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Don't Stop the Music

(20 Posts)
Marmight Tue 16-Sep-14 22:01:42

Just watching this on C4. Amazing man (James Rhodes) trying to introduce music into a school in Basildon and hopefully to all schools across the country. If you have spare spare unwanted instruments, Oxfam shops throughout the country are accepting them. The effect on the childrn is amazing. I have a guitar which will hopefully be useful. See the C4 website for more info.

Ana Tue 16-Sep-14 22:10:17

I watched it too, Marmight.

It was amazing what confidence being able to play an instrument, or even just make music, gave to the children - especially those who had previously been struggling in other subjects.

HollyDaze Tue 16-Sep-14 23:04:04

trying to introduce music into a school in Basildon and hopefully to all schools across the country.

What! Since when have schools stopped teaching music to pupils?

janerowena Tue 16-Sep-14 23:20:51

Since the government stopped funding the arts, when money got tight. Not just in schools, all universities will no longer receive grants for the arts, the departments will all have to be privately funded, which was why my son could not get to the university and course he had set his heart on - it closed down.

Most schools had to bring in music teachers from outside, not retained as part of the staff. So when they had to cut their budgets and improve their maths and English, music suffered all round. Lack of money to pay peripatetic music staff and lack of time to have lessons. They are lucky if they get drama and art, they usually get one double period of one a week and do the other the next term. It's sad.

durhamjen Tue 16-Sep-14 23:37:38

I agree, janer. My son is a head of music in a school with 1700 pupils. The music department is him and two part-timers. No peris any more.
It is no longer an important enough subject to be in the national curriculum for most schools.
I remember once going to a concert at the Sage and sitting next to a man to whom we started talking in the break. He turned out to be the father of someone my son had taught and had gone to the RAM.
He was in the London Symphony Orchestra, and this man said he thought it was all down to my son's teaching. We felt very proud of our son.
He doesn't teach A level any more as there are not enough pupils wanting to take it. Even the good ones apologise to him because they know they will not get anywhere if they take A level music.

Marmight Wed 17-Sep-14 07:51:38

Holly . Watch it on playback or see the website! 2nd and last programme to follow. I find it very sad that music has disappeared from so many school curriculum. It had an amazing effect on some of the 'difficult' children, so surely that is a valid reason to push for music classes to be reintroduced everywhere.

vegasmags Wed 17-Sep-14 08:57:46

At my DGS's primary school, all children learn an instrument for at least a year, which at least gives them an introduction.

I'm not sure about this drive to collect unwanted instruments, which are to be stored in a warehouse then reconditioned - not sure who's paying for that. This might be well intentioned, but the instruments alone are useless without teachers, and who is going to find and fund them?

Here in the north west, brass bands have a wonderful tradition of music education, allowing youngsters to borrow instruments free of charge and providing free tuition. I would urge anyone who has an unwanted brass instrument to consider donating it to their local brass band.

Mishap Wed 17-Sep-14 09:52:55

I have been banging on ad nauseam about this for years and years - there is a huge body of evidence to show how learning music (whether through singing or an instrument) from a young age enhances all areas of learning, but it has fallen on deaf ears with the successive culturally-bereft and league-table obsessed governments. It is like banging ones head against a brick wall. Never mind that it is also fun, fosters co-operation and good behaviour and has career potential. It breaks my heart.

The first programme of this 3 parter showed the designated school "music specialist" in the school, who admitted she did not like music, doing an exercise that was pitiful in its uselessness - children banging on margerine tubs to an obscure and pointless rhythm. My OH and I sat with our heads in our hands.

To anyone who has been labouring under the idea that music is thriving in schools, now is the time to lobby your MP to get something done.

The government funded regional "music hubs" which do their best on a minute budget, but the focus is wrong - they fly in and do some nice musical day and then fly out. What is needed is music embedded in the school day by day with a sense that it is just normal to learn and enjoy, like literacy and all the rest, rather than an add-on.

They used to fund Sing Up! which was a brilliant online resource that meant that non-musical teachers had audio, written and other resources that made it possible for them to get whole schools singing. Just when it was doing well, the government decided to start charging schools to log on, so, faced with the priority subjects (of which music is not one) to fund, schools have dropped out.

It is a national tragedy and the more people who shout about it the better.

