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Why is music never a top priority?

(33 Posts)
pugsandseals Mon 24-Sep-12 23:24:29

Been looking at all the prospectuses for DD's secondary transfer next year. DD is musical & will probably put it quite high on the wish list. However, even the so-called musical schools around here will still put the away game hockey match as more important than the instrumental lesson or getting back in time for the informal concert. Why? Yes I know sport has great community value, but so does music! In fact I can think of nothing which can be achieved in sport which can't at least be equalled in music.

DD would love to be able to attend a really good school orchestra & have plenty of opportunities for chamber music. Yet I fear we will only find these things outside of school. Very sad :-(

BackforGood Mon 24-Sep-12 23:32:24

What gives you the impression they will prioritise hockey over orchestra ? confused. Not what I've experienced. Yes, sometimes pupils have to choose, but that is due the impossibility of being in 2 places at once.
Where I live, there are all sorts of school ensembles and orchestras to cater for all levels of musician, unlike sport, where only the elite get to play for the County.

EvilTwins Mon 24-Sep-12 23:37:33

Could be any number of things- not that I think it's right. For example, where I teach, we have one music teacher but five PE. There's only so much one person can do. In our area, county music services have been bulldozed by the coalition, so when we have peri teachers in school, it's by private arrangement and can be expensive. It's a difficult one to defend- I blame resources. It makes me angry. I'm Head of Performing Arts- one music teacher and one drama teacher (me) in the dept. With the best will in the world, we can't run more than we do presently (recorder ensemble, 3 choirs, drama group and a school production at the mo)

morethanpotatoprints Mon 24-Sep-12 23:55:29

Music has never really been a priority where gov is concerned. Some schools can see the importance and others just don't get it. The ones that can work tirelessly and budget as much as they can.
I am not a conservative and hated Thatcher but it is she who got music into the curriculum. Apparentely, so the story goes during a speech written by the then minister of education she wrongly stated that music was to be a priority. She really meant to say Maths, and this is why we had music, so good for a while.
We ended up leaving the school system due to lack of musical opportunities and it appears to be the best decision to date. One of dds private music teachers also teaches in schoosl and is treated appaulingly by some teachers, who clearly see her as disrupting their classroom. She is left in corridors for up to 10 mins, when the parents are paying for the lesson, that only lasts for 20 mins.
I think unless some minister has a passion for music its the luck of the draw where schools and music are concerned.

Moominmammacat Tue 25-Sep-12 09:13:44

Luck of the draw is the word ... my DSs got absolutely nothing at primary, then had everything on earth in secondary. Complete fluke. Shouldn't be like this and I don't see what difference the new hubs will make to schools. There's often excellent provision outside school but it can cost an arm and a leg ... it shouldn't be like that. Despair.

hellsbells99 Tue 25-Sep-12 09:46:42

My DCs are at a state school where they have 3 music teachers. There are various groups at lunchtime and after school - chamber group, concert brand, jazz, strings, brass, flute etc. 1 of my DDs has given up netball club this year as it clashes with 1 of the groups she does - but they can't do everything. The main thing I used to find annoying is that they don't set for music so lessons in years 8 and 9 were often ruined by children who had no interest in music constantly messing around (for some reason yr 7 when they were all learning the keyboard was ok). Yrs 10 and 11 are gcse classes so everything fine in those years.

lljkk Tue 25-Sep-12 09:49:01

I can see why team sport events, representing the school in a competitive atmosphere, drumming up solidarity & group feeling, would be rated more highly than music. It's easier to cheer on hockey players than violin soloists.

Perhaps you'd like to read the Ken Dodd theories of education?

seeker Tue 25-Sep-12 09:54:49

Why do you think they will prioritise matches over music? Surely if a child is picked for both then it's up to the child to choose?

<grits teeth as the owner of a very musical child for whom football is more important than life itself........sends silent waves of sympathy to his music teachers>

MordionAgenos Tue 25-Sep-12 12:22:54

Both my secondary age children (different schools) can and do have music activities every day of the week at lunchtime and after school. They both learn instruments at school, and also outside school and are involved in a variety of ensembles. DD1's best friend is both sporty (playing in the school netball team) and musical (although she does less than half the activities DD1 does - just choir and jazz band, plus one instrumental lesson). DS's school also prioritises drama and 'performing arts'. However I was quite annoyed that I had to have a bit of a battle with his SEN mentor to get his sessions with her scheduled against PE rather than against music or art.

teacher123 Tue 25-Sep-12 15:29:59

Speaking as a music teacher in a secondary school it is a constant struggle to see music placed as any sort of equal to sport. And with comments above about how it's easier to cheer on hockey players than violin soloists just highlights this attitude. Music provision in schools is constantly being eroded, and is just not seen as a priority by many heads as anything other than a PR exercise. I have had 4 Music teacher friends threatened by redundancy in the last year with schools trying to save money by getting other teachers with 'some musical experience' to teach. I know I am biased but it is a subject where you need a specialist. Within schools it is very difficult to get ring fenced time to practice for extra curricular activities when you are competing with sport, and often musical children are sporty as well!

