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Teachers express concern over A-level composing assessment

2 December 2015

Judith Weir
Judith Weir

New research has found that that teachers and examiners are concerned about the validity and reliability of composing assessment practices.

The results of a nationwide survey of secondary school music teachers are contained in a paper titled 'Music A Level Assessment of Composing - Research into teacher attitudes'.

Data was collected through an online survey in May 2015 and nine follow-up telephone interviews. The survey received a total of 71 responses from teachers working in both state and independent sectors.

This paper finds that the majority of music teachers have experienced inconsistent external examination marking, and, as a consequence, do not feel confident to accurately predict students' grades.

It also revealed that they feel that external examination assessment requirements are not clear, and that many schools send compositions back for remarking after results are in.

Follow‐up interviews showed that inconsistent marking has a direct impact on how composing is taught at A‐level, with teachers struggling to fulfil examination criteria and provide a stimulating musical experience. Those past examiners who responded to the survey reported a lack of confidence in the system and their training.

The research was conducted by director of research in education at Birmingham City University Professor Martin Fautley and composer, workshop leader and PhD student Kirsty Devaney and published by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM).

Devaney said: ‘Many composers discover composing through school but there is a worry that inconsistent marking at examination level may discourage young musicians taking music, thus impacting the place of music as an A-level subject.’

In her executive summary, Judith Weir wrote: 'These results come at a time when governmental focus on "rigorous and demanding" examinations in the arts, and the introduction of the EBacc, are putting an increased strain on classroom music teachers.

'At any level, evaluating a completely new piece of music is a complex task. The authors’ suggestions for renewed focus on the evaluation procedure will I hope be the beginning of a wider discussion about how to do this fairly, without limiting the students’ possibility to produce work which excites their interest in contemporary music.'

Music A Level Assessment of Composing - Research into teacher attitudes

Urban Development receives ACE Ambition for Excellence award

2 December 2015

Urban Development Vocal Collective
Urban Development Vocal Collective

Music charity Urban Development is one of three organisations to receive funding from Arts Council England's Ambition for Excellence programme.

Urban Development will use the £350,000 grant to establish a national youth music organisation for commercial and urban music, offering young people a structured talent development pathway. The programme will be delivered in conjunction with partners across the country by the Urban Development Music Foundation.

The charity aims to help disadvantaged young people overcome their circumstances by developing their skills, advancing their education, relieving unemployment, and promoting social inclusion. It provides training, workshops, mentoring, and studio access.

Pamela McCormick, founder and director of Urban Development, said: 'We are delighted to receive the support of ACE with this ambitious project to invest in grassroots talent. We believe that inner city working class young people deserve an opportunity for structured industry-relevant development towards careers in music and the creative industries.  It shouldn't be just the preserve of the lucky, or privileged, few.'

The Ambition for Excellence programme aims to stimulate and support ambition, talent and excellence across the arts sector in England. 80-90% of the £35m fund will be spent outside London.

Urban Development Music Foundation

NYMAZ announces second phase of distance learning programme

1 December 2015, Alex Stevens

Pupils taking part in the first phase of Connect: Resound
Pupils taking part in the first phase of Connect: Resound

North Yorkshire youth music development charity NYMAZ has announced that the second phase of its Connect: Resound distance learning programme will take place in rural areas in Cornwall, Cumbria, Durham & Darlington, East Riding of Yorkshire and North Yorkshire.

Music education hubs in these areas will be provided with equipment and training to enable their teachers to deliver online lessons, based on the model used during the Connect: Resound pilot which took place in seven North Yorkshire primary schools earlier this year.

The method uses video streaming, Skype and Twitter to allow teachers to lead lessons in hard-to-reach rural areas from a central base. Partners in the project include technology partner UCan Play and the University of Hull.

The summary report on the project’s pilot found that, despite a feeling that face-to-face teaching remained the ideal model, any technical issues were possible to overcome and the project represented a viable way of providing instrumental music lessons in hard-to-reach areas.

All parents gave at least ‘satisfactory’ feedback on their children’s progress, with 74% of pupils and 68% of parents or carers wanting lessons to continue either ‘quite a lot’ or ‘very much’.

