Category Archives: Research

Another independent report showing Teach First as vastly expensive and ineffective

The IFS have published their report into the costs and benefits of different initial teacher training routes. If you are unfamiliar with this sector, you might have wondered how hard it could be to prepare someone for teaching (the answer is that it is harder than many imagine) and that universities might have a key role still in providing this training (the answer is that they do but it is not nearly as large as used to be the case).

Successive Tory governments have favoured alternative approaches and have continued to spend multiple tens of millions of pounds on the ‘charity’ Teach First which trains, on balance, a very small number of teachers in comparison to other routes.

Following on from the DfE’s own research in 2010, research done by the University of Buckingham in 2012, the Education Select Committee findings in 2014, and the report from the National Audit Office in 2016, the IFS report is the fifth report that I can recall that makes two things completely clear:

  • Teach First is vastly more expensive than all other initial teacher education pathways;
  • Teachers trained via Teach First have significantly shorter careers than teachers educated by other initial teacher education pathways.

Here are some of the key graphs from the IFS report. Firstly, this graph shows the average and total costs of training one secondary school teacher across the various pathways:

initial_costs

Alongside this, it is also worth considering the the variation in the amount of funding ITT providers receive for trainees on the different training routes. The report states, clearly, that ‘Teach First receives net funding of £28,700 per trainee (this includes direct grants from the NCTL, fees paid by schools and voluntary contributions, and this is net of the payment to schools to cover mentoring). This compares with the £9,000 HEI providers receive in tuition fees for HEI-led PG courses’ (p.15). In other words. HEIs can educate three teachers for the price of one via Teach First.

However, it is not just the initial costs that one should consider. The IFS have also done an analysis of the costs over the first 5 years of a teacher’s career. Here, the vastly inflated costs of Teach First are reinforced again:

average_costs

As the report explains:

Figure 8.1 combines the five-year retention rate estimates with the central costs associated with ITT to show an average central cost per teacher ‘in service’ after five years for each of the routes for which we have data available.41 Teach First has both the lowest five-year retention rate (37–44%) and the highest average central cost. This means that the average central cost per Teach First trainee who remains in service five years after QTS is therefore between £59,000 and £70,000. For other secondary school routes, the five-year retention rates are higher and the central costs lower, resulting in a lower implied average central cost per trainee ‘in service’ after five years of between £35,000 and £44,000 (p.62). [my emphasis]

If you have got this far, you might be wondering whether the hugely inflated costs associated with Teach First are a wise use of public money at a time of austerity? I am. Perhaps, you might think, teachers trained by Teach First enjoy a long and productive career which returns on the investment that we, as taxpayers, have made in them. You’d be wrong. Teachers trained via Teach First enjoy significantly shorter careers in teaching than their colleagues educated via other routes. Here’s another graph from the IFS showing retention rates after five years:

five_year_retentionSee that line at the bottom? Yes, that’s Teach First’s retention rate. Over 60% of people trained by Teach First leave teaching after 5 years. This is significantly higher than any other route. Additionally, their retention rate is getting worse. This graph shows how it has deteriorated over the last five years (look how the grey and black lines for recent years fall below the green):

retention_cohort

In presenting the facts about Teach First in this way, I receive a lot of criticism from those either involved in Teach First as participants or those seeking to defend it as some kind of engine for social justice in education. To the former group, I have always defended the rights of individuals to choose whatever route into teaching you feel is best for you. I would strongly argue that Teach First does not offer the best training experience and nor does it prepare you to enjoy a long and productive teaching career (that much is obvious from the above). I would encourage you to look elsewhere.

To the later group, I think there are only marginal if any gains from the state sponsoring Teach First to the tune of over a hundred million pounds in recent years (including £76m in 2013). The Teach First marketing machine is infamous for promoting the perceived benefits for their programmes, including much play being given to increases in GCSE grades and, yesterday, to the claim that it’s participants are 7 times more likely to end up as school leaders. Dig a little deeper, and the marginal gains quickly fade away.

