Category Archives: Teaching

This Government is failing in its duty to manage teacher supply

Back in December 2014, I wrote about a looming crisis in teacher recruitment for September 2015. Here we are a couple of days away from September and that crisis has well and truly emerged. Figures published by the Government, quietly and secretively on a busy news day, reveal significant shortages across the board:


Considered in total, there is a 10% shortage in total applicants, and this is the third year in a row  that the Government has failed to secure enough new entrants to the profession.

John Howson, whose blog has chartered these things in detail over the years, has written about the reasons for and consequences of this Government’s failing to look after teacher supply in today’s Observer.

This crisis has come about because of:

  • Depressed wages in the public sector, making teaching look unattractive compared to other career paths;
  • The perception [in 2011] that we had enough teachers due to falling pupil rolls;
  • The imposition of a complex and constantly changing bursary scheme that has muddied the waters around who pays what for a teacher training course, and has resulted in the vast majority of students having to pay £9k for their studies;
  • The introduction of School Direct, a shoddy and ill-conceived attempt to impose a free-market training systems run by schools. This has resulted in the closure of some university teacher education courses .

The immediate results of this are that courses, like those we run at MMU, will open in a week or so with unfilled places. In most subjects, this is unheard of in my experience.

Moving ahead to September 2016, headteachers will find it difficult, or impossible, to recruit enough teachers in  subjects such as physics, design and technology, geography, business studies and even English. Headteachers will be forced to ask existing teachers to teach subjects where they do not have specialist subject knowledge. Or, perhaps more worryingly, they will be forced to remove certain subjects from the curriculum. We have seen this happening in Music in many primary and secondary schools in recent years.

What will parents make of all this? As some readers know, I have five children. Three are currently attending three different schools in our local town – one academy, one free school and one LA -maintained primary school. Sadly, I have to specify which types of schools these are as I can’t rely anymore on them being taught by qualified teachers with appropriate qualifications. As this crisis in teacher recruitment begins to hit the public consciousness, parents should be holding headteachers to account for the decisions they make about who is teaching their children. If answers are not forthcoming, then Freedom of Information requests should follow. Our children deserve to be taught by qualified teachers.

As for the Government, they are in denial. Nick Gibb is quoted in yesterday’s Guardian as saying that:

“These figures show that teacher recruitment is improving, with 3% more people due to start postgraduate teacher training than this time last year. We have already exceeded our target for primary school trainees and are making sustained progress for the secondary sector – including in key subjects like English, maths, physics and chemistry, where we are ahead of last year’s performance”.

None of these things are true. I’m with John Howson on this one, when he writes that ‘unless it [the Government] recognises the scale of the problem and acts soon, it will become the worst teacher-supply situation since the dark days of the early 2000s. That is no way to create a world-class education system’.

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

Nicky Morgan will propose and fund a new ‘College of Teaching’ today

morganNicky Morgan will unveil plans today to create a new ‘College of Teaching’, similar to medical bodies such as the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons. The College, once established, will provide training programmes, conduct educational research and set professional standards for teachers.

Morgan will announce that taxpayers’ money will be used to help fund the start up costs of the new organisation although it is still unclear whether membership of it will be voluntary or compulsory, and whether or not it will adopt a subscription model to help fund its own existence.

Those of us with longer memories, will recall that one of the first things that Michael Gove did was to abolish the General Teaching Council for England (which adopted a subscription based approach on a compulsory basis for all teachers in England) and subsume its powers directly within an Executive Agency at the Department for Education. It seems unlikely that any such powers will flow back to this new College of Teaching leaving its exact status somewhat ambiguous at the present time.  However, if reports in today’s Telegraph are to be believed, it does seem clear that the college will be independent of Government yet an important new component of Morgan’s drive to ‘raise the standards of teaching’.

One interesting area might be around the professional standards for teachers. If the new College of Teaching sets those standards, will it be empowered to enforce them (like the previous GTCE)? Will it also be responsible for the transition arrangements for students who have undertaken initial teacher education as they progress into their NQT year (something that has completely neglected by central Government over the last four years).

It seems that Morgan is keen to establish the college at some point during 2015.

