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Milton Keynes Music Teachers Bounce Back from Redundancy

21 April 2014

The Musicians’ Union (MU) is supporting its members who have set up Milton Keynes Music Co-operative, which launched this week. Following the redundancy of nearly 100 instrumental teachers, the MU has provided practical support and advice to a core group of dedicated teachers who rallied their colleagues to set up the Milton Keynes Music Co-operative. With a membership of 60 self-employed teachers the cooperative will work alongside the skeleton Milton Keynes Music Service as part of the local Music Hub, to ensure delivery to children in the area of instrumental lessons.


MU Organiser for Education & Training Diane Widdison said: ‘Their commitment to being part of a collaborative body, sharing resources, developing good practice, and offering consistency to schools, parents and children, is typical of the vocational drive we find among music teachers. We applaud these teachers who, whilst facing redundancy and all the stress this entails, devoted huge energy and time to finding a way for teachers to stay together and not be cast out into a competitive landscape where increased competition tends so often to lead to under cutting and a gradual erosion of teaching standards.’


The formation of the Milton Keynes Music Co-operative has been supported by the Musicians’ Union, Swindon Music Co-operative, David Barnard (Managing Director of Sound Futures Ltd and was founder of the Swindon Music Co-operative) and the Co-op Enterprise Hub.

New Music Scholarship at Christ's Hospital

21 April 2014

Christ’s Hospital School has announced a new music scholarship in memory of Sir Colin Davis, who was a pupil at the school from 1939 to 1945.

Andrew Cleary, Director of Music at Christ’s Hospital said: 'Sir Colin Davis was a much respected and world-class musician. We are immensely proud that somebody who gave so much to music was a pupil here at Christ’s Hospital. Like so many Old Blues who have experienced a life-changing opportunity at the School, Colin Davis went on to inspire so many. We are honoured to be able to offer such a prestigious scholarship to inspire a young musician at the School and keep Sir Colin’s association with our School alive amongst our pupils.'

Christ’s Hospital’s scholarship programme recognises high achieving and outstanding individuals who excel in specific fields and who would benefit from financial assistance. Scholarships are awarded to pupils who are entering the School at Years 7, 9 and Sixth Form.

Discord at the NCO

17 April 2014

A group of people connected with the National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain (NCO), calling themselves ‘concerned stakeholders’, have publically aired grievances against the charity’s board of trustees, and effectively called for a coup d’état, albeit one with the organisation’s founder at its helm.

The website www.ournco.org.uk, which is authored anonymously but publically supported by NCO founder Vivienne Price, accuses the trustees of secretly ‘implementing a programme of radical change’. Issues under discussion include the diminished managerial role of Price’s successor, principal director of music Roger Clarkson; the cost of appointing and employing the managing director Sarah Derbyshire; and plans to move the base of operations from Somerset to Birmingham.

A lengthy editorial on the website calls for the resignation of all trustees except Price, and for her to be allowed to form a new board. A petition has been launched to this effect.

Responding to the allegations and the petition, Derbyshire told MT: ‘The NCO is going through a period of change, ensuring that we are fit for purpose in a fast-moving world. I am deeply sorry that our founder, Vivienne Price, does not feel that she can support some of the major changes we are discussing and working on and I am particularly sorry for her personal upset. 

‘NCO values are, and always will be, at the heart of all that we do. We are passionate about offering the best experience we can to our children and have developed our musical opportunities to reach more children, such as increasing the numbers of orchestras. But this all takes time and money. We need to work to continue raising our profile and attracting funding to ensure that we can continue what we are doing now so successfully and to offer much more in the future.

‘One significant decision is the proposed move to Birmingham, the reasons for which are understood by the NCO’s largest funder, Arts Council England. This move will: position the NCO in a vibrant musical and cultural centre and raise the profile of the NCO as a national organisation; improve access and support collaborative work, thereby involving more families and more children; provide positive professional opportunities for our staff; offer the NCO the opportunity to work alongside major national music and arts organisations; enhance our ability to raise funds and to maintain our services in what is a very challenging time for charities; and enable us to share good practice with like-minded organisations and so build on our successes in providing talented young musicians with the best possible musical and social experience.

‘The implication on the OurNCO website that Roger Clarkson, principal director of music, is no longer in charge of the musical direction of the NCO is incorrect. Roger’s musical leadership is respected by the board.‘I truly hope that we can begin speaking with Vivienne’s representatives and those who have initiated this petition to try and resolve the situation as quickly and as smoothly as possible, moving forward and working together towards a common goal.’

Following our coverage of recent disputes regarding the management of the National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain (NCO) and the petition launched by the authors of the website www.ournco.org.uk, we have received statements from both ourNCO and the NCO board. The statements can be found here.

£21.3 million of music service funding under threat

17 April 2014

The Department for Education (DfE) has published a consultation report recommending that local authorities cut their funding for music services.

Music Services are the lead partners in many of the 123 music hubs. The document, titled ‘Savings to the Education Services Grant for 2015/16’, was compiled after case studies were made of 18 local authorities and 13 academies across the country. The preface sets up the overarching approach: ‘our expectation [is] that schools should take greater responsibility for their own improvement, leaving local authorities to focus on their statutory functions‘. Later, it concludes: ‘Our expectation is that music services should now be funded through music education hubs (which can cover one or more local authority areas) and from school budgets, not from the Education Services Grant [i.e. not from local authority budgets].’

Leading the backlash is the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), which has said, in a statement: ‘These local authorities were putting £21.3 million into music education in 2011/12 but now this funding could be lost completely.’ 

The ISM’s quoted figure is nearly 40% of the total amount allocated to hubs through Arts Council England for 2013/14. 

ISM chief executive Deborah Annetts, taking the stage at the organisation’s annual conference, said: ‘Following the confusion caused by the EBacc and other mixed messages around the value the government places on music education, we now need an unequivocal commitment from the Department for Education that it supports music education and is fully behind the National Plan for Music Education.

‘Last week we celebrated as music was included in the Government’s GCSE reforms, but this week, we find that the Government is backing additional cuts to the music education budget worth millions. In the foreword to the National Plan for Music Education in England, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, said:  “We would not have scaled the heights of artistic greatness in the first place without our pre-eminence in music education”. He was right. We therefore call on the government to halt this consultation and turn back before it is too late.’

For more information on the ISM’s ongoing campaign, visit www.protectmusiceducation.org.

Overhauled music GCSEs and A Levels to be taught from 2016

9 April 2014

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced today that the ‘reformed’ GCSE and A Level qualifications in music, as well as overhauled syllabuses in religious studies, design & technology, drama, dance and PE, will be taught in schools from September 2016.

It marks the first time that Michael Gove has put arts subjects into the same timeframe for reform as subjects such as English, maths and science. Revised syllabuses for the majority of subjects taken at GCSE and A Level are now set to be taught from either 2015 or 2016, with subjects such as maths, English, science, computer science and history remaining at the vanguard of Gove’s reform project.

In his preface to the statement, the Education Secretary said: ‘Our changes will make these qualifications more ambitious, with greater stretch for the most able; will prepare young people better for the demands of employment and further study; will address the pernicious damage caused by grade inflation and dumbing down, which have undermined students’ achievements for far too long; and will give pupils, parents, teachers, universities and employers greater confidence in the integrity and reliability of our qualifications system.

The full announcement can be found here

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