Musical timing cannot be speeded up

21st February 1997 at 00:00
I was surprised to read that mathematics and English teachers in secondary schools carry the greatest workload, putting in 50.5 and 51.5 hours per week respectively (TES, February 14). Did the survey not cover music teachers, drama teachers and PE staff?

My experience inspecting LEA school music suggests that music teachers, often in one-teacher departments and therefore teaching and assessing music throughout the school, probably put in a minimum of 50 hours per week. Avoiding the (tempting) argument that music teachers spend more time on preparation than mathematics teachers, I would remind readers that if it is necessary to listen to a 10-minute piece of music, it is not possible to listen to it in five minutes to improve productivity.

There are few mathematicians whose commitment to teaching implies a commitment to hours of pupil-contact time beyond the timetable. It is taken for granted, however, that music teachers will give up hours of their own time to conduct orchestras, choirs, wind ensembles, and even to give individual instrumental tuition. Music teachers have to arrange the variety of performing opportunities for pupils, which are part of the statutory (and desirable) requirements of the national curriculum. It is also assumed that they will put on high-quality "shop window" concerts to give the school a good name.

All this, of course, is in addition to keeping the classroom teaching and personal performing skills up to standard. Do mathematicians have to practise at home to keep in shape? Many music teachers see their own skills atrophy because they have no time to practise.

A similar scenario probably applies to sports teachers who are expected to take teams to matches at weekends, and drama teachers who have bursts of frenetic activity producing plays and shows.

Yet again, published statistics focus on the core subjects that produce the league tables. The arts and arts teachers get insufficient recognition, although education is not considered complete without them. Given schools' requirement to address pupils' spiritual, social and cultural development - to which the arts make a vital contribution - perhaps the real workload of music, drama and PE teachers should be properly recognised and valued.

TONY WENMAN

Seralleigh 7 Common Road Claygate Surrey

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