TES letters

31st October 2014 at 00:00

Let's make music more instrumental in education

Violinist Nicola Benedetti makes an excellent case for knowledge of classical music being an integral part of education as a whole (" `Children should absolutely listen to classical music' ", 24 October). A step in the right direction would be to create a GCSE andor A-level in the history of music, comparable to the history of art A-level. You do not have to be good with a paint brush or able to draw to appreciate art, and history of art fosters knowledge and love of art in people with different skills.

Present qualifications in music require performance skills, which must be learned through often expensive music lessons. It's a form of discrimination: without private lessons, the majority of students are simply excluded.

A coherent and comprehensive history of music course would enrich the lives of many young people, whatever their financial background, and create better informed and appreciative audiences for classical music for years to come.

Hilary Moriarty
Founding partner of education at Greenings International and former national director, Boarding Schools' Association

A love of music grows from the ability to listen to a piece of music and from having the language skills to discuss it. Listening skills need to be developed and rewarded from an early age.

For example, music can be used to signal the transition between tasks or to provide a background for painting activities. Many teachers of Years 1 and 2 play classical music as children enter the classroom. Others use it to reflect the theme of the week: The Planets by Holst for Planet Week, The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Sans for Animals Week or Flight of the Bumble Bee by Rimsky-Korsakov for Minibeasts Week.

In this way, children learn to enjoy classical music and develop their vocabulary by discussing the mood of a piece.

Jeanne Holloway
Freelance education adviser and retired teacher, Surrey

Didactic and dynamic? It can be done

"It hurts, but sometimes rote learning is right" (Comment, 24 October) embraces an intriguing paradox. Arguably, a teacher must impart knowledge, but this must be balanced with dynamic and pupil-centred learning. Yet it would appear that much teaching today has become formulaic in the extreme. Would it not be possible for a teacher to achieve an outstanding lesson observation from Ofsted but for the session to lack detailed subject knowledge input?

I wholeheartedly agree that lessons shouldn't just be fun - they need to be creative and must serve a purpose. For me, the ideal lesson has an eclectic mix of knowledge delivery and learner-centred activity. Surely there is no reason why these styles - didactic and learner-centred - cannot coexist, inspiring our students with passion and meaning.

Mark Damon Chutter
Faculty lead for English, Roedean School, Brighton

Ministers' workload promises ring hollow

Although education secretary Nicky Morgan's Workload Challenge is to be welcomed, it stands little chance of success unless the biggest generator of work is addressed: the relentless stream of government initiatives ("Will the Workload Challenge lighten the load for staff?", 24 October).

Likewise, the suggestion by Labour's Tristram Hunt of a period of curriculum stability is something every teacher would vote for, but can you imagine him twiddling his thumbs if he became secretary of state? Every recent incumbent has felt obliged to revolutionise education to justify their appointment and create a legacy. Can Ms Morgan or Mr Hunt resist that temptation?

Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire

Teachers speak out but no one listens

Ann Mroz is right to be concerned about teacher voice ("We mustn't let the loudest voices drown out the rest", Editorial, 17 October). Teachers may be gaining audiences online - with some even being invited to meet Ofsted - but often they are not heard where it matters most, namely their own schools.

Over many years working in the fields of student voice and parental involvement, I have repeatedly heard teachers express concern that they are not listened to by senior leaders. How can teachers take student voice seriously when they don't have a voice themselves?

What a wasted opportunity this is. Staff at the chalk face often know what is working within their schools and what is not. Teacher councils or forums should thus be the norm, in order to ensure that the views of the profession are taken account of by school leaders and governors in decision-making.

Fiona Carnie

The lessons we still haven't learned

The death of Professor Leonard Marsh, an authority on primary education, reminds me of a 1972 front page of The Teacher, where he urged schools to improve maths teaching. In 1971, the same journal highlighted West Yorkshire chief education officer Sir Alec Clegg's fear that government policy towards local authorities would create urban slum schools and embed disadvantage.

Anyone worth their educational salt knows the immense vision and distinctive contribution made to schools by these two bold, public service entrepreneurs. Why is our school system not by now outstanding? Why do we still address problems to which they knew the answers? More than 40 years later the Human Scale Education movement urges urban village schooling. Former Labour minister Alan Milburn predicts embedded division between rich and poor. Local authorities are weakened rather than reformed.

Mervyn Benford
Cloudshill, Shutford

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