So, there is no doubt in my mind that this money could be spent more wisely. As soon as this ‘charity’ has its public funding removed the better in my opinion. Teach First is too expensive and based on a flawed model: you teach ‘first’ and then move on something else with a better salary. This is something else that the IFS report makes clear is a more likely outcome for folk trained via this route. As this table shows, put simply, as local wages rise Teach First trained teachers are up to five times more likely to leave teaching that those educated via other routes:

wages

There is a huge amount of other interesting information in the IFS report and, as time allows, I’ll be returning to it to consider its implications more widely. I would also highly recommend John Howson’s blog for those with interests in this area.

Music teachers – please respond to this request for information about music in your school

I’ve received this request from my friend Ally Daubney at the University of Sussex to help gather responses on music education from a wide range of secondary school music teachers.

Working with her colleague Duncan Mackill, Ally has recently launched an online survey to gather a longitudinal view of secondary school music provision in order to investigate and document any changes within the curriculum across Key Stages 3 and 4 (time, accessibility and models of delivery), staffing levels and uptake of music within and beyond the curriculum.

Anecdotally, numerous factors appear to impact upon music education across secondary schools; the survey aims to document changes and provide more substantive evidence and reasons for them. Ally and Duncan know from a pilot study that they carried out last year that there are a range of changes – positive, neutral and negative, so they are trying to map these and also consider reasons for possible changes.

Please could you respond to this questionnaire so that they can present a more complete picture of music education over the past five years and projecting into the 2016-17 academic year.

The link can be found at: https://sussex.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/music2012-2016

The research is led by Dr Ally Daubney and Duncan Mackrill from the Department of Education at the University of Sussex. In line with the strict ethical procedures by which this work is bound, only Ally and Duncan will have access to the data provided and you have their absolute assurance that no individuals or schools will be identifiable in any reporting.

Given the potential significance of this work and the interest which it has already generated, both Music Education Subject Associations (The Incorporated Society of Musicians and Music Mark) have taken a keen interest in the work and will be involved in reporting, publishing and sharing the findings. We are delighted that they have pulled together on this, an indication of their understanding that music in the curriculum is vitally important.

The survey is open for two months and I really hope that you have the time to get involved and help Ally and Duncan collecting this data to help inform a more constructive approach to music education in the future.

Making music is good for you – forever!

It was great to see CNN produce this film on the significant benefits that music education can bring to young and old alike. Our fellow music education researcher from Northwestern University, Nina Kraus, is featured in the first part of the film. Her work on ‘neural timing’ is fascinating. The benefits of learning music in childhood extend throughout one’s entire life. Practical music making from the youngest age really is good for you – forever!

‘A specter is haunting music education: it is the specter of El Sistema’

dudamel_2242987bSo starts Robert Fink’s brilliant exposition on the theme of El Sistema (published for free here at Academia.edu). I would urge you to read his paper in full. It is a beautiful and challenging critique of El Sistema that utilises powerful metaphors to bring about a new understanding of this influential music education movement.

At the heart of El Sistema, Fink argues, is a fantasy. It is a fantasy of music appreciation (and music education) as social justice. This fantasy has been achieved and, for many, become reality through Abreu’s skilful political manoeuvring. Fink explores this through six ‘passes’ that demonstrate Abreu’s considerable sleight of hand:

  •  A Youth Orchestra can be a Social Welfare Project;
  • Material Poverty can be relieved by Spiritual Affluence;
  • Talented Young Performers are signs of a (state-Sponsored) Miracle;
  • (Their) Being in Harmony can revive the Meaning of Harmony (for Us);
  • Art as Social Justice enables Social Justice as Marketing;
  • Marketing ‘Change’ while programming The Same Old Stuff.

FInk’s arguments are rich and stimulating. They centre around a challenge to the ideology of harmony (socially, politically and musically) within the project itself and more generally in how it is received around the world. In the middle part of his paper, Fink reminds us the ideology of harmony is dialetical:

Harmony subsumes both consonance and dissonance, and thus the message of Western music for modernity is that struggle and discord can, up to a point, be exciting; that the authentic development of the individual is often at odds with the need for order in society; and that teleological development might lead to com-plexity and disorder, but is preferable to simple stasis. (p.8)

In contrast, he argues, El Sistema takes a very different starting point:

In Abreu’s System, on the other hand, harmony is an absolute, non-dialectical value, functionally equivalent in discourse to something like ‘the beauty of total agreement’. In harmo-ny with Leibniz, who argued that when each of us ‘plays his part,’ we fulfill our deepest purpose, Abreu portrays the classical symphony orchestra as a mechanism for aestheticizing social unity; in fact, the most perfect such cultural machine ever created. (p.9)

The metaphor of ‘harmony’ is used throughout the paper in a powerful way to critique El Sistema. Unlike Geoffrey Baker’s book, Fink doesn’t bring this powerful metaphor to bear on the pedagogical approach inherent within El Sistema. It would be very interesting to discover what he thinks about this.

