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Birkbeck College closes respected opera course

18 June 2012

Birkbeck College, part of the University of London, is to close its part-time opera course, designed to help people who could not commit to a full-time course. The course aimed to ‘develop performance skills, expand knowledge and understanding, and encourage clarity in vocal and physical expression in opera practice’.

Siobhan O’Higgins, lecturer and music coach in opera, said she was deeply saddened by the closure. ‘It offered those with a serious interest in singing a chance to develop their skills,’ she said. ‘For serious amateurs it offered the opportunity to develop a serious hobby in accommodating hours, particularly those with families or full-time jobs, since classes took place in the evenings. Many of our students travelled from Cornwall and Somerset, indicating that there aren’t many such courses available.’ The course also had a good record for getting students into music college, with several students embarking on postgraduate vocal courses each year.

Birkbeck College told MT: ‘We can confirm that the Certificate of Higher Education, Performance and Creative Practice: Opera has been discontinued. All the affected staff have been notified following College procedures. There will be no further comment.’

Music to stay on the primary curriculum

18 June 2012

The government has announced that music is to remain on the primary national curriculum. A draft of the proposed primary curriculum has been published to allow for informal consultation, ahead of a redraft by the Department for Education later in the year.

Education secretary Michael Gove said he wants to make English, maths and science more demanding, ‘to align England with those countries that have the highest-performing school systems’. Otherwise, there will be no changes to the structure of the primary curriculum. The government will maintain the requirement for the teaching of art and design, design and technology, geography, history, ICT, music and physical education across all the primary years, and drafts for these subjects will follow later this year. These will be much shorter than the drafts for English, maths and science, with the aim of giving teachers ‘more freedom’.

Music consultant and manager of the Teaching Music website David Ashworth described the announcement as good news. ‘It’s good to hear that teachers will have more freedom in designing and implementing curriculum music, but many primary teachers will need help and support with this.  We also require freedom for primary teachers to be able to access quality, ongoing, peer-led CPD and guidance on more creative approaches to classroom music-making.’

Arts Award launches two new qualifications

6 June 2012

Arts Award, a national qualification which supports young people to develop as artists and arts leaders, has launched Arts Award Discover and Arts Award Explore, two new awards for children and young people from the age of seven upwards.

A major national pilot scheme for the two awards involved more than 2,000 young people. Primary schools from east London that took part in the project spent an afternoon at the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford E15, with children’s author Michael Rosen, who unveiled a new poem about the scope of different art forms.

'I am honoured to lend my support to this important programme,' said Rosen. 'My new poem encourages everyone to see the arts around them, so I am delighted that whatever their inspiration, children can celebrate their creativity through doing an Arts Award.'

Since it was launched in 2005, 60,000 young people aged 11 to 25 have achieved an Arts Award. Alice Young, head of Arts Award at Trinity College London, said, 'Our ambition, together with Arts Council England, is that Arts Award will support many more children and young people to gain recognition for their creative achievements. We are delighted that we can now warmly welcome those aged seven upwards to take part.'

Jan Beames, headteacher at Cherry Orchard Primary School in Charlton, south-east London, took part in the national pilot. 'Our children come from different cultures and countries. They have different religions and languages yet they live and learn together,' she said. 'Arts Award is the channel through which we can find common ground, build relationships, celebrate our achievements and share them with the community within which we live.'


Former Royal Academy of Music director jailed for £230,000 fraud

30 May 2012

Royal Academy of Music: former finance director jailed
Royal Academy of Music: former finance director jailed

Janet Whitehouse, the former director of finance at the Royal Academy of Music who earlier this month pleaded guilty to charges of having defrauded the RAM of more than £230,000, was today sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court.

Whitehouse resigned from the RAM in March 2011 after members of Academy staff became suspicious of invoices submitted by Stephen Newell, then head of information at the institution. Newell is yet to face trial over related charges, but the invoices he submitted were to be paid to Whitely Associates – a company of which Janet Whitehouse was a director – for work which a Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said ‘was entirely invented’.

Whitehouse also fabricated paperwork in the name of the Academy’s former principal, Curtis Price, purporting to authorise increases to her pension fund totalling £100,000, and secured rent-free accommodation from the RAM on behalf of her son, which was valued ‘in excess of £30,000’.

She repaid a total of £319,465.05 following her resignation.

Andrew Penhale, deputy head of the CPS Central Fraud Group, said the CPS was ‘pleased to have brought the case to a swift conclusion’.

At court proceedings on 2 May, Stephen Newell gave no indication of a plea and his next court appearance is due to take place on 13 June.

Arts Council announces four new In Harmony projects

28 May 2012

Arts Council England is to launch four new In Harmony projects, which will be monitored to ensure they provide evidence of their social impact and sustainability.

In Harmony, an England-wide programme based on Venezuela's El Sistema, aims to inspire and transform the lives of children in deprived communities using the power and disciplines of community-based orchestral music-making.

The new projects will run from 2012 to 2015. The decision to commission them follows the National Plan for Music's recommendation to continue and expand the existing In Harmony projects. The new projects will build on the experiences and achievements of the three In Harmony projects in Lambeth, Liverpool and Norwich, and will follow a common set of core principles, which include: providing total immersion in orchestral music-making several times a week from an early age, open to all children in the school or community where the projects are working; providing teaching of exceptionally high quality; ensuring musical progression is embedded from the start; and encouraging children to help each other learn.

The Department for Education and Arts Council England will jointly fund the programme, with the Arts Council taking a central coordinating and development role. Alan Davey, chief executive of the Arts Council England, said: 'The past year has seen the Arts Council make some really significant interventions to give young people the chance to explore and experience the arts.'

Applications for the In Harmony grants are open now and will close on 25 June 2012.


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