Jenny Smith, head teacher featured in Educating the East End, sums up Michael Gove and Tory education policy in a sentence or two …

smithPutting it politely, Michael Gove didn’t have a fanbase in the teaching profession. Just as we’ve seen with the NHS, this government has gone further than any other towards dismantling the pillars of education and it’s going to be hard to repair the damage caused by crazy proposals, lack of consultation and low morale. I just hope shows like this help dispel myths about schools today and start informed conversations about the future – not based on someone’s experience 30 years ago.

Says it all, doesn’t it? For more from her interview with the Observer, click here.

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
  • 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!

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,, 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.

The Art of Case Study


Over the years I have enjoyed conducting a range of research projects into various aspects of education. Some of these have been funded through the EU or various research councils, but I think the most enjoyable have been those where I have just followed a particular interest that has emerged from my work as a musician and teacher. Many of these small-scale pieces of research have used the  methodology of case study. My interest in case study began during my PhD, when I conducted case studies within my teaching (see Dunwich Revisited and Reflecting Others for examples).

On our PGCE course, our students have to undertake a range of assignments. One of these (we call it the Curriculum Development Assignment) is just about to be started. In the assignment, as the name suggests, students have to research a particular area of their subject’s curriculum, devise a unit of work, teach it and analyse the consequences for their teaching and their students’ learning during their second, substantive, teaching placement.

Do to this effectively, we encourage students to utilise a simple research methodology like case study to structure their work. I say simple, but I’ve found case study to be a very engaging and at times complex research methodology. But at its simplest, it is easy to explain and to begin using. Tomorrow, I get to work with our fantastic group of PGCE students on our two music PGCE courses, and the Schools Direct course too, and help them prepare for this assignment.

Using two metaphors drawn from Magritte’s work (including The Field Glass shown at the beginning of this post) and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, we will explore how case study can be used within a simple case study project like those that I did for my PhD and for those like the students will be conducting over the next few months. If you want to find out more about what we are going to consider, you can download my notes for this session here

A crisis in music education around one-to-one instrumental teaching?

Is there a crisis in our schools surrounding the teaching of music in a one-to-one instrumental setting? I’m not sure that there is, but there is an interesting discussion here from a distinguished panel including MMU’s Professor Heather Piper. I’d skip to around eight minutes in to avoid a long, boring and rambling introduction from the chair:


Coming to a school near you – unqualified teachers (parents – this is not a joke)


It is shocking to see an advertisement like this. But it is no joke. South Leeds Academy are advertising for two unqualified maths teachers.

With pay starting at £16,856 for the ‘unqualified teacher’ pay spine, you might wonder what qualifications you need to get this job. What do you think? A degree in mathematics? At least an A level perhaps? Well, you would be wrong. The person specification (that you can download from here just in case they withdraw it at any point) indicates that all you need is 4 GCSE’s A* to C equivalent (including English and Maths). Phew! Thank goodness. At least they require a teacher of Maths in their school to have a C grade at GCSE. To quote from p.9 of their recruitment pack:

The ideal candidates will possess a minimum of 4 GCSE’s (Grades A*- C) including English and Mathematics or equivalent. Experience of working in a similar role would be desirable. 

It is at this point that words begin to fail me (well, not quiet). I have been writing about the consequences of Gove’s reforms in this area for many years on this blog. At times, I have received a lot of flack from the establishment about being alarmist or too cynical.

If I was a parent of children attending this school I would be angry, in fact very angry. I would be asking what value the school places on my child’s education when such shockingly low standards are applied to the selection of teachers at their school.

I’d like to make a more general point to any parents reading this blog. Are you happy about Gove’s reforms in this area? Would you be happy with unqualified teachers, with a little as 4 GCSEs by way of qualifications, teaching your children?

Please alert me to any further advertisements like this that you see in your local area. Let’s name and shame some of these schools and get them to reconsider their choices. For me, I’m writing to the head teacher of this school this morning about this matter. I would urge you to do the same for your local schools if, or when, they start doing the same.

You can read further details about this specific case here. Thanks Secret Teacher for your highlighting of this example.