Come and study for a MRes at MMU – and get to work with fantastic people!

I’m really pleased to working at MMU, a fantastic university with a great reputation. However, the best thing about working at MMU are the people I get to work with. In particular, Will Evans and Jane Petrie are fabulous colleagues whom I have the greatest respect for. It has been a privilidge to work with both of them for a number of years.

Research at the newly-named Faculty of Education is located within the Education and Social Research Institute (ESRI), housed in the above building. Here, research professors and others work on a range of research projects. I enjoy teaching on a range of research-orientated courses (such as the EdD and MRes) and have had some great students from the worlds of education, social work and health care.

So, I’m really excited that one of these courses – the MRes – has been rewritten and, from September 2012, you will be able to come to MMU and engage with a fantastic course taught by great staff. I’ve attached a .pdf outlining the course in more detail would highly recommend it to you. Here’s the opening paragraph:

This is a 1-year, full-time programme, comprising 4 taught units and a dissertation. It is a research training programme for students who wish to go on to study for a PhD and for research workers in education and the social sciences. The course can be taken as a free-standing qualification and as a research training programme it covers all key areas of research methods preparation, including: qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, data collection techniques, methods of analysis, developing theoretical, methodological and ‘real world’ skills for researchers. The course structure is designed to provide a collaborative, student-centred approach that makes the best use of digital technologies to increase flexibility, collaboration and insight into the latest research and practice. Exit awards will also be available.

‘Wider, Still and Wider’. The gulf between guidance music practitioners need to hear and the information which reaches them

Following my invitation for guest posts about the state of music education in the UK following on from recent Government policies, I am delighted to present this guest post from Dr Alison Daubney. Alison is a research fellow and teacher trainer at the University of Sussex.  She started her career in music education as an instrumental teacher with Brighton and Hove Music Service then moved on to lead music departments in various Sussex primary, secondary and special schools. Much of her recent research is based around the interface between community music and formal education settings, with a particular interest in finding practical ways for marginalised young people to overcome barriers and gain access to music education.

Here is Alison’s post about the recent Ofsted Report and the ripples it has caused:

Regular readers of Jonathan’s blog will know that the Ofsted triennial review for music was published earlier this month, and whilst outstanding practice was showcased, there were a worrying array of messages about how much better music education could/should be. More disappointing for me was that many of these messages were similar to the 2009 review; yet the vast majority of music practitioners I know are hard working professionals who are passionate about sharing their love of music with young people. Let’s be clear that there is no distinction in the report about one particular sector of music education needing to improve – these messages are equally as valid to community musicians and instrumental teachers as they are to generalist and specialist music teachers in all kinds of school settings. Continue reading

Briefing papers summarising the recent OFSTED report

Alison Daubney has written some tremendously helpful documents for the ISM summarising the key points from the recent OFSTED report. These documents are useful for any advocacy that you might want to do for music education in your school, LA or other settings (e.g. to headteachers, senior management teams, etc) and available in a range of formats. The direct link to the ISM download page is here.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the 1 page and 3 page briefing documents. Thanks for your great work Alison in putting these together!

Music Education and Ofsted – wanting still, and wanting

Last week saw the publication of most recent triennial Ofsted report about music education. The report was very negative about music education in schools. But I want to say, very loudly, that I will not be taking any lectures from Ofsted about the quality of music education in the UK. Whilst the report itself surprised me, in that it did contain some sensible ideas about how we can improve music education in various ways, I was, once again, left flabbergasted by the shockingly compliant responses of our national music education organisations. These organisations clearly have no backbone for a fight and no willingness to perhaps even consider that a report like this is anything other that the gospel of music education, to be read as a kind of holy scripture against which all objections are seen as blasphemous (or the outworking of a sacrilegious mind).

But, like any organisation, Ofsted has its weaknesses. I haven’t really got the time or energy to work through them all, but I’ll just make a few passing references to the work of the Education Select Committee completed last year. Their report examined the work of Ofsted closely to make recommendations for its future (and, incidentally, their observations apply specifically to the period of data collection specified within the music education report).

