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GCSE Music advice please

(80 Posts)
runforthehills65 Fri 03-May-13 12:16:50

My son showed no interest in playing an instrument until Year 7. He is now in Year 8 and about to take Trinity Grade 1 piano.

He practises a fair amount at home and does seem to be able to play pieces by ear quite easily.

I am not musical at all and wondered whether this level is too low to do GCSE Music? His music teacher said he should ideally be grade 3 level but thinks he will cope.

Anyone whose DC has taken GSCE Music and how hard is it?

He's got to chose now for Year 9 and I don't want him taking this if he will really struggle and could chose another option, ie. geography or 2nd language.


MeerkatMerkin Sun 05-May-13 21:56:25

I know it's an anecdote, but I took GCSE music 11 years ago just because I enjoyed it - I could only vaguely read music and played the keyboard. I also sang, and used CuBase (and tape cassettes!) to compose. I got an A*. I would suggest there is no need to read music but the composition element of the exam is the most difficult and if there is no natural ability for this then your DS may find it difficult.

webwiz Sun 05-May-13 21:57:56

Russians I haven't said the peris were poor, I said that there was nothing wrong with the quality of their teaching but there were problems with the actually organisation of the lessons in school.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 05-May-13 22:22:06

Webwiz Peri ones are just infinitely worse than private ones

Not a huge amount of wriggle room there. I pointed out myself that your specific issues seemed to be with the school. But your headline statement was quite, um, forceful, no?

webwiz Sun 05-May-13 22:27:57

I was talking about the experience of as a whole, this is my second sentence

Again nothing to do with the quality of the teachers but the missing bits of lessons is just a pain

Startail Sun 05-May-13 22:32:16

I can't imagine DD1 having peripatetic lessons in school this year.
English CAs and core science to the final GCSE have been an absolute pain without trying to slip out of lessons to learn an instrument.

She quietly dropped her SN help because she hated lessons. She's dyslexic, but bright and very difficult to help.)

She did flute in Y8 and that was a nightmare because the lessons moved to avoid annoying one particular teacher, but they also seemed to move and be cancelled and grouped and in grouped as well because teachers were ill, pupils dropped in and out and teachers changed.

Her private singing lessons move, both for the teacher and DD1's convenience, but at least we know what's going on several days in advance. Not at 9am on the day of the lesson.

Startail Sun 05-May-13 22:32:48

Hated leaving lessons

BackforGood Sun 05-May-13 23:19:39

Russians - I think webwiz was very clear that she was talking about the 'whole experience or having lessons through the school' and not the quality of any individual teacher. For what it's worth that has totally been my experience with 3 different children learning 3 different instruments though the schools service here, vs the quality of experience they got in having a lesson outside of school. It's to do with the lesson being a shared lesson, to do with them being a bit shorter to begin with, but then never getting the full lesson because someone will have forgotten to come so the teacher sends another pupil to fetch them, etc.,etc., not the quality of any individual teacher (as I think webwiz made perfectly clear). Great if that's not been your experience, but sadly it is the experience of a lot of people.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 05-May-13 23:36:32

Peri lessons don't have to be shared. None of the lessons at Dd1s or DSs schools are shared. They also don't have to be shorter, all my 3 kids have half hour lessons for the 4 instruments they learn between them at their various schools. Admittedly Dd1 has an hour lesson for her first study instrument which she learns outside school (it isn't offered at her school). Clearly some MNetters do not like the experience or the idea of learning instruments at school but huge numbers of people have positive experiences. I'm perfectly happy to accept some people have crap experiences, I only ever comment when they make sweeping comments such as the ones above.

titchy Mon 06-May-13 00:08:04

Well my experience of Peri teachers has been fantastic - 3 instruments between 2 dcs. Individual half hour lesson for all, if the next kid is away, ill or has forgotten my dc gets to stay on rather than the teacher having an extra half hour spare. Lesson times are rotated so dc doesn't miss the same lesson each week. Fully expect to get to G8 using peri music service - am currently topping up with music service's Saturday theory course for a term but that's it (unless they fail g5 theory ...). Can't fault them!

titchy Mon 06-May-13 00:08:58

Oh and a lot cheaper than private - £12ph rather then £18

gobbin Mon 06-May-13 10:08:52

Russians I'm pleased your DC's are having a fantastic peri experience. Your children are lucky to be in a school that is highly funded for peri tuition (whether by parents or school).

