2020: 10 songs that sum up this year in education

From David Bowie's Heroes to Avril Lavigne's Complicated, Ian Pryce presents his soundtrack to 2020
22nd December 2020, 8:00am
Ian Pryce

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2020: 10 songs that sum up this year in education

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/2020-10-songs-sum-year-education
Coronavirus & Colleges: 10 Songs That Sum Up 2020

We seem to spend so much of our time campaigning for fair funding that it feels appropriate - when choosing a soundtrack for 2020 in education - to pick a first song that keeps up our motivation: Dr Hook's A Little Bit More will get your whole Christmas "bubble" singing.

The first lockdown kept us all working from pretty solitary spaces.  Relive the experience with one of the most beautiful songs, the Beach Boys' In My Room, which has the aura of King's College choir about it.

We've all got used to remote working in 2020. We've discovered that some aspects of distance are positive. That makes From a Distance, a classic written and performed by Nanci Griffith, a definite Christmas special.


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The summer exams fiasco was one of the big stories of 2020, and resulted in "algorithm" becoming one of the words of the year. Avril Lavigne singing "why do you have to go and make things so complicated?sums it all up.

A soundtrack for FE colleges in 2020

Footballer Marcus Rashford became an unlikely education hero in 2020, and we also saw an increased focus on diversity following the Black Lives Matter campaign. Many songs deal with hunger and discrimination but none portrays the way people try to do the right thing in tough circumstances like Stevie Wonder's Living for the City.

One of my heroes, Toots Hibbert (Toots and the Maytals), died this year. An incredible artist who once gave me 20 minutes of his time. For Colleges Week, we did a spoof of a Willie Nelson song. For me that means Christmas music has to include the pair of them singing Still is Still Moving to MeWillie's plea to slow down and take things easy? Great advice.

Early autumn is traditionally the time many of our students leave home and progress to university. The experience this year has been tough for them but that sense of excitement and freedom is so important, best summed up by the exceptional Dixie Chicks' huge hit Wide Open Spaces, the perfect song to belt out while making Christmas dinner.

Christmas is about tradition, an excuse to play old songs. Why not celebrate the vaccine successes of the past months by unleashing your inner Ella Fitzgerald and her version of I've Got You Under My Skin?

Our staff, students and governors have all stepped up to the plate this year, and everyone in FE deserves praise and to feel good. There is no more appropriate song to send that message than David Bowie's Heroes.

Finally, as we move into the post-Brexit era, we should not lose our bond of friendship with our European neighbours. We also need a song that speaks of our love for our sector. How can we resist Edith Piaf asserting "give your heart and soul to me, and life will always be, La Vie en Rose"?

I hope your 2021 will be just that - FE en Rose! Merry Christmas.

The soundtrack to FE in 2020 

  • A Little Bit More, Dr Hook
  • In My Room, Beach Boys   
  • From a Distance, Nanci Griffith
  • Complicated, Avril Lavigne
  • Livin' for the City, Stevie Wonder
  • Still is Still Moving to Me, Toots and the Maytals (and Willie Nelson)
  • Wide Open Spaces, Dixie Chicks
  • I've Got You Under My Skin, Ella Fitzgerald
  • Heroes, David Bowie
  • La Vie En Rose, Edith Piaf       

To listen to the full playlist on Spotify, click here. 

Ian Pryce is principal and CEO of the Bedford College Group

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