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New Britpop GCSE is surprise to staff

Edexcel is radically changing its music GCSE from September. So why haven't schools been told yet? Adi Bloom reports

Teachers claim that changes to the music GCSE syllabus, including an option on Britpop, have been introduced without their knowledge.

The new, restructured syllabus, set by the Edexcel exam board, will come into effect from September this year. But music teachers, unaware of the changes, have already provided out-of-date course information for Year 9 pupils choosing their GCSE subjects.

Colin Ashworth, head of music at Sir Christopher Hatton comprehensive, in Northamptonshire, found out about the changes when he received a list of forthcoming textbooks from academic publishers Heinemann.

From July, a new copy of their GCSE music book will be available, catering for the 20,000 music candidates who take Edexcel's exam.

Mr Ashworth said: "Our Year 9 pupils will be opting to take music GCSE in a few weeks' time, and they don't know what's in the course. We don't really know what's going on ourselves any more. It's a minefield."

Edexcel claims that it has consulted teachers about the restructured course, and plans to release full details in April.

A spokeswoman said: "Heinemann were a little premature. We want to make sure everything is approved before releasing any information for teachers.

People are aware of the restructuring.

"We consulted teachers and asked them what kind of lead-in time they would need. It should not come as a shock."

But teachers say that they were unaware of the changes. Bruce Field, a music teacher from Stoke-on-Trent, in Staffordshire, said: "If they're going to change the syllabus, it would be nice to know before the publishers. We need to start reading schemes of work."

Pupils currently study four subject areas for Edexcel's GCSE, each consisting of four topics, and are then examined on three of these.

The changed syllabus will be streamlined so that each subject area contains only three topics. New topics, such as Britpop, have been introduced. And pupils will no longer be required to perform their own compositions.

Mr Field said: "Our resources are for the current syllabus, so we are going to have to buy new textbooks, practice papers and CDs. But you can't do that until you know what you're doing. For example, people say Britpop, and you think Oasis and Blur. But it could be anything, including Radiohead and Coldplay."

Derek Kitt, chair of the National Association of Music Educators, believes that a lack of up-to-date exam information can also affect pupils' attitudes towards teachers. "If a teacher says you're going to do this syllabus, and then suddenly the syllabus changes, the student starts wondering whether the teacher is on the ball," he said. "Teachers' own professionalism is called into question, even if they've planned to the nth degree. It's a nonsense, really."

Friday magazine 15

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