Ensemble efforts

17th November 2000 at 00:00
There is still work to do to keep music relevant and challenging, says Anice Paterson of NAME

We welcome the recent Royal Society for Arts and National Foundation for Educational Research report into the value of arts education in secondary schools. Let us hope that it will do more than preach to the converted, as so many studies have done before, and actually have some effect on policy-makers' decisions. We particularly celebrate all the examples where excellent teachers are making music that is relevant to pupils as well as challenging. There is much positive material here and also some very trenchant statements about music and pupils' perceptions of their experience.

In the Sixties and Seventies, when local education authority money was flowing to develop the curriculum, art and design was developed in schools to encompass a broad range of skills and media - ceramics, graphic design, photography, even silversmithing, not to mention drawing and painting. Music put all that money into developing central orchestras, bands and choirs out of school and an infrastructure to provide individual teaching. We may be reaping what we sowed.

We must recognise the context in which secondary music teaching takes place. There are three jobs in any music department: classroom teacher, ensemble leaderdirector of music, and manager of part-time instrumentalvocal teachers. Single-teacher departments need opportunities for collaboration and professional development with other music teachers. Pupils need spaces to work undisturbed by thenoise of others. Music technology that provides a route for able pupils to do well in music without additional lessons is still underdeveloped in many schools. Music is the only subject on the curriculum where large numbers of pupils can have additional lessons to develop their instrumental skills outside the classroom over a long period of time. The work should not be underestimated. We need to:

* clearly identify the reasons for low take-up at GCSE

* ensure that all lessons are truly musical ones and that pupils learn from the musicianship of the teacher

* develop the high challenge high support model the report highlights

* use cross-arts work to make music relevant

* develop music within the social inclusion agenda

* develop the language of transferable skills and the needs of employers

* improve take-up for at least one arts subject for all at KS4

* improve take-up of teacher training places for music.

A new NAME publication on composing in the classroom, the result of research at Bath Spa University, provides case studies of good practice and other guidance about the management of music in the classroom. It provides support for the development of music teachers' methodology and is an in-service and initial teacher training tool. Contact the NAME administrator for a copy.

Anice Paterson is past chair of the National Association of Music Educators, 16 Pinions Road, High Wycombe, Bucks HP13 7AT. Tel: 01494 473410. E-mail: musiceducation @name.org.uk. Web: www.name.org.uk

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