Category Archives: Music Education

“Learning music is a birthright”, Sir Simon Rattle

simon_rattleHave you been listening to the Proms at all this year? One of the world’s greatest conductors, Sir Simon Rattle, is conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in two concerts this week.

Simon Rattle is from Liverpool. His dad was a jazz pianist and he learnt percussion as a youngster. When interviewed on Desert Island Discs, he recalled his music teacher playing him an excerpt from a Mahler symphony in a music lesson aged about 11. This was a transformative moment for him and his tremendous love and passion for all musical styles is obvious for everyone to see.

He has also have some interesting views on music education. In his interview with the Guardian over the weekend, he said this:

… the entire issue of music education is becoming an ever bigger issue all over Europe. Apart from the obvious cultural value, employers want people who can work in teams, think laterally and not in straight lines, all of which music gives you in spades. A free music education was one of the glories of the UK when I was a child. Too much has been sacrificed in the name of economic necessity. Learning music is a birthright. And you have to start young. 

I agree completely with this. Music education offers so much to us all, whatever our age. Learning music is an essential and integral part of all our education, throughout our lives. But this is particularly true for our children as they develop physically, psychologically and socially.

Our new music education centre opens in Sandbach this week. At Ohana Music we have structured our programmes in terms of its content and fees to ensure that music education is affordable, enjoyable and social. Learning music together is the best way to learn music.

‘Ohana’ is a Hawaiian word meaning ‘family’ or ‘group’ where everyone learns and supports each other. It emphasises the notion that we are bound together as human beings and that we must not forget each other as we work together. It was a concept that was famously bought to live in the Disney film Lilo & Stitch:

This notion is central to our work at Ohana Music. Our new music space opens on Saturday 6th September at 9am. Do come along, meet us, share some refreshments and have a look at our new facilities. But most importantly, come and learn music together with us. Whatever your age,  I invite you to come, discover or share your passion for music as part of our supportive community.

Why not nominate a talented teacher for a Music Teacher Award?

I’m delighted to work with many talented teachers in schools and colleges across the United Kingdom and beyond.  It is great to see their work recognised and rewarded. At MMU, we were able to honour the lifetime achievements of our colleague Geoff Reed through an honorary doctorate. It was so well deserved.

On that theme,  the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence is now accepting nominations for next year’s ceremony on 12th March. The categories include:

  • Best Musical Initiative Award, sponsored by the Royal Marines Band Service
  • Best Print Resource Award, sponsored by Rhinegold Publishing Ltd
  • Best Digital/Technological Resource Award
  • Best SEN Resource Award
  • Excellence in Primary/Early Years Music Award
  • Best School Music Department Award, sponsored by the MMA
  • Best Classical Music Education Initiative Award, sponsored by Classic FM
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Black Cat Music and MusicPracticeRooms.com
  • The 2015 awards will also see the inclusion of two new categories – Musicians’ Union Inspiration Award, sponsored by the MU and Best Music Education Product Award. A Music Teacher Magazine Editor’s Award will also be chosen by Thomas Lydon, editor of Music Teacher.

The awards were created to celebrate excellence in the UK’s music education sector. For more details visit the Music Education Expo site. Get voting!

Musical Futures to become ‘independent’ from 2015

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, who has funded and managed Musical Futures since 2003, will provide three year’s funding to the tune of £1.2m to support the transition from a project to a not-for-profit organisation. The funding will enable the development of exciting, innovative new models and approaches, as well as continuing the core offer of open source, free materials, training and support to schools. Abigail D’Amore, Chief Executive designate, says:

‘The Musical Futures team are delighted with the generous offer of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation trustees. We have been given a unique opportunity to expand the work of Musical Futures into new sectors, and develop a fully self-sustaining organisation committed to providing high-quality participatory music learning experiences for all children and young people.’

Further information from here.

Further good news regarding the funding of music education

In a separate Ministerial Statement given by David Laws, there is some good news for the future funding of music education through the Educational Services Grant. This is a direct quote from the statement that can be found in full here:

The Department received a large volume of responses to the consultation relating to the provision of music services. Many were concerned that any reduced local authority support for music services would impact on the overall quality of music provision and in particular on the opportunities for disadvantaged children.

