Good books on teaching music in the secondary school, rather like buses, are a long time coming and then arrive two together. The last time this happened was in the early 1980s with the appearance of John Paynter's Music in the Secondary School Curriculum and William Salaman's Living School Music. Now we have both David Bray and Chris Philpott's books to provide a clear overview of the central issues and down-to-earth, practical advice.
Written for both classroom and instrumental teachers, Teaching Music in the Secondary School can be read from start to finish or dipped into as required. The clear format, with each chapter having clearly stated aims and a concluding summary, will be useful for quick reference.
Topics include planning, assessment, differentiation, making teaching effective, the role of instrumental teachers, using integrated approaches for GCSE and A-level courses and the place of music in the whole school. Advice is firmly based on real life situations and illustrated with sample schemes, lesson plans and other materials which can either be adopted wholesale or adapted. The final chapter includes useful guidance and photocopiable proformas that can be used in self-review.
Learning to Teach Music in the Secondary School is the latest in the series of books for student teachers. Cntributors include leading names in music education and the wealth of their experience is reflected in the ease with which they give succinct, lucid overviews of theoretical issues and relate them to the practicalities of life in the classroom. Discussion and presentation tasks within each chapter ensure that readers are actively involved and forced to re-examine their own thinking.
The main premise of the book is that music needs to be taught musically and that what goes on in the classroom should arise from the nature of music itself. This theme runs through 14 closely argued chapters on issues including the place of music in the curriculum, the nature of music learning, planning, managing and assessing musical learning, school examinations and music outside the classroom.
Probably one of the most useful chapters is by Chris Philpott on addressing individual needs. The music class is likely to reflect a very wide range of abilities, interests and experiences.
One of the greatest challenges is to provide for this multitude of needs within departments that are usually small and offer few alternatives to mixed ability teaching. Philpott challenges readers to review their own practice, presenting them with a range of practical alternatives for dealing with differentiation.
Both books are well worth reading and would make a useful addition to any music department bookshelf.
Aelwyn Pugh is music inspector and head of the music service for Liverpool LEA