Monthly Archives: February 2012

Why Notion should be the first choice for music notation (and other) software for your school …

The commercial world of music notation software in the UK has been dominated by two giants: Finale and Sibelius. But times are changing. Finale has no interest in the education market in the UK; Sibelius, since being bought by the US firm Avid, have neglected the UK education market and I’m hearing numerous stories of unhappy teachers struggling with expensive site licences and little, if any, customer support.

But there is an alternative – Notion Music.  Notion have a fantastic piece of music notation software that has gone down a storm in all the Roland Champion Schools that have used it over the last few months. It is easy to install on a school network, it has a fantastic sound library and, get this, it is supported by a superb range of mobile applications that integrate seamlessly into the main software itself. Furthermore, all the old Finale or Sibelius files that you have can be imported simply into Notion.

These things are impressive. But there is a more important reason why I think that Notion’s software should be the first choice for music educators in the UK. It comes down to people. Notion have a committed team of educational staff based in the UK to help you with your use of the software. They are at the end of the line, or just an email away, should you need technical or pedagogical support. I know this is a fact. I’ve seen it working. Teachers have been delighted with their support. So, for this reason (and all the other benefits that the range of Notion products have), I think that music teachers should abandon their loyalty to Sibelius (and, to a lesser extent, Finale) and embrace a third way – the Notion way.

In preparation for this post, I asked Richard Llewellyn (the education director for Notion in the UK) to send me an update of the latest work being done by Notion to integrate their main software packages with mobile technologies. I’m pleased to attached that file here. Please have a read through and, more importantly, seriously consider purchasing Notion for your school. You will not regret the move. And you’ll have a team of dedicated educators there to support you should you need it.

Finally, my company – – has recently begun trading in Roland and Notion products. So, should you wish to purchase anything from Notion, Roland, Edirol, Boss or Cakewalk then please get in touch with me directly. I can provide quotations for you within 24 hours and all products will come direct from the manufacturer with full warranties.

The NPME ‘board’


I have it on good authority that the board overseeing the implementation of the National Plan for Music Education will include:

  • Margaret Griffiths (ex-HMI);
  • Munira Mirza (Director of arts, culture and the creative industries for the Mayor of London);
  • Darren Henley (Classic FM);
  • Ed Watkins (music teacher at the West London Free School (why didn’t I guess!) and, wait for it, Deputy Chairman of Dulwich and West Norwood Conservatives);
  • Paul Roberts (Chair of the Board of Trustees for Creativity, Culture and Education;
  • Mike Welsh (NAHT)

So, pretty much keeping it in the family and not very strong on anything to do with music education pedagogy and practice (bar one, safe pair of hands). I can’t see many dissenting voices there.

In terms of who will be judging the various bids for music education ‘hubs’, I am still waiting to hear a detailed response from ACE. I’ll keep you posted.


Intellect really get it!

I enjoy reading Intellect’s magazine which seems to arrive, free of charge, every so often in my post-box. The most recent one was called Performing Arts: Why performance matters. It was a great read, starting with the editorial where  Jessica Mitchell wrote a short, excellent piece about why the performing arts matter. I’d like to share her final paragraph with you:

At Intellect, we believe absolutely in the importance of the performing arts – for the sake of the process, for the sake of the product, for the words, for the rhythm, for social change, for democracy, for catharsis: to empower us, to inspire us, to improve us. And because we believe in it, we will continue to provide a platform for performance research, in all its many forms: to campaign for the validity of ideas per se, rather than the commercial validity of an idea. We owe as much to the performing arts community, to our authors, editors and contributors, and to everyone else for whom it matters.

Here, here!

Who is judging the success of the National Plan for Music Education?

I’ve written to Arts Council England this morning concerning two, related matters: who is assessing the music hub bid applications; and who has appointed to the board that is overseeing the implementation of the National Plan for Music Education.

I may have missed something here because I’ve been off work for a while, but I don’t remember seeing any publicity about, or calls for applications, for these positions. Have you?

So, my letter today has asked:

  1. Who has been appointed to these two groups?
  2. What process was undertaken to identify suitable candidates?
  3. What criteria were used to select them?
  4. What experience/qualifications to these people have to do this job effectively.

I’ll let you know when/if I receive a reply.

A final update on the music hub bid from Cheshire East

In my previous post I was disappointed to have to write that a major provider of music education in Cheshire West and East had failed to support the establishment of a new charitable trust to provide music education services across Cheshire East. Well, in a late change of heart, I am delighted to report that Music for Life has agreed to support the establishment of the new Trust. The rival bid that they were planning to submit to ACE is also being withdrawn.

This is great news for all with an interest in providing a high quality, coherent and comprehensive music education service for all schools in Cheshire East. Firstly, Cheshire East will not be the only LA area where competitive bids have been submitted. But more importantly, subject to funding, the new Trust will represent all the current providers of music education in Cheshire East. It’s motto is for schools, by schools and this will underpin its entire approach.

The Trust will form a steering committee of the current providers. This will be dominated by schools leaders (headteachers, heads of music or delegates) as well as four cultural partners and a HEI representative. Music for Life will be represented in this group. At a governance level, the new Trust will draw co-opted Governors from primary and secondary schools, along with a smaller number (minority) of Governers from Sandbach School. The Trust will be set up and run within the auspices of Sandbach School, but it will not be dominated by Sandbach School in any way.