What I and Webwiz are saying (and I say this as having been Head of Music in my school for 17 years before moving up) is that in SOME schools the SYSTEM makes it harder for pupils to achieve in that they have to:

a) negotiate getting out of lessons. In some schools this can be a challenge with staff. In mine in the early days we had to have a directive from the Head in a staff meeting insisting that pupils were to be allowed out as some staff would stop them leaving. Pupils still get pressure from staff but nobody actually prevents them, but they occasionally get a hard time. This is common in state schools;

b) share a lesson. If you have an oversubscribed peri system with a waiting list in some instruments, you have to manage time. Here, we've managed to work it so that pupils either have a 20min individual lesson or half hr shared. In some instruments with fewer learners they are able to have a half hr lesson on their own, but this is changing next year owing to cutbacks in funding from County.

I'd be interested to know Russians how much you get charged for your DCs lessons. From Sept we'll be charging £120 a year. That helps to cover the £10,000 EXTRA tuition we buy in from the County on top of the £20,000 they provide us free. If we didn't buy in the extra, a third of our tuition would go. If we charge any more the parents would vote with their feet and stop lessons (you see, I teach in an economically deprived area). Are you aware/surprised that it costs £30k per year to fund lessons for just ONE school for approx 100 pupils? Nearly all schools in my area pass this cost onto parents. They understand that, if their child wants lessons, they have to pay a nominal amount towards the cost and their child may have to share.

Our string/wind/guitar teachers are in 8.30am until 4.15pm. They can't physically teach any more pupils in the time allowed. They are in other schools on other days. If kids all had individual half hr lessons we'd need them in for another half day each at least. This would cost another £250 per week, (or another £8,250 per 33 guaranteed peri teaching weeks a year). Our school and our parents can't afford that.

Our Music Peri Service has won national awards for quality. I haven't stated anywhere that the quality of PERI TUITION is less than private, just the EXPERIENCE.

My son has private violin lessons in the evening with my school's violin peri. He has an individual half hr lesson with an excellent teacher for which we pay the full whack. He wouldn't get the same experience in school owing to FUNDING, TIMING and LESSON SHARING.

Is it absolutely crystal clear now that we're not knocking peri staff teaching?

gobbin Mon 06-May-13 10:15:24

I'd also like to say that we offer lessons in upper/lower strings, all woodwind, all brass, all guitar, drum kit, orchestral percussion and voice, with harp coming through next year. The only instrument we don't offer is piano as there are lots of excellent teachers in the community.

All on £30k a year, remember...

stillenacht Tue 07-May-13 09:02:28

Russians...the creative task is an exam so not the same rules as the controlled assessments (compositions) . Of course wedo loads of CT practice and I give them a booklet I created of tips and hints as to how to do well...I go through the booklet in precise the CT exam it's just them, their instrument or computer and the stimulus though (and me praying that they have remembered my hints and tips!) smile

hellsbells99 Tue 07-May-13 12:09:22

My DDs are both doing GCSE music. They both very much enjoy it although elder DD did get a bit stressed doing the last composition. All her course work is completed and she will be doing the exam in 2 weeks. She has passed grade 5 in 2 instruments. She said playing the piano helped a lot with the compositions. She also said that doing her grade 5 theory had been a big advantage although not essential. She is probably on target to get an A which she will be happy with. Although her grade 5 music exams were high marks, she didn't score an A* in her GCSE performances (1 mark off in the solo not sure of her group mark). It is not an easy option at all but it has been an enjoyable option. DD2 is in year 10 so has done a couple of performances and is working on her first composition. She is the same music standard as DD1.
I know quite a few taking the GCSE in both years are not a high performance standard but as long as they put the work in and enjoy the subject they seem to be on target to pass okay (but won't get A*s - but life is not all about that).
IMO children should pick a mixture of subjects they need and subjects they enjoy - but will still pass!

jamdonut Wed 08-May-13 20:56:17

My DD is taking GCSE Music this year.

She took Grade 5 theory exam in year 9, and apparently that is harder than the GCSE theory.

It always amazes me that people think Music is a soft is hard work!!

She found doing compositions quite challenging,but performing was easier, and is predicted A if not A*.