However, he makes the more obvious point that Venezuela is, perhaps, ‘one of the most in-harmonious places on Earth, with decaying industrial infrastructure, skyrocketing rates of street crime and inflation, an openly paranoid style of official diplomacy, and regular shortages of basic consumer goods that socialist and capitalist factions can only explain by accusing each other of sabotage? (p.20). Perhaps, he concludes, it is time to ‘stop playing around in the fantasy utopia of classical music, and start fighting in the real world’ (p.20).

For us working within music education in the UK, the article is a useful reminder that all that glitters in the world of music education is definitely not gold. Given that our ‘version’ of El Sistema is titled In Harmony, I must admit that I enjoyed Fink’s playful and powerful use of harmony as an ideological and metaphorical construct throughout the paper. For me, like him, I’d prefer to be In Dissonance rather than In Harmony. 

You’ll need to read to the end of his article to find out why. I highly recommend it to you all.

Steve Reich’s Clapping Music: A new app!

UCan Play has recently been involved in a project with NYMAZ researching the delivery of instrumental music lessons online using Roland’s VR-3EX audio and video mixer and streamer. This work has been funded through NESTA’s Digital R&D Fund for the Arts.

One of the other projects also funded by this fund is Steve Reich’s Clapping Music, a game-based app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad inspired by – you guessed it – Steve Reich’s Clapping Music. His piece has inspired all sorts of people from the famous percussionist Evelyn Glennie to David Bowie. The app also includes lots of additional content about Steve Reich and minimalist music, and unique recordings from the London Sinfonietta, including another piece by Reich, Electric Counterpoint.

The game has been developed by a team from three organisations – The London Sinfonietta, Touchpress, and Queen Mary University of London. It will be free for anyone to download from iTunes from late June 2015. You don’t need to be a musician to play, in fact the developers would love as many people as possible to download it and get tapping and clapping! You can find out more about the app here and the associated research project here.

The developers has asked us to help raise awareness of this new app. They would like you to play the game and complete three online surveys during the period from app launch to August 7th 2015; one before you download the app, another after playing for a little while, then another two weeks later. The surveys include questions about your musical experience, age and music listening habits and preferences. They will download your playing data from the game and look at this as well. As a thank you, they will draw 10 people at random from the participants who have completed and submitted all three surveys and enter them into a draw to enter one of 10 Amazon £50 gift cards.

Ready to sign up now? Send an email with the subject line ‘Sign me up to the research focus group’ to clappingmusicresearch@gmail.com.

El Sistema: A conference to explore and critique what it means for music education

The Venezuelan youth orchestra program known as El Sistema, founded in 1975, has attracted considerable international publicity and funding in recent years. Said to be an effective means of resolving a wide range of social problems and now operating under the banner of ‘social action through music’, it has inspired attempts to adopt and adapt it in dozens of countries around the world.

However, there are very few critical analyses of the program’s aims and no rigorous studies which demonstrate that it achieves them. Furthermore, its methods are poorly understood and obscured by idealistic rhetoric. Efforts to transplant El Sistema overseas have taken place without reliable written sources about its history and its pedagogical and philosophical program. Continue reading

Musical Futures cited as a model of progressive music education

Geoffrey Baker’s new book, El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth, is a stinging critique of the Venezuelan instrumental and social music education programme. Baker’s research is far reaching, drawing on observations of the programme throughout Venezuela and interviews with key participants in the programme and students themselves. As a piece of qualitative and ethnographic research, it is beautifully constructed. Throughout his book, which I reviewed here for the Music Education UK websiteBaker is at pains to justify his assertions about the programme and, when necessary, points to the limitations of his research and the conclusions therein.

