Category Archives: HEI

Labour will abolish School Direct

The main Birley building will be home to 6,500 students and staffIn one of the most welcome announcements in respect of educational policy, I was delighted to hear from Tristam Hunt yesterday that Labour will abolish School Direct, the (in name) school-led system of initial teacher education. The reality is, as anyone who has worked in the initial teacher education sector will know, that university’s have propped up this ideological experiment ensuring that individual students feel a modicum of success by partaking in the programme.

Hunt’s view is that School Direct has been haphazard in its implement, resulted in a crisis of teacher recruitment and a looming national shortage of teachers in key areas (both by subject and geographically). I would agree with all these points. Those who doubt the veracity of these statements should spend a few minutes reading Professor John Howson’s blog. He has, more than anyone else I know, charted the lows of this Government’s policy on teacher recruitment with unfailing energy and a criticality often missing in debates in this area.

At a national level, School Direct has been a complete failure. Last year, it only filled 61% of its total places (down from 68% last year). These statistics may themselves be over-optimistic and inflated. Interested readers should read this recent post by Professor Howson. Figures for this year’s School Direct recruitment look even worse on a month by month analysis.

This failed experiment is in stark contrast to the work done by MMU and other HEI in bolstering their initial teacher education provision, in partnership with schools of course, resulting in an over 90% recruitment success of students to PGCE courses in primary and secondary initial teacher education across the entire UK (the figure at MMU is much higher). Additionally, huge capital investments such as the new Brooks building for the Faculty of Education (at a cost of around £150m; see picture above and below) have ensured the students have access to the very latest and most impressive space and facilities to learn within.


Perhaps the most damaging aspect of this whole sorry episode is the fallacy that university led ITE provision is done in isolation from schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the 15 years that I have worked for MMU, the partnership of schools across the north west of England has been central to our work, every day. Later today, I’ll be visiting one of these to support a student in Macclesfield who has benefited immensely from his experiences there on a teaching placement. He has benefited immensely from the structured university led programme of education and the support of dedicated colleagues who have helped him navigate the complex process of becoming a teacher.

Incidentally, the school where he is currently working has also benefited immensely in the process too. Despite being at the forefront of the training school programme themselves, they have employed more students from our PGCE in Music course than any other school in the north west of England, with the current Head of Department and two other staff having completed their training with us over the last ten years.

What does the future of ITE look like under a Labour Government? Hunt had this to say:

What we need to do is to take the best of the School Direct system, which is school-based training and practical training, but re-introduce some order into it. [We must] continue a role for higher education providers, which would be obliterated under a future Tory government, and have a regional model, rather like a medical deanery model, [made up] of excellent higher education institutions at the regional core of teacher training programmes.

This seems like a much more sensible route forwards. HEI have the expertise, experience and capacity to manage programmes of ITE. Schools don’t. Generally, they are overwhelmed by the responsibility and student experience suffers. Partnership working has always been, and will remain, the way forward with HEIs leading and schools working alongside as vital partners.

UEA Council to close the UEA School of Music

Despite its inevitability, the UEA Council’s decision taken today to close the highly successful and popular School of Music is wrong and a sad indictment on our times. Vice Chancellors up and down the land are having to make difficult decisions in light of ill-thought through Government policy relating to HE funding. But the callousness, lies and deceit that surround this decision (there goes any chance of me working at UEA) are truly disgusting. All current staff and students at the School of Music deserved to be treated with dignity and respect; they weren’t. Alumni of the department (of which I am one), should take every opportunity to distance themselves from the University after this disgraceful decision. Let’s hope that alumni who have become public figures with a passion for music, e.g. Gareth Malone, speak out about this disgraceful turn of events. I would also hope that recent recipients of honorary degrees from the university return them (although I suspect neither or these things will happen).

More generally, as I have been writing about on this blog for some time, there is a concerted attack on music education in various forms across our country. Whether it be the closure of HEI music education departments (at least 3 in the last year), the closure of local music services (including the forthcoming  sacking of all staff and their ‘redeployment’ as freelancers as in Leicestershire), the shutting of HEI music departments (e.g. UEA and Strathclyde with more to follow), the removal of a general music education from the curriculum in many primary and secondary schools and its replacement with private instrumental tuition, and more besides, wherever one turns examples of a comprehensive, systematic and developmental music education for all children are becoming harder to find. Instead, Music is actively marketed as something for young people who are ‘interested’ or ‘talented’.

Yet, our national music education organisations only seem interested in protecting their own backs. Last Friday there was a plethora of responses from these organisations to the Government’s recently published National Plan for Music Education. Most were sycophantic and self-servicing,  focusing solely on how the plan might effect their chances of continued funding and engagement in new hubs. Why are they not speaking up about some of the atrocious cuts that are being made to music education across the country RIGHT NOW? Is it really a lack of knowledge, or lack of engagement, a lack of vision, or do they really not care?

Over the next few weeks numerous conferences and seminars will convene to discuss the implications of the National Plan for Music Education. These events are important. But, perhaps just for a moment, convenors and delegates at these events can pause, put their own self-interest to one side and consider the signficant losses the sector has already experienced before trying to cover their own backs and reconstitute their organisations for the inevitable reshuffling and repositioning that will follow. I’m sorry to say it, but many of these organisations should hang their heads in shame at their lack of action in recent months. You should and could have done better.

An open letter to Professor Acton, VC of UEA, regarding the potential closure of the School of Music

In response to Professor Acton’s letter regarding his proposal to close the School of Music at the UEA, I’ve written him a letter today that I’m happy to make available here on my blog.

