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Feeling fed up... Why bother learning an instrument in ptimary school to drop it in year 7?

(162 Posts)
stillenacht Wed 18-Sep-13 19:39:46

Exactly that. Feeling very impotent as a secondary music teacher, going through my registers "Yes Miss I can play the violin/trombone/viola/flute/clarinet. I played it at Primary school but gave up before my 11plus/at the end of year 5/4/3".

Every bloody year more and more kids tell me this. Why cant kids commit to learning for the long term?Argh!!!!

arfishy Mon 09-Dec-13 02:34:09

At DDs school everybody starts an instrument at 5 - mainly violins & cellos. Then in year 3 the brass/woodwind program kicks in and everybody gets an instrument and a free lesson on whichever instrument they have chosen. DD started violin at 5 and chose clarinet in year 3, which has now evolved into Saxophone. She has violin lessons out of school and percussion & saxophone in school, one fixed and one rotating slot.

She is 10 and doing grade 4 for violin and saxophone so may just reach the mythical grade 5s by 11! This isn't considered as particularly spectacular by the school - they have to be grade 7 in year 6 for a music scholarship shock

We are finding that sport is frequently clashing with music now as another poster mentioned. Next year sailing clashes with her violin ensemble rehearsal on Tuesday and another orchestral commitment on Saturday. We had to do all of the sport enrolments before we got the results of the ensemble auditions so now we're double booked.

I was made to take piano lessons from about age 6 to about age 13 in the 70s, got to grade 5 level but never took the exam. I did my best but clearly wasn't very talented. I finally managed to persuade my parents to let me stop it at that point and I have never wanted to go back and do it again, never regretted stopping for a single minute, it was just a relentless slog. I don't feel I've missed out in the slightest, it just isn't where my interests lie. However while I don't think anyone should have to carry on for years if they hate it, I do think that everyone should have the opportunity to learn and see if they want to pursue it.

As for my own DCs, DS (9) did keyboard in year 3 and it was a total slog for him (he has ASD and poor coordination). I will admit my rusty skills were useful in helping him. DS (7) wants to learn instruments but hasn't been offered anything through school and already does ballet, tap, Brownies, drama, rugby and swimming outside school and it's hard to see how we could fit it in TBH. Maybe the home learning via the internet will be the way to go for us, my rusty skills might come in handy. Our school does not appear to prioritise music very much unfortunately.

SE13Mummy Mon 11-Nov-13 23:06:21

Here in SE13 I'd say one of the major barriers is the lack of support by school leadership for music as a curriculum subject.

My own experience as a primary school teacher is that there is so much pressure on children making progress in Literacy and numeracy that that lots of class teachers panic when children disappear out of parts of lessons for 30 minutes once or twice a week. Personally, it's not something that bothers me as I spend at least 5 hours a week teaching Literacy and numeracy - if a child doesn't 'get' what we're doing in 4.5 hours, I doubt that the 30 minutes that they are in a recorder/brass/woodwind lesson will be the dealbreaker.

I am completely biased as I'm someone who played musical instruments all the way through primary and secondary school, loved singing in choirs, playing in the youth orchestra etc. and I would like every child I teach to have the opportunity to do the same. Sadly, until primary schools are no longer judged by their KS2 test results (by Ofsted, the press and by parents), I expect that most Headteachers will feel they are justified in claiming that parents want high KS2 results and so music has to be an extra that is squeezed in here and there. It's not the case in all schools - I know of a couple of primaries near here who have made music a priority. At those schools every single child will learn at least one instrument throughout their time at primary school.

