Sounds in the Cloud: Is music education too important to outsource to the cloud?

Morris’ post-doctoral paper ‘Sounds in the Cloud: Cloud computing and the digital music community‘, written in 2008, is remarkable prescient. At an early stage in the development of the cloud, it explores the technological and cultural implications of cloud-based music, how the cloud itself is leading to the commodification of music (and not in a good way), and how our relationship to music is changing as a result. Through the adoption of various metaphors and an analysis of [then] current trends, Morris is pretty scathing. Firstly, he argues, the cloud fundamentally changes our relationship to music itself:

[Music] is now part of a network of technologies and blended into a multi-mediated computing experience. Phones come with music, as do Web sites, video games and new cars. CDs are routinely given away in newspapers and magazines as promotions (Straw, 2009). Social networking sites, search engines, and other such technologies use online digital music as a draw for their services. Rather than a commodity of its own, music is integrated into so many diverse services that it becomes difficult to talk about music as a specific experience at all. Music appears to be ubiquitous: it is both everywhere and nowhere. [my emphasis] Continue reading

Many LA’s are slashing their budgets for music services from April 2015

The Classical Music magazine are reporting huge cuts to the budgets of music services across the UK, including in Wiltshire (£140k cut) and Bromley (a planned cut of £305k over two years). In Redbridge, councillors planned to cut £166k from the music service budget but this was overturned following a public protest. Today, via Twitter, I have received further news that last night Kirklees councillors have voted through large cuts of £300k to Kirklees Music School in Huddersfield. Through other work that I’m doing, I am also aware that there are large cuts to the LA budget for music services in many other parts of the country that have not been announced yet.

Regular readers of this blog will know that this is something that I alerted you all to some time ago, in posts such as this and this. Continue reading

GUEST LECTURE: Andrew Curren, Consultant Paediatric Neurologist, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

Faculty of Education, Birley Fields, MMU Thursday 12th March, 10.00 – 3.00pm

andrew-curran-publicity-photoWe are delighted to welcome Andrew Curran, a Consultant Paediatric Neurologist working at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, to the Faculty of Education, MMU. Andrew is committed to using his extraordinary knowledge of the workings of the human brain to make a difference in the educational experience of all young people. He believes passionately in the importance of understanding the individual, connecting with them emotionally and leading them into self directed learning. His book, the Little Book of Big Stuff about the Brain (published by Crown House Publishing), is recognised as one of the leading books about understanding brain based learning and the importance of emo- tional literacy in our classrooms and in our lives.

Andrew will be delivering two guest lectures during the day.

Lecture 1, 10.00 – 12.30, Birley Fields G.44

Andrew’s morning session will explore the brain, its neurology and how this impacts on a child’s learning. In Andrew’s words …

What is the message that I am delivering through many years of studying the neurobiology of the human brain that appeals to so many people? It’s really very simple.

If each child in front of you feels understood, then this is good for their self esteem. If these two things are happening then the child will feel self-confident. And if these three things are extant the child will be emotionally engaged with learning. And if that happens, then the child’s brain is neurobiologically optimised for learning.

Lecture 2, 1.15 – 2.45, BirleyFields 2.51

In the afternoon session, Andrew will predominantly focus on the brain and music, considering how the two interrelate and the consequences of this for teaching and learning about music. Andrew brings a unique perspective to this through his own work as a singer/songwriter.

All are welcome to either session. BUT …

Please email Dr Jonathan Savage ( to confirm your attendance.

Space is limited.


Music Education Hub funding announced for 2015/16

In what is a busy news day for music education, the next round of funding for the music education hubs has been announced by Arts Council England. The full details, including a spreadsheet of funding for each music education hub, can be found here.

The announcement is matched with a new report from ACE called ‘Ensuring Quality‘. This will be essential reading for all leaders of music education hubs.

We were also pleased to see that the Greater Manchester Music Hub is named checked by ACE in terms of the work they have done in developing their youth ensembles.

New A & AS Level and GCSE Music subject content announced today

The Government have released the new GCSE Music subject content today. The link to the guidance is here or you can download the Music .pdf file here.

The AS and A Level Music subject content has also been released. Details from here and the specific file can be downloaded here.

It will be interesting to hear what teachers make of these guidelines. The general consensus in the music education community to this point is that they are going to be intensely problematic. The preoccupation with staff notation and Western Classical music (only between the years of 1650 and 1910) both remain in the formal guidance. Time will tell.

Additionally, the Government have published their equality and impact study here, and their general response to the ‘reform’ process here.