Whilst some readers might think this is a bit too personal and parochial to be writing about here, I’d ask you to stop and consider this for a moment. The School of Music at the UEA is ranked 8th in terms of music departments across the UK and 3rd in the recent student satisfaction survey. If this department closes, the same could happen to the music department in your local university, or the department where you may have studied.

For these reasons, please help the fight to save the UEA School of Music. You can keep an eye on the campaign on Facebook ( or Twitter (@SaveUEAMusic). There is a petition to sign at Do encourage others to get involved too! Thanks.

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

It was very sad to wake up today and the news that Steve Jobs had passed away. It would be churlish of me to try and say any profound about his life and work; this will be said much more eloquently by others. The Apple website today has a beautiful tribute to Steve, beautiful in its simplicity that is (see above image). All I can say is that I have worked with the products that Steve and his company have produced from the mid 1980s onwards. They have enriched my life, and lives of others around me, in countless ways. At the end of the day, the iPad, iPods, and the various computers we have owned are just tools; but they become much more that than too. They affect they way we think and work. In my case, the thousands of hours I’ve spent writing over the years have been considerably enhanced by Apple’s products. Thanks Steve, RIP.

Correction: Four universities to axe their PGCE in Music courses

As suspected, the full impact of this Government’s policy on initial teacher education is beginning to be felt by the music education community.

My understanding is that PGCE courses for Music are closing at the following universities at the end of this academic year: Goldsmiths, Roehampton, Southampton and Bishop Grossteste.

UPDATE: My previous comment about the closure of the course at the University of Cambridge was inaccurate. Apologies for any alarm. A source at the university said this: “While we are very unhappy about the reduction in numbers for music, there are no plans to close music”.  Let’s hope that remains the position.

With the exception of Cambridge, all these courses had less than 8 places for the 2011/12 entry. In addition to these, there are 11 other universities running courses with less than 10 places for the next academic year and one wonders how viable these are.

The closure of these courses represents more than a tragedy for individual HEI staff. Each course is built on a partnership of schools and colleges that will have benefited from the professional development opportunities of working with a local university. The musical communities that surround these courses will also be decimated. Once lost, these partnerships, communities and sources of professional knowledge and development are lost (and will not be replaced).

Please correct me if I’m wrong about any of these closures and let me know about any further closures as they are announced.

What is a university student paying for? The real cost of an undergraduate degree

There have been significant protests in recent weeks about the decision to increase the  amount UK universities will be able to charge for undergraduate degree courses. Fairly soon, a UK university will be able to charge £9000 per year for its courses. This got me thinking. Where would all that money go?

So, here are some sums:

Typical undergraduate degree = 3 years @ £9000 = £27,000.

Typical undergraduate degree = 120 credits/year * 3 years = 360 credits.

Total cost of an individual credit = £27,000/360 = £75.

A typical unit is 20 credits. So, to study one unit = 20 credits @ £75 = £1500.

A typical unit has 8 teaching sessions of 3 hours = 24 hours. Therefore, the face-to-face tuition = £1500/24 = £62.50/hour (or £62.50 * 3 for the whole 3 hour teaching session = £187.50).

Students will be taught in groups of around 27. So, total university income for a 3 hour session: £187.50 * 27 = £5062.50 or £1686/50 per hour.

What does the university pay for a lecturer? An average salary might be around £35,000. Most lecturers have to teach around 500 hours. So, on a rough calculation (35,000/500) this lecturer costs the university around £70/hour.

Perhaps, like me, you are wondering what the rest (i.e. £1616.50/hour of teaching) is spent on? It would cover things like administration posts, non-teaching posts (i.e. research), estates and facilities, libraries, etc.

However, I can’t help thinking that the individual student is paying a massive amount for their degree. I’d be interested to know how this compares to universities in other countries. Are UK students getting value for money?

A rough road ahead for ITE in the university

Gove’s plans to reform initial teacher education are ill thought through and will be a disaster. If HEI are removed lock, stock and barrel from their involvement, leaving ITE to schools – even specialist training schools, the consequences will be catastrophic. Schools do not have the skills or resources to do this well. It is not their core business. Headteachers often don’t understand the processes involved in recruiting and educating young teachers. The best ITE is a partnership between HEI and schools. This is how it works in the vast majority of other countries. I can’t think of a single country of our size that runs the system Gove is proposing.

Gove’s reforms run against all the available evidence including, amazingly, the OFSTED report published only yesterday which states that HEI approaches to ITE are twice as successful as school based approaches

I was very grateful to the BBC Today Programme for asking the question I emailed to them for Michael Gove on their programme this morning. I asked them to question Gove on these matters, including the evidence in the Ofsted report. His only response was that ‘he thought it was a better approach’. So much for evidenced-informed practice!

Also, I bet none of the policy makers have given any thought to the consequent effects on CPD opportunities run by HEI and also the large field of educational research that is developed and supported by academics across the country working collaboratively with schools, student teachers and others. I fear that much of this will be lost.

There is a very rough road ahead for those of us working within ITE. Time to start considering alternative career paths.

Are you good at thinking ahead?

What’s in store for education over the next fifteen to twenty years? We were asked to consider this question – albeit put across in a more eloquent way – during our Division day at the Institute of Education yesterday.

As usual, it made me wonder about the nature of individual subjects, curriculum development and various recent political announcements. It prompted me to write the following which I shared on our Division wiki and repeat here for any of you out there who may be interested.
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Confused about the new Masters in Teaching and Learning?

Are you confused about the new Masters in Teaching and Learning? Working at MMU, we are involved in the first delivery of this in the north west of England in September. But I found this article by Mike Baker to be a really helpful introduction to the whole qualification, the potential benefits and pitfalls. He closes his article by stating that there are many potential benefits for teachers. Time will tell if it has the effect the Government hopes.