Finally, I’m delighted to announce that the provisional name for the new Trust is the Love Music Charitable Trust. We are sure this will shorted to Love Music for informal usage. I’d like to thank all of you that have committed to support the new Trust in your letters of support. The bid will be submitted tomorrow and we’ll have to wait until the end of April until the decision of ACE are revealed.

Fiona Bruce MP adds her support for a new music Trust for Cheshire East

I’m delighted to report today that Fiona Bruce MP has added her own support for the creation of a new music education charitable Trust for Cheshire East. This new Trust, currently led by Sandbach School but eventually to be managed by a consortium of school Governors from across Cheshire East, is bidding for Arts Council England funding to become the new music hub for Cheshire East. As I wrote in my previous post, the supporters of the new Trust are considerable – including the Cheshire East LA, the RNCM, MMU, all the performing arts colleges in Cheshire East and many key professional musicians, ensembles, industrial partners and others.

If you work in music education (in any  form) within Cheshire East and want to find out more about the proposed new Trust and what it will do, then please get in touch with me directly. I’ve worked closely with staff from Sandbach School and the LA over the last couple of weeks to get the proposals together.

I would like to say, publicly and clearly, that this new Trust represents the best opportunity for the development of a coherent, comprehensive and systematic approach to music education across Cheshire East. As it is led by schools, for schools, it only has school’s (and thereby pupils’) interests at heart. Please lend the new Trust your support by filling in this letter and sending it to ACE before next Friday.

Unfortunately, I have to report that one significant music education provider (that works mainly in Cheshire West not East) has failed to add its support to the new Trust. In what I consider to be a very disappointing move, they have decided to bid against the Trust and its supporters next week. I believe this will create the only competitive situation for music education hub funding in the whole of the United Kingdom. Sandbach School has consulted with them on numerous occasions but they have failed to understand what the new Trust is seeking to achieve. Whilst I respect their position, I am personally saddened that they have not sought to work in partnership with the Trust and its considerable support base at this point. They do not have the support of the Local Authority so it is hard to see how their bid could be successful. However, I need to say that the door is always open and I still hope that they will reconsider their position, even at this late stage, and agree to a collaborative approach to music education services in Cheshire East.

Please support a new approach to music education in Cheshire East

Sorry for the inactivity on the blog for the last month or so. For those of you that don’t follow me on Twitter, I’ve been off work for a bit with sciatica, but hope to be back at the end of February.

Anyway, I’m pleased that my first post of 2012 is about an exciting new initiative for music education where I live – Cheshire East. Over the last few weeks, Sandbach School, a free school, has been consulting with various partners about making an application for music hub funding from Arts Council England.

The proposal is to create a new charitable Trust to work in partnership with various organisations in providing music education services across Cheshire East. The trust would be owned by schools (Governors of the Trust would be co-opted from various schools across Cheshire East) and run for schools (hence the Trust’s tag-line of ‘by schools, for schools’.

Negotiations have been held with the Local Authority. Originally, they were going to make their own bid application but have decided to withdraw that and support the Trust’s application instead. The existing Cheshire East Music Service (including its staff and assets) would be subsumed within the new Trust.

The Trust is built on a range of existing networks which it will hope to exploit in delivering services to schools. These networks include the performing arts colleges in Cheshire East (all four are supporting the new Trust), the Teaching Schools Alliance (ten high schools across Cheshire East), and the MMU partnership of schools (including many primary and secondary schools across Cheshire East).

In addition, the new Trust has got the support of a very impressive list of partners, including:

  • Fallibroome Academy (with specialist performing arts status and a Teaching School)
  • Poynton High School and Performing Arts College (with specialist performing arts status)
  • Malbank School and Sixth Form College (specialist performing arts status)
  • Holmes Chapel Teaching School
  • Institute of Education, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Department of Contemporary Arts, MMU Cheshire
  • Royal Northern College of Music
  • The Halle Orchestra
  • Roland UK
  • Fodens Brass Band
  • Sandbach Concert Series
  • Lions Youth Band
  • Buffet Crampon Instruments (Besson)
  • Sterling Instruments
  • John Wallace (Principal, Royal Scottish Conservatoire)
  • Andy Scott (BBC composer award winner)
  • Matthew Ford (Vocalist with the John Wilson Orchestra)
  • Rob Buckland (Professor of Saxophone, RNCM)
  • Dave Hassall (Professor of Percussion, RNCM)
  • Elliot Henshaw (Drummer, West End)
  • Simon Willescroft (Saxophonist, Duran Duran)
  • Paul Newton (Trumpet, West End Billy Elliot)
  • Elsie Alcock (Councillor, Sandbach Town Council)
  • Mr Jonathan Thackery (Northern Chamber Orchestra)
  • Bob Riley (Chief Executive, Manchester Camerata)
  • Fiona Sinclair (Manager, Lancashire Sinfonietta)

This is a fantastic opportunity for all of us who live and work in Cheshire East to create a new start for music education across the region. If you are an instrumental tutor, a music teacher, a headteacher or Head of Music working within Cheshire East, a parent with children receiving instrumental tuition, or just an interested observer of music education, please consider expressing your support for this new Trust by filling in this letter of support and sending it to Arts Council England (and a copy to Sarah Burns, the Headteacher at Sandbach School).

If you have any questions about the new Trust and its operation do get in touch.