If you teach music in a high school please read this and respond ...

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If you teach music in a high school, could I ask you what’s happening to the provision of music at Key Stage 3 and 4 within your school at the moment?

I am very concerned about the potential impact of changes to the Key Stage 3 curriculum and the imposition of the EBacc on music education. So, please could you write me a very short paragraph about what is happening in your school and email it to me at j.savage@mmu.ac.uk.

I would be particularly interested to know whether:

1. The hours you get to teach music are reducing;

2. The number of pupils opting to study music at GCSE next year (i.e. for start in Sept 2011) have fallen because of the way your school has responded to the EBacc;

3. There are any changes (increases or reductions) to staffing in your music department.

I would ‘publish’ these stories on my blog but these would be done anonymously (both in terms of your name and your school’s name of course). And if you'd rather I didn't publish them at all, please just let me know.

I know everyone is busy, but in the current political climate it is absolutely vital that the voices of music teachers in schools are heard more clearly. This is one small way of doing that.

If there is no change in the provision of music in your school, then please drop me a line to say that too!
 

Replies

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Hi there, this may not be relevant, but a High School in Cardiff recently advertised for a Full time music Teacher - there were 55 applicants, some from as far away as London. Two years ago a nearby school only had two candidates apply. Music jobs seem to resemble hen's teeth suddenly....
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Emma Coulthard
A long time ago
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Teaching Music in a secondary school for over 16 years and I can say the general support for music from the SLT and parents is not changing a great deal; despite all we try to do the support from both is, at best luke warm.

We still average 1 hour per week of music provision in KS3 but we are still to find out what the timetable plans for next academic year are.

KS4 has seen a rise in numbers this year as we have, somewhat reluctantly, moved away from GCSE to the BTEC. Before then we never attracted less than 12 but results have dwindled due to the caliber of candidates. The main problem we faced was the numbers game of candidates below the C grade - despite the face that many candidates achieved or exceeded their target grades.

The option process available to us means that pupils opt for two subjects from a possible 17 and our subject is often put down and belittled by other staff competing for the same 'bums on seats'.
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Spirered
A long time ago
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Hi Jonathan

In my school the hours I teach music have reduced, but that is due to the drastic fall in numbers on the school roll rather than anything else (Luckily this has worked out fine for me personally as I wanted to go part-time after returning from maternity leave anyway). I am the only music teacher and teach 4 days per week although still have a lighter timetable than I should have. The number of pupils opting for GCSE Music has stayed consistently between 9-11 over the last 4 years, which is good because the number of pupils in each year group has got less but my numbers have not. The other change to have happened is that pupils now choose their options at the end of Year 8 and do a 3 year KS4. No one has really mentioned EBacc at my school. However they wouldn't let me offer A Level because it can be done at other schools in the consortium.

Thanks for all your thoughts, they make me think!
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cmerser
A long time ago
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I think that making them aware of the seriousness of the situation is important. The stories I have collected on my blog are there to help teachers (and others) see that there is a common pattern emerging and the the future for music education in schools (generally) looks bleak. There are notable exceptions as you would expect. However, whatever the NC Review or the National Plan for Music Education (whenever that materialises) say, serious cut backs in music provision are happening now.

For my money, I would urge all teachers and anyone with a love for music education and a belief that it is the right of every child to receive a systematic, coherent and development music education to at least write, or go and see, their constituency MP. I say mine on Saturday. She got the simple points I was making straightaway. I used a couple of stories from schools in her constituency that had been sent in. She is willing to write to Michael Gove and raise these concerns.

We have to all start becoming a little more political if we are to change the current situtation. Just sitting there and saying 'Music is fine in my school' won't wash anymore. It may not be fine for much longer given the way things are going.
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jsavage
A long time ago
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Jonathan, re: your comment on the balance between being busy and making time to engage professionally and politically: this is exactly the point! They can't expect other people to do this for them. What can we do to encourage more teachers to get stuck in?
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bill@yamaha
A long time ago
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1. No reduction
2. No reduction in pupils opting. The school has changed the option system. Not sure if we are recruiting the same numbers of bright students - this isn't monitored. certainly amongst the Arts there are less to go around - however it is difficult to measure the precise impact.
3. No changes in staffing yet.

my school immediately changed its option system from a completely free choice to a restricted one with a very strong line that the brightest 25% would be "encouraged" to choose a language and a humanities - with those declining being interviewed on a one to one to persuade otherwise. The obvious impact would be less bright students for the Arts - but this is difficult to measure.
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Musicteacher
A long time ago
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Hello Jonathan, I replied via email but I don't mind not being anonymous. I just thought that was the protocol. xx
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Perez Ainsworth
A long time ago
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Thanks Bill. I agree. There seems to be a considerable reluctance to engage with this by our national organisations, as well as by individual teachers (who often claim they are too busy to know what is going on). However, I'd maintain that we are all busy and it is a vital part of all our work to keep informed and to engage, professionally and politically (if needed). There is much at stake and much to be lost. Let's hope that significant numbers of individuals wake up to what is going on around them. And let's hope that our national organisations for music education find their spines and do something too!
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jsavage
A long time ago
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Thanks for your replies, Jonathan. Good luck with your MP. I'm hearing from others who are doing the same but I sense that the numbers of individuals doing this may not be large.
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bill@yamaha
A long time ago
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And in response to your questions:

1. No. I don't have a sense of this, but I expect that the KS3 provision will decrease in the majority of schools. I think music will still be taught at KS3 in most schools.
2. I wouldn't say 'many', but there are some for whom the situation is not changing much.
3. Yes, I want to be balanced. I'm not wanting to be overly cynical or a doom-monger!
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jsavage
A long time ago
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Hi Bill,

I might do that. However, we all have to ask ourselves what we are doing about it. My motivation is partly driven by an opportunity to meet with my own MP who has initiated debates in the HoC on the EBacc. I want to tell her some of the 'real' stories that are unfolding in schools.

I hope others will do the same.

Thanks,

Jonathan
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jsavage
A long time ago
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Jonathan, good to see your initiative on this and wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog. Your opinions and take on things always make compelling reading, but, on this subject, it's sadly rather like watching a slow-motion disaster unfolding before our eyes.

Some questions:
1. Do you have a sense yet of the proportion of schools which are likely to lose music at KS3, if the current strategies in schools continue?
2. Are there many whose provision is not threatened at all or only marginally?
3. Is your aim to indicate that balance or are you planning mainly to highlight places where there is a problem?

While your blog can clearly do a certain amount, would it be worth approaching Music Teacher to see if they'd be interested in conducting a larger survey?
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bill@yamaha
A long time ago
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12 stories received so far. 10 published on my blog. 2 preferred to be anonymous. Thanks for all your responses.

Nothing here yet?
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jsavage
A long time ago