I am governor of a tiny village primary school and yelled long and hard about all this to the point where we now have a day a week's input from a music specialist, recorder taught to all children, a thriving choir (in a school with 45 children!) and input from instrumental teachers. If we can do it on a miniscule budget then think what could be done if the proper money were forthcoming.

One of the critical factors is teacher training - the young teachers emerging now are the product of schools where music was taught (or not taught) equally badly and they are the second generation of teachers who have no confidence in their ability to teach music, even at the most basic level.

Is it not worth investment to see our young people gaining confidence, finding joy and learning to cooperate together? - who knows they might be less inclined to take to drugs or knock old ladies over the head if they have a pleasurable focus to their lives and goals to work towards and have learned what fun it can be making music together. They will have absorbed the idea that cooperative creative activity is good - that can only be an asset for society.

Sorry! - this is my hobby horse and a large chunk of my life is and has been devoted to acting on the principle that music is for all

Gracesgran Wed 17-Sep-14 09:58:27

Hmm durhamjen another area where you would not be able to tell a state school from the best of independent ones then sad Thank heavens Mr Gove has gone but ...

janerowena Wed 17-Sep-14 10:12:48

We paid for our son - ex cathedral chorister, diploma in clarinet, grade 8 piano - to go to a summer school each holiday, he had to audition to get in. He said that there were exceptionally talented children there (the Purcell School, London) but he was the only one of the 40 who actually hoped to have some kind of career in music. All accepted that they could not hope to get a job teaching it, some wanted to join an orchestra but their parents were discouraging them because the pay isn't good. My son wants to compose music for the background music in video games. He would love to compose music for films, but of course is being sensible and hoping to ease in from another direction. He has earnt some money and had a few commissions already, but says that he will have to run it alongside another career to be sure that he can pay his rent, so he is quite realistic.

I have such happy memories of my school singing classes and glockenspiel-bashing, it's sad to think that little children in most schools won't have that pleasure.

DBH was a Head of music, he was exhausted. Very little help from anyone, a report to be written for every single child in the school and no help in organising the concerts that he had to put on every term, plus a musical, for which he had at least some help from the English department. Peris often living too far away to wish to come in in the evenings.

HollyDaze Wed 17-Sep-14 11:48:04

I am truly shocked at what is happening in the UK with regard to the arts. Even if we ignore the birth of new talent (from schools), it gives children so many other aspects of learning, it involves those who are not gifted musically but take part in other ways that forms bonds and a feeling of togetherness. It is also a wonderful escape from the reality - for a short time.

There aren't many videos online but I found a couple of Ramsey Grammar School (instruments on display!) which, I believe, shows the importance of music and dance:

This the Manx Folk Awards (again, with RGS playing) so may not be to everyone's taste:

Then, the pure fun element that unites both sides of learning:

How many teachers are referred to as 'awesome' and 'legend' in the UK - it's how the children at Ramsey Grammar School refer to their teachers (because their teachers acknowledge the children's musical tastes and join in the fun with them as can be seen on that video) - that makes the children much more responsive to teachers.

Sorry to ramble but those clips echo my own experience of music, dance and drama at school and I am so saddened that so many children are missing out on all those wonderful memories that, borne of childhood, they can never achieve in adulthood.

I do hope those of you who are challenging the absence of the arts all the success in the world.

durhamjen Thu 18-Sep-14 00:33:31

I do not understand your comment, gracesgran. Can you please explain what you mean a bit more fully?

janerowena Thu 18-Sep-14 11:48:26

My OH was a Head in private schools, durhamjen. Being in a private system does not necessarily mean that the school has more income to spend on staff or pupils or facilities, it is more that you can spend it on anything you like. If you look at what the govt. spends annualy on a state-educated pupil, it's not much different from private school fees. However the govt. used to help out a bit with the arts funding. As parents in private schools tend to expect more musically, it was a huge blow to the school. They do an awful lot of charity events, and that extra money paid for transport and other little extras that otherwise ate into the music department budget. £400 for a coach to transport students and instruments, that sort of thing.

durhamjen Thu 18-Sep-14 22:35:06

My son is a head of music in a catholic school. He organises a lot of music for the whole diocese, or at least he used to until the school became an academy. They were promised that if they agreed to become an academy, nothing would change. They would just get more money.
His department was cut, as was every department that wasn't considered essential. All lies. He resigned as teacher rep on the governing board, but nobody else will do it.

