teaching in all our schools, strengthening the impact of composition on broader school achievement. It’s time to compose a brighter score for music education.'
TV show seeks primary school in need of music support
30 January 2014
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