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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. 

Lady Morgan, a Labour peer, said her removal was part of a pattern of non-Conservative supporters on bodies like the Arts Council and Charity Commission being replaced by Tories. 

‘I am the latest of a fairly long list of people now who are non-Conservative supporters who are not being re-appointed. I think there is absolutely a pattern. It's extremely worrying,’ she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. 

‘One of the really important things about public appointments is that they are made on the basis of merit and they are seen to be transparently made. I think there is something going on in the centre that's mitigating against that. 

‘I think there is an absolutely determined effort from No 10 that Conservative supporters will be appointed to public bodies. I think that is an issue for the Cabinet Secretary and the Cabinet Office to look at. 

‘It has been a quiet, quiet drip. I'm not talking about Labour people being replaced, I'm talking about non-Conservative supporters being replaced by Conservative supporters. 

‘There is a lot of concern about it. Often they are people who have been working really well with their organisations and, indeed, with their host departments, so I do think this is coming from No 10. I don't think it is coming from individual departments.’ 

Mr Gove said: ‘I would like to record my thanks to Sally Morgan for her tremendous contribution to the work of Ofsted. She has brought great knowledge and insight, leading the board strongly through a period of significant change.’

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

Jamie Oliver's TV production company Fresh One is calling for headteachers and teachers who struggle to find enough resources for ther music provision to get in touch about a 'pioneering music scheme'. 
The call from the company reads: 'We are looking to offer music tuition to a whole year group (possibly both Years 4 and 5) and provide tuition, support and instruments to the students and teachers free of charge. Backed up by substantial evidence that playing an instrument can enrich the lives of children and their communities, raise their academic attainment and attendance, as well as increase their confidence and aspiration levels, the project will be sustained and have a continuing legacy.
'We are keen to speak to a school that would really benefit from this project. We'd love to help where instrument resources are scarce and teacher availability/confidence is also part of the challenge. Can we halp you include music as part of a holistic curriculum?'
Interested parties should get in touch with Vivienne Perry on 0203 375 5159 or at Vivienne.perry@freshone.tv. 

Sistema Secures EU Funding for Exchange Programme

29 January 2014

The Culture Programme of the European Union has committed to funding of €200,000 for an exchange programme between Sistema-inspired initiatives on both sides of the Atlantic.


Sistema-inspired Music Education and Exchange with Canada (SMEEC) will see 2,000 young musicians and tutors working and performing together during 2014 and 2015 in England, Italy and Canada.


Young musicians aged from nine to 16 will jointly rehearse and give concerts with the choirs and orchestras of similar programmes in other countries. There will be up to 50 concerts, including two large scale international ensemble concerts. There are also plans to commission a new work for children’s ensembles.

In addition to providing learning, performing and travelling opportunities for disadvantaged young musicians, it is hoped that the exchange programme will provide opportunities for teachers to share knowledge, research and best practice.

SMEEC is coordinated by Sistema England working with Sistema Italia in Italy, The Leading Note Foundation and Sistema Toronto in Canada, and European Mozart Ways and Go-operate in Austria.

Richard Hallam of Sistema England said: ‘The high profile and scale of these performances will inspire the young musicians and their peers, and will help to raise the expectations of the children involved, and their families, teachers and communities.’

David Visentin, executive and artistic director of Sistema Toronto added: ‘SMEEC will also provide opportunities for media exposure and additional funding through consolidating and building on the success of the individual projects, thus securing a sustainable legacy.’

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