The Select Committee’s report identified the following key criticisms (paragraph numbers in brackets following each criticism):

  • ‘The expanded Ofsted  has lost the  elements of specialism associated with its predecessor bodies’ (20);
  • That there is a need for ‘more substantive evidence about the relative performance of Additional Inspectors as compared to Her Majesty’s Inspectors, about which we have heard contrasting views’ (61);
  • 60% of Ofsted inspectors themselves judged ‘the performance of their peer inspectors to be variable at best’ (70);
  • Many Ofsted inspectors say that ‘inconsistency was often caused by newly-recruited inspectors finding their way; (70);
  • It is often the case that ‘inspection teams often contain inspectors with little knowledge of the phase or aspects they are inspecting and often with limited experience of inspection itself’ (70);
  • There are too many inspectors lacking recent and relevant experience of the settings they investigate (76);

So, rather than taking all elements of this triennial report into music education at face value, perhaps our national associations should have been a little more critical and better prepared to ask some serious questions of Ofsted.

If, as the Select Committee report, over 60% of Ofsted inspectors themselves consider their peers’ performance as inspectors to be variable, where are the questions about the data collection methods, the overarching research methodology, the process of analysis and triangulation of data? All of these, I suspect, have weaknesses and call into question the findings of the report. They are entirely missing.

If, as the Select Committee report, judgements are skewed by ‘newly-recruited inspectors finding their way’, where are the questions about how often this was the case in respect of the judgements made about music education in our schools? Again, they are entirely missing.

If, as the Select Committee report, it is the case the inspection teams are making judgements about phases or subjects whilst having little knowledge about them, where are the questions about who has been making these judgements about music education and their qualification to do so? Again, they are entirely missing.

From the work that I and my colleagues have done over the last ten years, through teacher education programmes and other initiatives, I know that in the vast majority of schools, committed teachers are working hard, teaching music musically and doing their best – despite numerous cack-handed educational policies and pressure from senior manages – to do a good job for all their pupils.

I will not let the broader political context that OFSTED are working within, and the messages that they are required to spread, diminish the work of music teachers up and down the country. I hope you will not be discouraged by this report and do all you can to spread the word about the high quality music education that is delivered, day in day out, in schools across our land.

I hope that you will not take at face value the criticisms made of music education within this report. The report itself, and the organisation that has produced it, have many weaknesses.

I have no doubt that Ofsted HMI will be making addresses to music education conferences up and down the country over the next year, citing the report and its findings as evidence of the decline of music education in our schools. But it should not be read as the gospel of music education or presumed to be as such. You do not need to believe what they say. This message of declining standards should be robustly challenged. Time and time again, over many years, Ofsted itself has be found to be wanting in numerous aspects. ‘Wider still, and wider’? No. Ofsted clearly is ‘wanting still, and wanting’.

Who’ll be assessing the music hub bids?

Last week, I wrote to ACE asking for clarification about the assessment process for music hub bids. I’ve received a reply and I’m happy to share this with you all. The response reads:

We have published details of our assessment process here http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/apply-for-funding/music-education-hubs/how-we-will-make-our-decision/. We are assessing against the criteria published in the prospectus and using the information requested from applicants through the application form. Music Hubs applications are being assessed by existing Arts Council England staff across the organisation. The Arts Council is positioned to select and monitor music education hubs through its regional structure using local knowledge, art form and education expertise and broader relationships with the music sector. In some areas we have brought in additional administrative support for this period.

The Government will chair the monitoring group, overseeing the National Music Education Plan as a whole. Arts Council England will report on music education hub progress to this board, against the aims and outcomes outlined in our Prospectus for applicants. This board will be chaired by Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries

Personally, I’m pleased that this assessment process is being conducted within the various localities (Government regions) and being done by ACE staff who have knowledge of local issues. Clearly, ACE have the expertise to manage this process effectively and account for this to the monitoring group. I wrote about the constituency of the monitoring group in a previous post. I am uncertain about the criteria adopted for the selection of this group and I will be writing to the DCMS about this matter early next week. I’ll share their response with you when I receive it.