One of the ways of motivating pupils is to make subjects come alive." "Our very best teachers are those who have a real passion and enthusiasm for the subject they teach." "A rich and exciting curriculum in which every subject is taught outstandingly well."
These are extracts from recent documents from the Department for Education and Skills, celebrating the importance of individual subjects. It's exhilarating stuff, after years when music teachers felt marginalised by the demands of literacy, numeracy, Sats, league tables etc. But it's all predicated on the assumption that there are enough confident and charismatic music teachers to fulfil this vision. Is initial teacher training (ITT) geared up to producing them?
Sadly, no, for a number of reasons. One is the course models prescribed by the Teacher Training Agency in Qualifying to Teach which sets out the requirements for awarding Qualified Teacher Status. These affect primary and secondary courses in very different ways. Students taking full-time secondary PGCE courses are required to spend two thirds of the course (24 weeks) in schools. The quality of the training therefore depends on the schools in which trainee teachers are placed. It's an apprenticeship model and trainees placed with exciting and charismatic teachers may catch whatever it is that their mentors have got. But the latest Ofsted report for music (November 2002) says teaching is good in just over three-fifths of schools at key stage 3, and that leaves nearly two-fifths of them.
Although ITT providers would not intentionally place students in poor departments, in some parts of the country it is an annual struggle to find the number of school placements needed.
One problem with the QTS standards is finding a way to train instrumental teachers, and it is fair to say that this has been a casualty of the current system since many, if not most, of the QTS Standards can only be met in a classroom. Current efforts to address this include courses with an instrumental teaching option, and flexible modular PGCEs which can be combined with employment.
For the past few years, secondary music courses have failed to meet the recruitment target set by the TTA and the situation is worsening. This suggests that insufficient secondary music teachers are being trained and in fact music is designated by the TTA as a shortage subject. However, it has not been designated a priority subject which would entitle newly qualified teachers to have their student loans repaid by the government.
Representations from the National Association of Music Educators to the DfES and TTA have met with the reply that there are two lists of shortage subjects, each for a different purpose.
Primary courses are very different. One recent change in the requirements is that they no longer need to include a specialist subject. The effect of this could be very significant for a subject like music. Many students entering ITT will have dropped music after Year 9 at school and the QTS standards specify minimal training in the foundation subjects. Music is included in performing arts rather than being seen as a subject in its own right. Therefore many newly qualified primary teachers will take up their first posts with very little experience of music. They will need the help of a music co-ordinator if they are to teach effectively but where are these co-ordinators going to come from? It seems likely that many providers will continue to include a subject specialism, but Rick Rogers's latest research (Time for the Arts?) indicates that there has been a substantial decline in the number of providers offering music as a specialism, which is very worrying.
This is in many respects a depressing scenario; but maybe it need not be.
Perhaps we need to recognise that initial training is only the beginning.
The early years of teaching are the ideal time to reach the parts that initial training cannot, and a system is needed in which all teachers have an entitlement to continuing development.
Primary teachers will need further training in the foundation subjects.
Secondary teachers' needs are different but they also need this entitlement, especially if they teach in a single-person department where isolation is a real problem. Without this, Charles Clarke's vision may not be fully realised.
A New Specialist System: Transforming Secondary Education; Subject Specialism: Consultation Document; and Excellence and Enjoyment, a Strategy for Primary Schools can all be obtained from DfES publications. Qualifying to Teach: Professional Standards for Qualified Teacher Status and Requirements for Initial Teacher Training is obtainable from the TTA (www.canteach.gov.uk). Time for the Arts? The Arts in the Initial Training of Primary Teachers: a Survey of Training Providers in England by Rick Rogers is obtainable from the Star Project.Tel: 0121 531 0606 Helen Coll is head of secondary education at the University of Central England, Birmingham and chair of the National Association of Music Educators www.name.org.uk