Another possible barrier is the apparent lack of opportunity to perform through the school and the age limits put on other opportunities. For example, DD1 took up the trumpet aged 7.5 (because she had been desperate to for ages, had picked up the recorder/reading music quickly, had enough adult teeth and there were spaces in the brass teacher's timetable) having a 30 minute group lesson, at lunchtimes, once a week. In Y3 she was put in a group with 2 children, one from Y5, one from Y6 and took grade 2 after a year of playing (she passed with distinction). The other two were able to go to a very local schools event for brass and woodwind players along with all other Y5+ pupils who were having school music lessons. DD1 wasn't allowed to go because she was in Y3. Unbeknown to me, her brass teacher and the recorder teacher had put her name forward to attend the event. Being in Y3 was the only stumbling block. So, a highly motivated, keen and musical pupil missed out because she's not in the correct year group. Other children from DD1's school returned from the event saying, "you should have been there - X can only play 3 notes and she came, you'd have loved it". She won't be in the correct year group to participate in any of the Lewisham/Southwark/Lambeth music events for another year from now. I'm not sure that's a great way to enthuse young musicians! Luckily for DD1, she does get to play at church once a month and through the Music Service Saturday morning groups so it's not as though being barred from that event (which was for the launch of a new group) has prevented her from playing. Chances are, there will be children in Y4 for whom that would have been their only easy opportunity to engage with music socially.

goonIcantakeit Sun 27-Oct-13 16:45:59

Hi Stillenacht,

I work part-time in a primary and we are working on transition right now. I feel the same as you from the other side of the fence: "All that work, all that input.... then they give up at secondary!"

You already said you are doing transition links so I won't try to teach-my-grandmother-to-suck-eggs.

Another thought: how about, at the beginning of year 7, you get that list of "I used to play x but gave it up for 11+ tutoring" kids and say to them "right, if you still have it, do not sell it, do not return a hire instrument, because you will be using it in each and every KS3 music lesson...."

This, of course, would mean that your classroom music syllabus would then need to incorporate use of a range of instruments in every lesson - but that, as you know, can be done, especially with composition work being such a desired focus these days.

let me know what you think! HTH.

anotherboringnickname Fri 25-Oct-13 14:04:15

OP, it's interesting you mention the 11plus, though. I know kids who were tutored several hours a week. No more time for music! Isn't it a symptom of the academics taking over, parents anxious of getting into the good schools, getting the A* for UNI, etc?
It does get more difficult and demanding with time!
My DS is into music, he is a music scholar with three instrumental lessons a week plus choir, ensembles, etc. On top of all that time, there is the individual practice time which he has to do everyday after finishing homework, while many of his friends, after homework, can just chill out playing games or watching TV. This requires an iron will.

Clayhanger Thu 24-Oct-13 08:22:17

Putting the cost issue aside (though obviously it's a major barrier!) I wonder if there's another way of approaching it. You meet so many adults who regret having given up an instrument that I almost wonder whether there's scope for targeting the parents to learn along with the children. Learners' orchestras shouldn't be restricted by age.
My DDs were in a Saturday music centre for years which allowed parents to join the main orchestra - there was already a parents' choir.

I sympathise with stillenacht though. DDs' school (comp) has a fantastically dynamic music department. There's a Y7 concert in the first term and all music lessons are geared to that - a mass choir. But the orchestra isn't too strong- the good players don't want to join because it's too scratchy. All school music teachers have my admiration for their patience!

78bunion Fri 27-Sep-13 07:32:00

Also those short of money do use the internet. I taught the children theory and taught them all the grades just about all of them up to 5. They learned the piano from parents at home too (no cost). I taught myself the violin to grade 8 and singing to grade 8 without a single lesson (although my piano and theory lessons - both grade 8s too) helped mean that was possible, although obviously if you can afford lessons that will for most children be the best option. I also did music GCSE alone as a teenager teaching myself - library books etc.

Sokmonsta Thu 26-Sep-13 20:36:19

For me, or rather my parents, the barrier to me continuing my piano/violin/recorder lessons at secondary school was cost. They couldn't afford to continue lessons in just one instrument. Primary lessons were free. Secondary lessons were £30 an hour every week. The teacher kindly agreed to me doing just half an hour but long term to get a good grounding it just wasn't feasible to continue.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 25-Sep-13 22:12:10

Jux, will pm but only as it may identify my dd.