A lower threshold for exclusion requires firm leadership from Governors

The Government have lowered the threshold for the exclusion of students from schools. New statutory guidance has come under fire from lawyers and others.  They argue that the new definition, which allows a headteacher to remove a child from class if their conduct is deemed detrimental to the education or welfare of others in the class, will result in more permanent exclusions. The previous threshold required schools to establish that serious harm was being caused to others.

Rachel Knowles, a solicitor at Just for Kids Law who has been reported in The Guardian today, said: “The previous guidance had a page of advice that emphasised that exclusion was a matter of last resort. That phrase has been removed from the new guidance. The Department for Education says it’s just a few clarifications but it’s totally and radically altering the test. I would expect that it will result in many more permanent exclusions.”

One of my roles as a school governor was to manage the pupil exclusion committee. Speaking from experience, I can state categorically that headteachers can and do try and remove students from their schools with, on occasions, scanty evidence and without due consideration to the needs of the individual child first and foremost. School governors have always had a role to play in challenging the evidence collated by the headteacher and presented to these committees. Too often, I’m sad to say, governors merely rubber-stamp decisions made elsewhere within these hearings. Like others, I am also worried that the reduction in the barrier for permanent exclusion will allow for headteachers to use permanent exclusion too readily and not consider the needs of the individual child as their first priority.

Children excluded from school face all kinds of difficulties. Passing these children around the educational system does no one any favours. Schools need to be encouraged to commit to these children and their associated needs and not be given a half-open door to pass them and their educational needs onto others.

UPDATED 9/1/15: ITT students to be withdrawn from the National Student Survey

9/1/15: I’m pleased to announce that this decision has been reversed and these students will be included in this year’s NSS. However, the chaotic decisions that lay behind this debacle are indicative of this Government’s careless handling of ITE in general. 

The Times Higher Education Supplement are reporting today that teacher training students are to be removed from the Government’s National Student Survey with immediate effect. This unheralded announcement comes within a few days of the commencement of the 2015 survey.

One vice-chancellor (who didn’t want to be named - why not?), said that “this is an insult to each and every”  ITT student and called it a “disgrace”. I agree with this entirely.

I also agree with Pam Tatlow who said that ““One can only assume that NCTL would prefer prospective trainees not to be informed by evidence of the high satisfaction rates linked with university teacher training courses”.

The Chair of TEAG, John Cater, was also disappointed, stating that “it contradicts government policy since 2005 and is in conflict with the current administration’s firm commitment to ensure that a full range of empirical evidence is available to students and trainees entering programmes of study”.

Labour will return schools to a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’

I was pleasantly surprised by Tristam Hunt’s recent article in The Observer. In particular, I was pleased to see the phrase ‘broad and balanced curriculum’ making a return. Here’s the relevant paragraph:

Ofsted has to move beyond box-ticking and data-dependence. Too much teacher workload is the product of preparing for an inspection. Yes, Ofsted must confront mediocrity, but it must also start to allow heads the space to innovate and develop a richer criterion of school achievement. So it’s time for greater stability in the inspection framework, more consistency between inspectors and an end to any prescribed system of teaching. And, under a Labour government, Ofsted would inspect on a “broad and balanced curriculum”, so you cannot be Outstanding if you have stripped out the drama, music and sport from the school day.

There has been a lot of stripping going on recently (in curriculum matters, that is) and the notion of a broad and balanced curriculum is in severe danger of being lost in many schools. Regular readers of this blog will remember how I charted the decline of music, for example, in many schools over recent years since the Tories came to power. For me, this notion is central to the construction of a full and meaningful curriculum experience for students (whether in primary or secondary school). Drama, music and sport are too important to become ‘extra-curricular’. They have to be part of every child’s educational experience within the curriculum (the ‘broad’ bit) and developed in a way that is harmoniously conducive with other subject areas (the ‘balanced’ bit).

Whilst I’ve got mixed feelings about any political party using OFSTED as a threat to facilitate change, such a clear statement about what constitutes ‘outstanding’ in respect of the curriculum itself is to be welcomed in my opinion.

Funding for music education hubs for 2015/16 announced

Following on from the announcement yesterday that Darren Henley is to take control of Arts Council England, funding for music education hubs was announced today for the period from 2015 – 16. This will follow the existing formula, together with a distribution of an additional £17m (the precise way in which this will be distributed is to be confirmed at a later date, although I have heard rumours that a significant percentage of this will support new or innovative approaches to music education – whatever that means).

I’m not sure if Henley’s new post and this announcement are linked in any way, but it is good news nonetheless. Here’s the full ACE announcement made today: