Dedication is what they need

19th November 2004 at 00:00
The letter from Mr Moses (TES, October 29) is worrying. He mixes up higher and further education, confuses at least three issues, and gives no credit to local authority music services, a large group of which have very recently received high marks in inspections.

He has a go at group tuition. Well, at least it's a choice that parents can make. (I heard last week that young people had achieved the rare but possible feat of attaining Grade 8 via group tuition.) If the fees for that and 1:1 tuition are becoming uncomfortably high, then that is because a number of LEAs are facing an increasing gap between income and staff costs, now that a good proportion of staff are going on to the upper pay scales.

To have been unlucky with group tuition doesn't allow him to say that the typical authority music service has "woeful" standards. He also bewails the extension of opportunities to an even larger cohort, on the grounds that it must by its nature have a similar result.

The point of the recent Wider Opportunities programme, shared initially between the Department for Education and Skills and Youth Music, was largely to offer wider access to experience on instruments, in Years 3 and 4, not to deliver high performance levels.

If young people succeed in music, as in sport, it is because of hard work and commitment, from whatever teaching base. If they achieve high grade marks or gain entry to a Premiership academy, they identify with a dedicated group which has devoted time, imagination and physical energy to the task. It may not be helpful to label them as elite.

Surely the point is how to ensure that pupils are not barred because of low household income from getting onto the ladder in the first place.

John Westcombe

42 New Road

Broxbourne, Hertfordshire

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