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Ofqual Announces New Design for GCSEs

1 November 2013

This morning Ofqual announced their plans to redesign some of the key features of GCSE exams from September 2015. English language, English literature and maths will be the first to follow Ofqual's new format, with new GCSEs in other subjects introduced from the following year.

Earlier this week, exam board insiders confirmed that as many as 20 GCSE subjects would be undergoing scrutiny to determine whether they are 'too soft' to be branded as GCSEs. Following fears that subjects such as music may not deemed 'academic' enough to retain GCSE status, Ofqual's chief regulator Glenys Stacey has stated that 'The aim is not to stop important, established subjects, but rather to make sure everyone is clear about what is a GCSE and what is not.' As it stands, Ofqual will not be consulting on which subjects will included in the new GCSE qualification until the new year. 

If music is accepted as a traditional, 'core' GCSE subject, it will follow the format of the newly-redesigned English and maths exams. This includes:

- A new grading system using the number 1-9 to indicate performance levels, with 9 being the top level

- Exams as the default method of assessment

- Tiering to be used only in cases when untiered papers will prevent students from demonstrating their knowledge and skills (at both ends of the ability spectrum)

- Exams only in the summer, apart from English language and maths. In these cases, students who were at least 16 on the preceding 31 August will be allowed to sit exams in November

- A fully linear structure, with all assessment at the end of the course

Children to star in Ocarina World Record Attempt

29 October 2013

In a week's time, thousands of children from primary schools across England, Wales and Gibraltar will attempt to make history with the world's largest ocarina ensemble. It is hoped that as many as 4,000 players will take part in a performance of 'Ode to a Joyful Star', which should easily exceed the current record of 831 performers.

Children and audience members will be taught to play the ocarina on the day. All those taking part will receive a free ocarina on entry to the Royal Albert Hall. The six-minute work will be conducted by composer Douglas Coombes OBE, with the performance accompanied by the Royal Albert Hall organ. 

2013 marks 50 years since the development of the English 4-hole ocarina, which has been newly re-styled for the occasion. David Liggins, founder and director of Ocarina Workshop, is responsible for bringing this instrument to schools across the world. 'Music is for everyone,' he said. 'We look forward to parents and supporters all joining in to create one massive family ocarina band!'

Proceeds from the evening will go to Barnardo's. Tickets are available from the Royal Albert Hall box office. For more information, visit the Ocarina Workshop website.

MusicBiz competition to fight copyright crime

24 October 2013

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has recently launched 'MusicBiz', a competition aimed at helping 14-18 year olds better understand how artists, songwriters and bands are rewarded for their creativity.

The competition is open to individuals as well as schools and colleges. Entrants are invited to create either a short film or a storyboard on how they think the music industry operates, and how musicians make a living. The competition winners will win concert tickets, music download vouchers and unique music industry experiences. Schools and colleges could also win specialist software.

It is hoped that MusicBiz will heighten the awareness of copyright, piracy and intellectual property issues amongst young people. Minister for Intellectual Property, Lord Younger, said: 'The internet has revolutionised the way that we all get, listen to and store music. However, with these changes we have experienced, unfortunately, increasing amount of piracy and copyright infringement. One of the ways we can help tackle this is through educating people as to how the music industry operates. Through the MusicBiz competition we hope to show them the importance of both the value and protection of copyright and creativity for our world-class creative industries.'

Jo Dipple, chief executive of UK Music, said that she hopes MusicBiz will appeal both to teachers and students, and encourage open conversation in the classroom on the topic of intellectual property issues.

MusicBiz is part of the IPO's education campgain 'Treasure Island', which is aims to engage young people in intellectual property issues in a creative way. For more details on how to enter the competition, visit the MusicBiz website

Spotlight on Vocal Ensemble at The Guardian Charity Awards

22 October 2013

Vocal ensemble Ex Cathedra has been shortlisted for The Guardian Charity Awards 2013. For a number of years the ensemble has been running several successful education projects and training initiatives, with the aim of bringing singing into the heart of the community. 

Ex Cathedra's 'Singing Playgrounds' is a first-access singing project that has already reached over 100,000 children in 450 schools in the UK, as well as schools in New Zealand and Thailand. The ensemble has also been running a 'Singing Medicine' project for almost 10 years, where members of the group deliver weekly singing sessions at three children's hospitals in the UK.

Winners of The Guardian Charity Awards will be announced on Tuesday 3 December 2013.

New Principal for RCS

16 October 2013

Jeffrey Sharkey has just been appointed as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s next principal. He will succeed John Wallace on his retirement in September 2014.

Pianist, composer and educator Jeffrey Sharkey has been the director of the Peabody Institute at the John Hopkins University in Baltimore since 2006. Previous appointments include dean of the Cleveland Institute of Music, director of music at the Purcell School and head of composition and academic music at Wells Cathedral School. Mr Sharkey is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, Yale University and the University of Cambridge.

Commenting on his appointment, Mr Sharkey said: ‘I have long admired the work and achievements of the Royal Conservatoire under the outstanding and creative leadership of John Wallace. I am excited to take forward the Royal Conservatoire’s innovative curriculum that prepares students across all disciplines for the rapidly changing arts world. The Royal Conservatoire has much to offer the country and the wider world, and I am delighted to be part of its exciting future.’

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