Jux Wed 25-Sep-13 14:11:15

Which authority, potatoprints? I think I need to move!

morethanpotatoprints Wed 25-Sep-13 11:18:21

That should read £25 per term, so it is even more reasonably priced.
I think the biggest barrier to be honest is the parents and at times the authority. There seems to be no continuation from primary to secondary.
If the music service were to send follow up reports to secondary, or encourage dc to play in ensembles, the move to secondary would be just as smooth as for other subjects the dc do. The dc would just turn up to ensemble at the beginning of term as they did in primary.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 24-Sep-13 22:45:35

Hello Stilenhact?

I can't speak for all primaries but round here there seem to be a few dc in each class who have an individual instrumental lesson from the ITP.
Anybody else who plays anything either has a private lesson and these are fewer dc than with ITP, or as part of the whole class, for one year as wider participation.
It isn't enough. It's ok for authorities to say we have the ensembles and teachers, unless there are more children encouraged to play.
Many primary teachers don't have much of an interest in music, nor the time, to be fair.
If parents don't encourage, most won't get the opportunity.
Our LA is fantastic and offers subsidised tuition for those on out of work benefit. You can also join as many ensembles as you wish for £25 per half term. There are bands, ensembles, groups, orchestras, and every imaginable instrument has little groups.
My dd would practice and muck about with music all day if I didn't stop her. Her lessons and practice equate to about three quarters of time spent on education.
She spent an hour today waving a stick around, to a cd, showing how well she thinks she can conduct grin

OhYouBadBadKitten Tue 24-Sep-13 21:23:39

Pictures sounds a lot less scary put that way smile

Dd has two really full on days with very little time at home. I wish they were spread out more.

ZZZenagain Tue 24-Sep-13 18:14:50

It is wonderful to have a day or at least an afternoon where you don't have to go out and do something. I feel like that so I could imagine dc do too but sometimes dc love something so much, it doesn't feel like having to do something. I know dd's friend who does martial arts 8 x week told me when I asked her how she manages, that it is easy for her because she loves doing it. I suppose if she was going to a Tutor on Mondays, chess on Tuesdays, cello on Wednesdays etc it would feel like a heavy burden because she would feel she perhaps has to do it all rather than really enjoys it all. I like to laze about and read a book so I don't really understand massively active young people but I don't see how it can be a bad thing to exercise a lot if you want to do it.

I know with my own dd if she has spent 10 minutes on maths, she starts yawning, her eyes glaze over with boredom and she genuinely seems to get incredibly tired. I presume because she has to do something that doesn't interest her in the least. Yet she can play the violin for 2,3,4+ hours a day - given the chance and she doesn't get tired. I suppose it is like tinkering about with lego, trying to get the Perplexus ball to the end of the labryinth or just drawing complicated squiggle designs and relaxes you if you really like it, even if you have to concentrate to do it.

Mind you I feel the same about 10 minutes into looking into maths so she may have that from me.

RussiansOnTheSpree Tue 24-Sep-13 15:29:16

DD1's primary stopping flute (the teacher retired, they didn't replace her) has been a real pain for us. Luckily, DD2's teacher (who teaches her in school) teaches at a private school quite close to where we live. She normally only teaches secondary school aged children but she offered to teach DD2 because she is already doing pretty well, and hopefully if DD2 ends up going to the same school as DD1 then there will be continuity. DD2's school lets her leave 15 mins early one day a week, so she can fit the flute lesson in before one of her dance lessons. It means she has a really jammed day though, and things would have been a lot more convenient if she was still learning in school. But it is what it is.

RussiansOnTheSpree Tue 24-Sep-13 15:24:33

bunion - my DS wants 'downtime' 24/7 grin (so do I, actually. grin )

bruffin Tue 24-Sep-13 15:12:10

My Dcs gave up piano in primary because their teacher left, who was lovely and replaced with a really crap teacher. She shouted at ds, who is dyslexic and struggled to read music but was good at memorising pieces and gave my DD one piece to learn that was little more than a 3 fingered exercise for the whole of one term. She also had her favorites and piano assemblies went from every child performing their piece what ever level they were, to her favorites performing 3 or 4 pieces while other children were stuck doing a single simple duet. It was awful and many children stopped playing despite years of lessons.
DD went on to take singing for a while at secondary but the cost became prohibitive and we couldnt really afford it anymore.