She is a flute player, and will be taking Grade 8 by Christmas. ( She had Grade 3 on leaving primary school...the first person to achieve that in that school!)
She plans on doing a music degree,eventually, and wants to be a secondary school music teacher.

I would have loved her to have learned piano properly,(she is self taught,not a great player) but I can barely afford LEA Music fees as it is (Not quite entitled to free school meals and therefore free music lessons!).

She also taught herself to play the guitar.

She spends an awful lot of time in the music department,one way or another,especially at production time!

stillenacht Wed 08-May-13 22:34:23

please don't let her be a secondary school music is slavery by a different name. Only about 40% of my job is teaching music.As a musician that is soul destroying..endless admin, reports, exam admin, moving of equipment, sorting out peri issues/clashes with public exams, delivering PSHE, being a form tutor...

stillenacht Wed 08-May-13 22:37:34

also she would need to be pretty good on piano or guitar (grade 5ish) if she wants to get a job in a better school as well as the flute

morethanpotatoprints Wed 08-May-13 22:46:01

It used to be that a gr5 standard was equal to the O'level, in terms of standard. I think that anything is achievable if you really want it badly enough. If your ds in intent on doing this I would recommend a professional teacher and lots of practice. It can't be too difficult I know a 7 year old currently doing gr6 (obviously passed theory) and her 5 year old brother doing grade 3 both piano.
They only have a half hour lesson a week, but practice for about an hour a day.

jamdonut Thu 09-May-13 17:15:24

stillenacht...Yes I know this about piano. Bit of a problem,I know. Her music teachers are going to try and help her in 6th form when she has free time, one plays the piano awesomely, the other is,by coincidence, primarily a flute player!

I will tell her what you said about being a music teacher, but I think her mind is made up at the moment!

circular Thu 09-May-13 19:32:36

Why do all music teachers try and put the kids off of the job?

My yr11 Dd wants to do a music degree, and hopes to teach music too.

Her instrument teachers try and put her off that, telling her she would be better off being a secondary school or private school music teacher. The secondary school teachers tell her she would be better off tea hung instruments, or primary school with a music spe Kalisz.

As for the piano, noticed that some University courses want grade 5 piano or keyboards. She was also self taught, but started piano lessons in yr9.
Some teachers of other instruments think of piano as being the easiest to pick up as a second or third instrument.

circular Thu 09-May-13 19:34:22

Bloody autocorrect

Tea hung -- teaching
Spe Kalisz -- specialism

gobbin Thu 09-May-13 21:28:38

circular possibly because it's not the job it was, for any subject not just Music.

Pros = still a good status job, pay is just about ok, good career progression if desired, fairly portable around the country, holidays, many pupils/other staff/ parents are good to work with, concerts/shows that go well, good pension, good sick leave/other leave arrangements.

Cons = volume of paperwork in order to justify every single thing you do, other necessary paperwork e.g. reports, little autonomy to go off-piste from the curriculum, poor curriculum support for Music (some of the resources out there are laughable, so you end up creating all your own which takes hours...and hours. Nothing comes 'off the shelf' of any quality), time taken to run extra-curric activities which can sometimes be a joy and a grind at other times, parents who condone their kids missing rehearsals for spurious reasons, parents who moan about paying towards the cost of peri lessons, chasing kids who forget their peri lessons, nagging kids who don't practise for peri lessons/extra curric activities, a minority of hard-work kids in classes can ruin a lesson/day for everyone, everyone thinking they can give an informed opinion of what it's like to be a teacher just because they went to school/have kids...

gobbin Thu 09-May-13 21:31:38

Oh, and in Wales at least, the implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework from next year means that Inspectors will be looking for how you develop these skills in your lesson observations. They won't actually give a stuff whether or not you managed to get your nightmare class to play/sing/compose/appraise/engage with music to a good standard.

stillenacht Thu 09-May-13 21:41:39

add to that lugging around keyboards, music stands, amps, large instruments. Fixing instruments. Sorting out music ICT problems, undoubtedly being in charge of music for assemblies, audio equipment for sports days, prize giving etc...

Schmedz Thu 09-May-13 21:42:16

Circular...I'm a music teacher and I love it so certainly wouldn't try to put your DD off the job. Mind you, I now work as a music specialist in a junior school despite training as a secondary teacher :-) but I also loved secondary.

Also, you don't have to work in the state system if you want to avoid the overload of government 'initiatives'!

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