We strongly believe that all children should benefit from a good music education and have given £171million to music hubs since 2012. We have also announced today that central government funding for music education programmes will increase by £18m in 2015-16, and funding for music education hubs will rise to around £75m in total. Local authorities will continue to have total discretion about whether to spend any of the ESG they receive on providing music services

This final sentence is key and should be welcomed. In reality, though, the number of Local Authorities that will continue to support music education through the allocation of ESG funding remains to be seen. Most Local Authorities that I am aware of are withdrawing their funding at a significant rate as they prioritise other things. As I wrote before, the Government will claim a victory whilst the reality is they have cut funding to music education massively over 4 years whilst blaming Local Authorities for the mess that results.

Is this really an additional £18m to support music education?

The Government have announced an additional £18m of funding to support music education during 2015/16. This funding will go direct to music education hubs to help them fulfil their core roles. As Alan Davey says in the press release, this will help them plan with more confidence for the next year or so.

I welcome this additional funding. However, there are a couple of provisos. Firstly, this ‘additional’ money comes after significant cuts of around 10% every year to music education funding over the last few years. This additional money still means that music education funding is woefully short of where it was when this Government came to office.

Secondly, the spectre of significant reductions in Local Authority funding for music education still remains given the ongoing consultation into the Educational Services Grant. I wrote about this back in April yet the Government have still given no assurances that music education services will remain a core part of this grant. The potential loses to music education as Local Authorities withdraw their support will make this ‘additional’ £17m pale into insignificance. As many of us know, across the breadth of our country, music services are shutting or restructuring as their core funding from Local Authorities diminishes year by year.

UPDATE: See my recent post about another announcement today (22/7/14) through a ministerial statement by David Laws. Local Authorities will retain the right to use ESG funding for music education should they so wish. 

You might call me naive, but I think the crux of the argument is this. During the forthcoming election campaign, the Government can now say they have increased funding for music education (whilst in reality, over the whole term, they have decreased it).

The Government can now also blame Local Authorities for cutting music education funding and still maintain that they have supported it fully through this ‘increase’ in funding for music education hubs.

As usual, Tories cut and cut, privatise and then blame others when things go wrong. It’s pretty cynical but there you go.

The latest Love Music Trust newsletter

I’m delighted to be a trustee of the Love Music Trust. The latest newsletter from the Trust is now available from their website or you can download it here. I’m particularly looking forward to six fantastic concerts at Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield over the coming weekend. The work of the Love Music Trust is inspirational and deserves to be supported by all schools in Cheshire East.

An open invitation to all schools to work in partnership with Roland and UCan Play

Roland UK and UCan Play are looking for new schools to become ‘Roland Champions’ for the next academic year. We will consider applications from any school that would like to work in partnership with us to develop innovative approaches to the use of Roland technologies within their curriculum. Please provide details of your own ideas in the appropriate place on the application form. Each Roland Champion School is asked to complete a short case study of their work throughout the year. Further information and the application form can be found here.

All successful Roland Champion Schools will receive highly preferential pricing on all Roland and Boss technologies. These prices also extend to staff and students at these schools.

The deadline for applications is the 31st August 2014 and the selected schools will be announced around the 7th September 2014.

 

Some personal reflections on the recent Ofsted advice on assessment

I first met Martin Fautley at the University of Cambridge in the late 1990s. He was studying for a doctorate there; I was teaching at Stowmarket High School. We were both attending a seminar/study group on music teaching and research led by our colleague Pam Burnard. Martin’s doctorate was focusing on a process of assessment for music education. It was, and still is, a fascinating read. Continue reading

The Love Music Trust Primary Music Curriculum is launched!

This post is about a new primary school music curriculum that I’ve been involved in supporting. It has been written by primary teachers in Cheshire East and produced by the Love Music Trust, the music education hub in Cheshire East. My company, UCan.tv, has helped in the preparation of the online content.

The Love Music Trust Primary Music Curriculum contains 6 units of work for each year of Key Stages 1 and 2. It has been written specifically for the generalist primary teacher to help them address the requirements of the new National Curriculum. There is also a collection of Early Years resources (these will be increasing over the coming weeks). The Love Music Trust have made two of the units available free of charge.

Further details about the curriculum can be found here.

I’ve really enjoyed working on this curriculum over the last few months. I’ve learnt a lot from working with the other staff on the project and I’m very happy to recommend this to you.

Please could you do all you can to raise awareness about this new resource with your primary schools in any way that you can. Thank you very much.

Please don’t forget that we are here to support you and your school in any way in respect of the development of your music provision and wider use of technology.