78bunion Tue 24-Sep-13 15:06:20

It depends on the child. Many want 4.30 - 10 to be down time every day. Others never stop doing school work, school hobbies or whatever.

I do feel the music schools can be a bit much for some children which probably ours could have got into (lots of high grades early on, music scholarships for 3 of them etc) as for ours music was one of other hobbies too and not a passion in the way it has to be if you going to go into that kind of environment (and same with dance and drama schools).

I am sure like a lot of parents who are into their children do a lot of high standard classical music though parents do try to pick a school which is going to match their child (and we have been lucky to achieve that - I would have not coped easily with a school with not many children doing classic music).

RussiansOnTheSpree Tue 24-Sep-13 14:58:43

Pictures smile My DD2 (who is younger than your DD, still at primary school) does either music or dance or drama after school every day of the week, and she currently has an extra dance class on saturdays and a full day of rehearsals for two shows she is in on Sundays. So I know what it's like! She only lives 20 mins away from her primary school though. Things will have to change at secondary school, when she goes - she'll be able to take one instrumental lesson in school again (her primary school stopped offering flute this term which we were very hmm about) and music theory too, and I guess we might make her drop one dance lesson. Although we might not.

OP - she definitely won't be giving up her instruments though. smile

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 24-Sep-13 13:41:43

Whew. Didn't realise I would cause such a debate

I do worry about the commute - basically she has a bursary but not an MDS award so we can't afford for her to board at school

We've now arranged for her to eat her evening meal at school with the boarders which has given her a bit if extra time.

When she got back last night she managed 20 mins piano practice. She then got bored watching TV do started doing her stretches. I had to tell her to stop in the end

She reads a lot. She's a real bookworm and usually reads or plays on her iPad on the way to & from school.

If she was at normal school shed be finishing at 4pm then is be driving her to various dance classes most nights. The only difference being she danced from 4.25pm - 7.15 but With a 45 min break half way through when she ate & dud homework in the changing room with her friends.

ZZZenagain Tue 24-Sep-13 12:13:57

My guess is Pictures cares more about her own dd's wellbeing than any of us do and I am sure she wouldn't have her at this school if it was exhausting her dd or making her stressed and unhappy. Probably all that dancing every day after lessons is giving her an adreniln boost and keeping her top fit. It maybe is easier to manage that than say a musically intense school with lots of practise of instruments - sitting bolt upright at the piano for 2 hours after school I think is more likely to cause you problems than dancing.

OhYouBadBadKitten Tue 24-Sep-13 12:07:09

I think that with any activity, if you are doing it to the exclusion of not having any free time at all you risk burning out.

I say this as a parent of a child who is very driven and tries to balance her music with her academics and her sport. If it were up to her she would work til 10pm every night and its my job to make sure that she has some time off. Else by the time she's half way through university she's going to have a nervous breakdown. I can see that when she's exhausted she doesnt let herself off at all and that's no good for anyone.

curlew Tue 24-Sep-13 11:34:01

It is not viable in the long term for anyone to only have 10-15 minutes down time a day. I don't have to know anything else about the child concerned's life to know that.

RussiansOnTheSpree Tue 24-Sep-13 10:38:12

curlew And there was I thinking you telling pictures that her DD's life 'isn't viable' was bizarre (given that you know very little about it - which is exactly the position I'm in and why I know I'm not qualified to tell her how to parent).

DropYourSword Tue 24-Sep-13 10:37:21

I was forced to continue to play viola for a couple of years in secondary school. I just didn't enjoy it at all. It was a real chore, not a pleasure and in the end didn't get me anywhere. Looking back, I really don't see what the benefit was off forcing me to continue. Nothing I was ever given was anywhere near the kind of music I enjoyed and there was no grade system for me, so nothing to even work towards, which I think I would have at least appreciated. I understand however that that isn't really the case for most music students and that the grade system is pretty pregnant in music teaching. No idea why it wasn't mentioned by my musicteacher?! If they aren't enjoying it, they should be allowed to stop.

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