In the pilot area, £77,000 was spent each year on teachers’ mileage allowance, with total travelling time in a typical week amounting to 139 hours to deliver 980 hours of face-to-face tuition.

‘There are potential savings both in terms of economic costs and time spent by teachers travelling between schools,’ said the report. In this area, the lower costs could make lessons viable in particularly small and remote schools where there were not enough pupils to make face-to-face lessons cost effective.

Heidi Johnson, director of NYMAZ, said of the expansion: ‘The National Plan for Music Education states that all children should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument – we are striving to make this a reality.

‘We are delighted to be working with new Music Education Hub partners across the country which see the potential to create enhanced music education opportunities for rurally isolated children by using digital technology.

‘The funding from Arts Council England and J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust will enable the Music Education Hubs to embed high-quality online learning methods into their business plans.’

NYMAZ homepage

Spending review puts pressure on local authorities

25 November 2015, Alex Stevens

Council cuts: George Osborne delivers his spending review
Council cuts: George Osborne delivers his spending review

Chancellor George Osborne has delivered his spending review, including a £10bn overall increase in education spending over the course of the parliament and a promise of higher funding for Arts Council England. The review details departmental spending limits up to 2020 and beyond.

A new funding formula for schools will be introduced from 2017, with the aim of reducing geographical disparities in per-pupil spending. The Department for Education will run a consultation on the changes next year.

‘We will make local authorities running schools become a thing of the past,’ said Osborne. ‘Our goal is to complete the school revolution and help every secondary school become an academy … This will help us save around £600m from the Education Services Grant.’

In 2014 the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) led a campaign to protect music spending through the Education Services Grant, which is given to councils on a per-pupil basis and through which around £21m was thought to have been spent by councils on music education in 2011/12. If the government’s aim was achieved, any money spent through the ESG would also be lost.  

By the end of the parliament the direct allocation for local governments’ day-to-day spending will be £4.1bn less per year than it is currently. This means that non-statutory services, including councils’ support for music education and cultural provision, are likely to come under further pressure.

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, said in response: 'Even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children's centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020.'

To mitigate the effects of budget cuts, councils will be allowed to sell off assets and retain all of the proceeds, and have been encouraged to make use of their reserves.

Spending on culture will be maintained, said Osborne: ‘Deep cuts in the small budget of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport are a false economy. Its core administration budget will fall by 20% but I am increasing the cash that will go to the Arts Council, our national museums and galleries.’

With its spending limits confirmed, the Department for Education should now be in a position to decide how much will be spent on music education hubs after the end of the current financial year.

Responding to the review, the ISM's chief executive, Deborah Annetts, said she was 'delighted' that the Arts Council's budget had been protected and welcomed Osborne's continued commitment to investing in the cultural sector. 

However, she said, the government's education policy did not reflect this commitment: 'We are therefore troubled by plans to continue with the unevidenced and deeply damaging EBacc proposal which excludes creative subjects and creative industry skills from our secondary schools.

'These mixed messages must be sorted out, and creative subject given equal value in our schools.

'The Government have proved their commitment to music education before, committing £75m to support music education hubs in 2015/16 (an increase of £18m) and we hope that this commitment will continue.’


Trinity Laban announces new head of keyboard studies

25 November 2015

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance has appointed Peter Tuite as its new head of keyboard studies. He succeeds Deniz Gelenbe, who will continue to teach at the conservatoire.


Tuite comes to Trinity Laban from the Royal Irish Academy of Music, where he was head of the keyboard faculty and then senior dean.

He joins a department including Margaret Fingerhut, Pascal Rogé, Elena Riu, Steven Devine and Eugene Asti.

He studied at Trinity College Dublin, the University of Oxford and as a Fulbright Scholar at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. He has recently finished making a new film of the Goldberg Variations at the famous Long Room Library; future projects include the recording and filming of the complete Haydn sonatas for keyboard and a new series of compositions based on short portraits of Dublin.

Trinity Laban director of music Claire Mera-Nelson said that Tuite 'brings a wealth of experience, both as a pianist and as a pedagogue, and his incisive and eclectic cultural knowledge and progressive view of music education will be a huge asset to us all.'

Trinity Laban: Piano and keyboard instruments


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