My advice to those looking at senior schools and concerned with the music provision is to talk to the teachers. Ask what concerts they do, how inclusive they are, how do they stretch their most able musicians outside the classroom. Swanky facilities mean almost nothing in my experience. I have worked in amazing looking departments where the attitude was that of absolute apathy, and a department that was almost condemned when the roof caved in with the most inspirational and committed head of department you could ever hope to meet. Also ask management about their attitude to music and how do they help the all rounders to achieve in every capacity.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 25-Sep-12 15:53:32

Teacher123.

Oh such music to my ears. I can't disagree with a word you say.

However, to those who can't access music within school most LEA's have music provision and it needn't be too costly. To receive an LEA lesson in school is the same price as outside. The choirs and ensembles don't cost too much. Obviously if you choose to join several it will add up, but surely this is the same for sport. Provision here isn't that good within schools that dcs wouldn't have to go outside to other clubs if they wanted several activities.

I just think that the overall provision in schools is lacking, in any of the art forms and this is a pity.
When I was at school I struggled with anything academic, music and drama were my saviours. I am not on my own and for this reason if no other participation should be encouraged not over looked.

Maybe we should start a petition.

mummytime Tue 25-Sep-12 16:21:37

DCs school has lots of sports teams, it also has 3/4 Choirs, a couple of orchestras, as well as Jazz band etc. The latest new build was the Performing Arts block. And it isn't the town's specialist music school.
Students awarded honours ties are probably 40% sport, 40% Arts (Music, Dance etc.) and 20% other (including saving someones life).

MordionAgenos Tue 25-Sep-12 16:29:29

I would say that the kids who do well at sport at DD1's school are given more prominence in eg newsletters than those who are accepted into national ensembles or who win things at music festivals etc. But the musicians have several performances a year - the sports people have matches but only the parents know about them till the newsletter comes round.

In Harmony (the people running the English Sistema scheme) are also becoming more active, so that's something else that kids in state schools can plug into if they want - the problem there for the ones who are already high achievers is that the activities tend (IME so far) to be accessible to all abilities so can be a bit basic for the more advanced kids - but, in DD1's case, she is essentially acting as a tutor alongside the (paid) teacher, which is actually brilliant for her as she wants to do music as a career and getting involved at this level is good experience.

For me the biggest barrier to participation will always be the cost of decent instruments though. And that is more difficult to solve (the VAT free scheme isn't nothing but it's not enough to make an instrument affordable for many people, in my view)

Many schools have open concerts that you can attend to get an idea of the standard and hiw involved the music staff are.

Must say our local secondary has plenty of concerts but the actual music staff are a little bit....can't quite put it into words!!

DS2 is very musical and sometimes feels let down by other pupils that don't want to meet every week to practise. He gets to go to a few regular outside arranged by the local Music Services - IMHO these seem to be more reliable than just the schools.

teacher123 Tue 25-Sep-12 16:32:48

I forgot to mention, before my PGCE I was a peripatetic teacher for our LEA. These music services are criminally under funded and subject to ludicrous targets and systems. I was told that it was going to be LEA policy to scrap all individual instrumental lessons for those below grade 5 standard. In 10 years of music teaching I am yet to see someone GET to grade 5 standard in a group lesson environment.

I love my job, but currently work in the independent sector, I would not return to state school music teaching at the moment, it is too uncertain. (see my previous post re:redundancies)

morethanpotatoprints Tue 25-Sep-12 20:06:22

Teacher.

I find it so sad that music isn't really available to all. We are fortunate to be able to afford music lessons and they are a priority in our household. I do have to say though that we are a low income family and we can still do this.
I think more parents can afford lessons but believe they should be free. I have heard this myself at dds past school.
I have a problem with the facilities offered at state schools in comparison to private. My dh used to teach in the private sector, at some exclusive schools and he said the difference was unbelievable. Surely if parents are prepared to pay, the services should be available irrespective of which sector of education the dc belong.
The divide has the effect of giving people like us no choice but to leave state schools and seek music education elsewhere.
I do think that most LEA's cater well for music provision in terms of services out of school and anybody can access these and they aren't expensive. But participation within schools is a lottery.

seeker Tue 25-Sep-12 20:46:14

I have a musical child too- who benefitted hugely in Primary school from both teachers in his school and the charity Music for Schools.

But I think it's important to remember that a cash strapped school can't cater for everyone. What if you had a talented gymnast, for example. Would you be saying that you had to pull your child out of school because, shamefully, they couldn't teach her?