In the final chapter of his book, Baker points to a number of projects that exemplify what he calls a more ‘progressive’ form of music education. At this point, it was lovely to find references to Musical Futures, a project that surely every music teacher here in the UK must be aware of that has made a significant and positive contribution to music education over the last ten years. This was what Baker has to say about Musical Futures:

One of the most radical and promising music education initiatives is Musical Futures, which began in the United Kingdom in 2003 and is spreading internationally. Musical Futures builds on Green’s (2002, 2008) work on informal learning and its application to the classroom. It’s central element is copying recordings by ear, and it integrates listening, improvising, and composing into the learning process, which is holistic and student-led (rather than sequential or drill-based) and promotes student choice of instruments and repertoire. Green (2008, 199-80) applies this informal learning pedagogy to ensemble playing and classical music, revealing that there is no inevitable bond between El Sistema’s curriculum, collective ethos, and conservative pedagogy. (Baker 2014, p.318) Continue reading

‘El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth’ by Geoffrey Baker: A book review

This review was first published on the Music Education UK website on the 26th February 2015.

Geoffrey Baker’s new book, El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth, is a stinging critique of the Venezuelan instrumental and social music education programme. Baker’s research is far reaching, drawing on observations of the programme throughout Venezuela and interviews with key participants in the programme and students themselves. As a piece of qualitative and ethnographic research, it is beautifully constructed. Throughout his book, Baker is at pains to justify his assertions about the programme and, when necessary, points to the limitations of his research and the conclusions therein. Continue reading

Making Music: A mixed bag from the ABRSM

making_musicMaking Music, the ABRSM’s latest piece of research into the teaching, learning and making of music by adults and children across the United Kingdom was published today. You can download it from here.

The report is a informative read, but generally a bit of a frustrating one. Starting with some positives, there is much to celebrate. Increasing numbers of children are playing a broader range of musical instruments than ever before; according to the report at least, the nation’s instrumental music teachers are ‘expressing high levels of professional satisfaction’ and are ‘remarkably fulfilled’ in their employment; technology is creating new opportunities for anyone to engage with and create their own music.

There are other areas where things are not so rosy. Children from lower socio-economic groups continue to be disadvantaged by the high costs of participation in instrumental music making; regional provision is variable and not helped by the fragility of funding for music education hubs;  50% of instrumental teachers cite schools and parents as being unsupportive of their work.

Schools come in for a bit of hammering. Comments such as ‘50% of teachers cite a lack of support from schools and parents plus poor motivation from students as among the most common negative aspects of their work’ are unsubstantiated or inadequately analysed. The benefits of instrumental music teaching and learning within the formal curriculum that school’s offer is also unacknowledged throughout the report. This is a great shame as there is plenty of other evidence to suggest that large swathes of young people across the UK are getting valuable musical experiences through the work of schools and their partnerships with music education hubs.

The report is tantalizing by omission. One example relates to music technology. Technology, is ‘creating new opportunities for anyone to engage with and create their own music’. So far, so good. How is it doing this? No substantial evidence or analysis is presented. There is no recognition at all that the increasing use of technology could be, on occasions, a detrimental thing for music education.

I was also puzzled that the ABRSM have done little to contextualise the findings or their report within the broader research done in this area. Other research done by partners of the ABRSM include Katherine Zeserson’s excellent report for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and other work completed by Music Mark, the ISM and others is ignored. There are also extensive data sets collected by Arts Council England through their work managing music education hubs that are not mentioned or explored at all. A more thorough contextual analysis of this data as a whole could, perhaps, have led to a more robust exploration of several assertions made within the report. In turn, this would have led to the construction of a stronger and more robust set of implications.

I was also disappointed that the report is unashamedly political. It states that ‘successive governments’ policies have helped bring about real improvement’. This is strongly debatable. There are serious arguments that the last four years of political mismanagement and incompetence have done irrevocably harm to music education in all sectors throughout the UK. The real costs of fragmenting, privatising and de-professionalising the sector may only just be beginning to be seen. The report is completely unaware of the damage being done to the structure of music education and its provision in many parts of the UK right now.

image_pdfimage_print