I got a scholarship to a private school. The only pupils who studied music at that school were those whose parents paid privately for instrumental lessons. It's definitely going back that way.

When my son studied music in the 70s, we never had to pay for anything, apart from his clarinets and saxophones. Even then we only paid for them because we could. There was a loan system for musical instruments when you could hire them by paying a pound a month.
Can't imagine it's like that now.

rubylady Fri 19-Sep-14 03:39:03

Music is so important to our well being. Could you imagine if you didn't have music in your life?

I think that more subjects could be taught to music, especially maths. How many lyrics do you remember from how many songs? If a beat was taught to the times table for instance (they probably don't even do that these days) then children would remember them better. I learnt with a rhythm to do mine and haven't forgot them. Most children are into some form of music so therefore they could have fun making up songs to remember their work by.

I didn't watch this programme, although it does sound good in theory, I agree with others about who would teach the children when the instruments were given out. But I do find it outrageous that the arts are being cut down like they are. It is then again left to whether the parents can afford to have private lessons and pay for instruments for their children. Some can and some can't.

My son learnt the cornet at primary school and did a concert at our Albert Hall which he has always been proud of since and will never forget. He now is learning electric guitar but only because I can afford to buy him one to play. Every child should be allowed to show their talent and feel fulfilled in playing an instrument if they so wish to do so. I played clarinet and flute at my secondary grammar school.

janerowena Fri 19-Sep-14 10:59:54

durhamjen at my OH's current school, they do have a music lesson a week and the poor head of music is sorely stretched - yet at another school where OH taught, and my daughter attended, they had two full-time music teachers for the little ones. Here they have to have things like choir as an after-school club, and the difference in the quality of the singing is... let's say, noticeable! The older ones in the senior school have no music at all unless they choose it for GCSE or choose to belong to a choir. Your poor son, he must be so frustrated.

My son was a chorister, the cathedral paid for one instrument and singing lessons and we had to pay for another instrument, we paid 50% of school fees and found it so hard to find the money for that lesson every week! His choir school had two full-timers and one music gap student.

In fact my son applied to be a music gap student but that was the year that funding was cut, and all the private schools who would have had to find him accommodation suddenly couldn't afford to. At the same time, giving him a flat rate pocket money of £60 a week plus accommodation plus food was no longer considered lawful, they were all told that he had to be paid on a hourly minimum wage, even though he neither expected nor wanted it particularly. Madness. So all of a sudden, another source of musical education was wiped out overnight. Three good cathedral schools wanted him, all had to write letters of apology changing their minds.

rubylady did the school give the cornet lessons free that recently? I think every state school my children attended (we moved a lot so they had a real mixture) gave free recorder lessons. Because of those, my children went on to love flute and clarinet, rather than the piano lessons they both had as well, and of course being able to read music helped my son to get his choir school scholarship.

Music has always been such a huge part of our family's life, of all varieties, and although I know some children find it and learn an instrument for themselves they don't have a clue about the wonderful range of instruments that they could have chosen from, it's all guitars and keyboards.

My son asked for a guitar for a combined birthday and Christmas present. His father spent hours searching for the perfect one, and he had lessons for that once he had his grade 8 piano out of the way. We couldn't understand why he rarely played anything we could listen to, it was just a series of plinks and plonks as far as we could make out. Eventually DBH had a word with the guitar teacher, to discover that our son didn't want to play it as such - he just wanted to find out how they chords worked so that he could broaden the breadth of music he composed! We could have bought him a cheap acoustic one! grin The downside of having a slightly aspi son. He never explains things clearly.

rubylady Fri 19-Sep-14 12:23:19

jane My son is 17 now so it's about seven years ago he did cornet.

Son's don't put their wishes over very well at times, do they? Training to be men. confused

janerowena Fri 19-Sep-14 20:21:01

grin That's probably what it is.

durhamjen Tue 16-Jun-15 20:02:55

There's been an update on this petition.
Because the government is going to push the baccalaureate music goes even lower on the curriculum. Even those who want to study it will find it difficult to fit in.

hildajenniJ Tue 16-Jun-15 20:14:50

This is all so sad. What a sorry state of affairs. Where would I be today if it had not been for the marvellous Mr. Poole who taught music at my Secondary school. He nurtured my love of classical music and taught me to appreciate composers I would never have thought to listen to. Without music in schools, children will be all the poorer.