Chalk Talk: New approach to music strikes the right notes
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Wednesday 20 November 2013
To the Royal Albert Hall last week for the annual "Schools Proms" concerts.
This year's extravaganza coincided with a report on the state of music education in schools by Ofsted, the education-standards watchdog. It warned that only a minority of pupils in England's schools were receiving a quality music education.
"Music is a demanding academic discipline, developed through exciting practical musical activity," said Michael Cladingbowl, the director of schools policy at Ofsted. However, most of the schools visited (by Ofsted) shied away from teaching pupils about fundamental aspects of music because they thought it too difficult.
"All children, not just the privileged few, should enjoy a good music education," he said.
Amen to that, but at least representatives of that minority of schools giving a quality music education – 3,000 of them during the course of the three days of concerts – were very much in evidence last week.
The performers included steel bands, brass ensembles, rock ensembles, classical-music acts, and one primary school which had taken heed of a plea last month by the 1960s pop star Joe Brown for schools to abandon giving all their pupils a recorder and try them out with ukuleles instead. A vast improvement.
Good, then, to see that the impact on music services by what Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers – one of the sponsors of the concerts – describes as the "sidelining" of the service to exam pressures, has been overcome in so many schools by dedicated teachers.
Good to note, too, that the Department for Education is also a sponsor of concerts. There are not many occasions when these two organisations get together for the same common end. Let us hope that the fears expressed in the Ofsted report about music quality never become so grave that they impinge on the standards of the concerts.
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