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A minute a day...

18 September 2014

A new teaching app has been developed by Sound and Music which makes 60 seconds of music or sound available to classrooms every day of the school year, for children to hear and discuss.

‘Minute of Listening’ has been designed to encourage children in key stages 1 and 2 to spend some time each day just reflecting and listening, discovering a new world of sound that can stimulate their imaginations. The app was developed as the new national curriculum requires teachers to use materials that encourage listening, creativity and spoken language as part of a broader education.

Minutes come with background context, questions to stimulate a classroom discussion, and ideas for further creative activity. Individual minutes include sounds from Matthew Herbert’s An Apple a Day; a field recording of an East London Market from London Sound Survey; and an extract from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra. Sound and Music will create new ‘packs’ of minutes on a regular basis.

ABRSM finds 'music boom' in schools - but only for the well-off

15 September 2014

The ABRSM has led the most comprehensive survey of the learning, progression and teaching of musical instruments ever undertaken in the UK.

‘Making Music’, which builds on smaller surveys carried out in 1993 and 1999, is the product of a partnership between leading exam boards ABRSM and Trinity College London, alongside organisations including Ofsted, the Arts Council England and Youth Music. Nearly 4,500 teachers and 3,000 children and adults from the general population were interviewed as part of the survey.

The findings of Making Music, which were released on Monday 15 September, revealed that:

-          76% of children aged 14 or under say they ‘know how to play an instrument’, compared with 41% in 1999.

-          Electric guitar has overtaken violin for the first time in the list of top six most popular instruments learned. Piano has seen a 15% growth, securing its place as the most popular instrument played.


-          21% of the 6.7 million children who play an instrument are ‘self-taught’, through friends or digital technology

-          The proportion of children who have had instrumental lessons only at school has dropped from 78% to 60% since 1999.

-          Cost, and lack of opportunity at school are cited as the main reasons for never learning an instrument. The average age to give up learning an instrument is 11.

-          74% of children from A/B backgrounds have had instrumental lessons, either individually or in class groups, compared to 55% from social grades C1 and D/E.

-          40% of children who have never played an instrument are from the lower social grades and said they had no opportunity to learn at school.

It is clear from the report that more children than ever are playing a wider range of musical instruments – a fact celebrated by the report as a ‘music boom’. Technology also seems to be an important factor in creating more opportunities for people to engage with music. However, this picture is extremely uneven in social and geographical terms. Despite a rise in enthusiasm to play instruments, children clearly have fewer opportunities to progress through formal educational routes beyond primary school.

Lincoln Abbotts, director of strategic development at ABRSM, commented:

‘This ‘Making Music’ report is the result of a major collaboration between individuals and organisations deeply committed to music education across the UK. ABRSM is particularly proud that the two leading music exam boards – ourselves and Trinity College London – have been able to work together on this project with so many others. It is hoped the report will be used to influence, change and further improve the circumstances in which children and adults engage with music.

‘We must continue to collaborate to improve progression routes in musical learning and coordination among schools, private teachers, music services, community music and national organisations. Together we should explore the implications of the report’s findings and continue to champion the role of music and music specialists in schools, so that leaders can truly understand the positive impact they make. We must help policy makers target and align funding to support disadvantaged learners and address regional imbalances.’

The full report is available to read on the ABRSM website.

ISM urge response to GCSE and A Level consultation

11 September 2014

The ISM has called on everyone in the music education sector to protest against the government’s proposals on the new GCSE, AS and A Level in Music, despite having been closely involved with the formulation of the proposals, alongside the Music Education Council and other bodies. 

New exam proposals include just one properly defined area of study: ‘music composed in the western classical tradition between 1700 and 1900’. Such a timeframe would mean that students miss out on discovering a wealth of important music.

In addition, the government is proposing to limit the percentage of the exam dedicated to performance and composition, with more weight given to the sit-down examination.

Chief executive of the ISM Deborah Annetts voiced her concerns that the new GCSE, AS and A Level exams may be neither rigorous nor relevant enough for the next generation of budding musicians:

‘We need engaging qualifications that will get pupils learning the key knowledge and skills they will need to study music at GCSE, AS and A level and perhaps follow this into higher education. These proposed reforms, especially the proposed areas of study, risk music becoming a rigid, restrictive subject and remove the important processes that make the subject creative. We urge everyone to respond to the consultation to get this fresh threat to music education stopped in its tracks.’

For more information and to respond to the consultation, visit the ISM website.

New national poll highlights NPME failure

9 September 2014

A new national survey of primary school teachers has revealed alarming statistics regarding the state of music education across the country.

The poll, conducted by YouGov, found that less than one fifth (19%) of primary schools in the country are offering all pupils the chance to learn an orchestral instrument for a year, free of charge. This is in contrast to the vision outlined by the government in its 2011 National Plan for Music Education, which stated: ‘Children from all backgrounds and every part of England should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument; to make music with others; to learn to sing; and to have the opportunity to progress to the next level of excellence if they wish to.’

Data from the poll demonstrated that:

  • Up to 30% of primary school children do not have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument at all during their time at school
  • Only 50% of children have the opportunity to learn an orchestral instrument
  • Of that 50%, only 37% get to learn those instruments for a year free of charge
  • So only 19% of primary schools give ALL pupils the chance to learn an orchestral instrument for a year free of charge
The YouGov poll was commissioned by Fresh One Productions on behalf of internationally-renowned concert pianist, James Rhodes, whose new two-part documentary series – Don’t Stop the Music – begins this evening at 9pm on Channel 4.

Voicing his concerns over the situation, James commented: ‘When the government introduced its National Plan for Music, I had high hopes that music education in this country would give every child, from every background, the opportunity to learn an instrument. But it remains a lottery; it is inconsistent and often poorly provided for. Young children have a hunger and thirst to learn music that is simply not being met.’ 

Pianos for Leighton Park

8 September 2014

Reading-based Leighton Park School has become the latest addition to Yamaha’s Music Education Partner Programme.

The co-ed day and boarding school is also the first educational institution in the UK to purchase one of Yamaha’s flagship CFX concert grand pianos.

Leighton Park School bought a total of 19 instruments, including grand, upright, digital and stage pianos. At the request of the school’s director of music Rosemary Scales, Yamaha UK enlisted the help of pianist and composer Julian Joseph to help with the selection process, which took place in Hamburg at Yamaha’s European headquarters.

Ms Scales commented: ‘In looking to replace our stock of existing pianos the quality of the instruments was clearly a key factor, but we also wanted to find a partner who was equally passionate about making music accessible, irrespective of individual capabilities. Yamaha very much reflected this approach within their Music Education Partner Programme.’

The full listing of new Yamaha pianos installed at Leighton Park School is:

1 x CFX Concert Grand Piano; 1 x C7X; 1 x C3X Conservatoire Grand Piano; 7 x U1 Upright Pianos; 4 x b3 and 3 x b2 Upright Pianos; 1 x CVP605 Clavinova Digital Piano; 1 x CP40 Stage Piano.

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