And the only reason private schools can cater for musicians is that their parents pay megabucks for it!

threeineachlobe Tue 25-Sep-12 20:59:51

Any choir schools in your area OP? I've a chorister, and music is put above everything - not just the cathedral stuff but the school choir, music lessons, orchestra etc. Sport still figures fairly highly, but not ever at music activities' expense.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 25-Sep-12 21:08:21

Seeker.

I don't think that instrumental lessons should be free, but I do think that music lessons in the classroom should be available to all.

For the record indie schools charge more for music lessons not the actual instrumental teacher who usuallly has a set rate. The indie schools take alot of this money for building projects. What attracts teachers of music to the private sector is the security of a job.
Of course I would take a talented gymnast out of school they wouldn't be helped much in their future career as a gymnast at school. Music is different though and still only just though, part of the nc.
I have some really good music tutors for dd some teach in private schools some in state and some in none at all. They all charge about the same price and they do so irrespective of who is paying.

YokoUhOh Tue 25-Sep-12 21:36:16

I'm Head of Music in a state secondary. I am genuinely worried about the future of music in schools. All of my extra-curricular clubs are usurped by sports/other clubs, most parents are unwilling/unable to pay for one-to-one tuition on an instrument and kids can't even attend music lessons due to controlled assessments in other subjects. I've put most of my energies into developing singing as an extra-curricular offer (fun and free -and popular due to Glee/X Factor). I'm really proud, however, of the enjoyment levels in KS3 lessons, and the depth of understanding/quality of compositional work my students demonstrate...I just wish we weren't limited to an hour per week!

OhYouBadBadKitten Tue 25-Sep-12 21:43:17

We have the opposite issue in dds school. They get two hours a week in class then out of class there is so much support and encouragement to do extra. Dd gets subsidised lessons and free instrument hire. She does 4 clubs a week and her the head of music would like her to do two more. It's taking over life and we've had to really support dd in being able to stick up for herself and choose a different sort of club on one of the days.

pugsandseals Tue 25-Sep-12 22:22:34

It's great to hear there are some schools who are truly supportive of music. Still looking for one locally to us! We've been sending off for indie school prospectuses too & I find it extraordinary how little space is given up to music provision. Even in schools with really high reputations locally for music!
I think we're going to need a lottery win if we want DD to have the opportunities she would like. Will look at choir schools though, that's a great idea

morethanpotatoprints Tue 25-Sep-12 22:40:57

Pugs.

I wish that provision was better than it is especially in state schools, but alas it isn't very good for most.
Is it possible for you to have private instrumental lessons, or do your LEA operate a music service outside school.
I know this may not be ideal but it has certainly worked for us.
Bearing in mind the problems Yoko suggests and that these are not isolated and common in many schools, it may be better to go elsewhere.
My dd does LEA choir, string ensemble and singing lessons. None of this was available at her school. Piano and string instrumental teachers are private. No particular reason for this it just worked this way. Dh teaches her saxophone and we both do Aural and theory with her. However, her teachers would do these if we were none musical. Also I think LEA music services do theory classes. Also don't forget some families are entitled to subsidized lessons and the instrumental hire scheme can be worth it in the early days, rather than having to buy. Some music shops offer tuition at reasonable prices too, they are usually local peri's earning some much needed extra money.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 25-Sep-12 22:49:27

Yoko.

Just wanted to say you are a credit to your profession and I hope things improve for you. It must be so soul destroying to battle on regardless when you know there is very little hope of a decent future in something you are so passionate about.
I know many teachers of music who are like yourself and for the parents who care, believe me you are truely appreciated. Unfortunately, you are unable to deliver what many would require and this is extremely sad for all concerned. I know that we are a different case as no school could be expected to provide the amount of music our dd experiences daily but something in school would have been good and encouraged many others to enjoy and participate in music.

MordionAgenos Wed 26-Sep-12 07:09:15

@morethan It's not very good for some. I'm not sure you can say it's not very good for most. The part of London I grew up in, the best school for music was the state school i went to, not the well known private schools. This is still the case. Where I live now, the schools both my older DCs go to are pretty good for music. They aren't as good as the school I went to myself, but that's a very high bar. I'm definitely criticAl of some of the aspects of music provision in my LEA but there are lots of music opportunities for young people. I know it's not the same in every area, and I know you think it isn't the same where you live, but that doesn't mean it's awful everywhere.

What is really worrying people right now is the future - there have been hard won gains in some areas due to widening opportunities, sing up, in harmony etc (none of which had much of an impact on my kids except Dd1 is now involved in 'helping' with one of the in harmony groups) - but they will all be lost if the new 'key' curriculum is seen to not include music. But this would be a problem for many private schools - they really aren't all good at music whatever you may believe.

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