Monday, November 28, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

My thoughts on National Plan for Music Education

After interminable delays the government have finally published "A National Plan for Music Education"

Having read it through these are my concerns.

1) Whilst it is brilliant to read that every school MUST provide good quality music lessons, plus choir & ensembles, for ALL pupils it is followed by the rider - 'subject to the national curriculum review' which is widely expected to ditch music along with many other creative subjects. Without music on the national curriculum or part of the EBAC league what pressure is there on heads to ensure music is taught? Sadly most of this national plan will be largely irrelevant unless schools have to provide music education for all children.

2) Currently music education receives £82.5 million a year. This will be cut to £60million over 3 years @Markdavyd has pointed out that this 27% cut in funding might not be compatible with the great aspirations the plan has. There is some reference to funding formula weighted to free school meal areas. That sounds very promising.

3) Fantastic to see music education for teachers has been adressed. Proper training for class teachers in primary schools is long overdue.

4) Delighted to see music technology highlighted. It would be great to see much more collaboration between ICT leaders and music teachers at school.

5) Development of music hubs. My interest in this plan is from a teacher and parent perspective so have no particular axe to grind about providers. However we have an excellent local authority partnership group - Merton Music Foundation that works brilliantly. My question is is this promotion of "hubs" a chance to kick out local authorities in favour of private companies? This government do have a track record of trampling on public schemes in favour of private companies so I am naturally suspicious. Having waded through the report the hub idea and the application process sounds horrendously bureaucratic and wasteful. The paperwork alone will eat up tons of money.

Look, it's not rocket science. All schools need to ensure they provide good quality music lesson for all their children regardless of race, colour, creed, ability. To do that they need trained staff, resources, support from ICT colleagues and senior management. Local authorities need to ensure they enable schools to work together to share expertise and enthusiasm. Areas of poverty and deprivation need twice or three times the funding of wealthy areas. How about we end tax relief on private schools and use this to fund it? I expect it would be enough to fund private tuition for every state pupil in the country!

I am no expert but from my view music education is incredibly patchy. There is lots of great stuff in this report but I know the devil will be in the detail. I am already sick of the word hub.

National Music Plan finally published

You can read the governments plan for music education here
I am just going to re read it and will be back shortly with my comments!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Supporting pupils with Aspergers

At primary school, most children are taught by their class teacher. However PPA time means many children are used to changing teachers. Some children with special needs find this disturbance of their usual routine upsetting. Visual timetables have become a common place way of helping the child to deal with this.

Following last nights staff meeting I was inspired to create my own "sign" to send to all staff who support children on the austic spectrum who are taught by me.

Whilst it feels a bit egotistical it is worth it if it smooths the transition.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy St Cecilia's Day! - the patron saint of music

We had a fabulous musical assembly at St Teresa's today in preparation for St Cecila's Day. Every single pupil performed. We had singing, boomwhacking, and African drumming. I am hoping to put up some video clips so watch this space! Meanwhile here is a clip of last years Royal Albert Hall concert. Year 4 are learning the song "Dig Deep" to perform at "Ring around the World" next year.

If you watch carefully you will spot 2 St Teresa's teachers and lots of our pupils!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Meet the Young Song leaders at St Teresa's

Young Song Leaders at St Teresa's on PhotoPeach

Another useful free tool for teachers

I love this! I am going to use this site to get kids to write reviews of music we have created in lessons. It is very easy to use. Click here to try it out yourself

Music that makes me smile

I have just discovered a new free tool called Lino it via tonights #ukedchat on twitter.
Please can you help me out by posting a sticky note on it telling the song or piece of music that ALWAYS makes you smile? It is supposed to be very easy to use - just hover over the brown rectangle and some stickies should appear.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Young Song Leaders Rock!

I spent a wonderful morning with 60 children from Poplar, Merton Park and Joseph Hood who were being trained as Young Song Leaders. This is a terrific initiative organised by the very talented Soo Bishop.

The training began with a technical explanation about the mechanics of singing. The children learned about intercostal muscles, the importance of good breath control and how the larynx works. Soo was able to show the children how to feel the vibrations of the vocal cords as the voice moves up and down in pitch.

Soo then demonstrated a range of techniques for teaching songs. This included
  • giving clear , strong visual cues
  • using movements to help associate action with remembering lyrics
  • hand signs to indicate pitch
  • using the phrase "off we go..." to set starting pitch.
The children seemed to catch on quickly and were very keen to start teaching the younger children.

The next step is for the children to go back to school and to start putting this good training into place. We plan for them to come into key stage 1 singing assembly tomorrow to teach a warm up to the younger children. In addition the children will be paired up with their own key stage 1 class to support. They will visit and lead singing at pre arranged times (possibly during class assemblies) In addition they will also lead singing games in the playground.

During Merton ArtsBeat2012 the Young Song Leaders will have an invaluable role in running after school community singing sessions where mums and dads and anyone from the local community will be able to join in. We are also planning for them to perform in a local concert involving all the local schools in our cluster.

Soo and I plan to set up a "Young Song Leaders" blog. This will allow Soo a platform to share her ideas, tips and resources. The children involved will also be able to post comments about their experiences and ask Soo for advice on specific problems they have come across.

Soo's enthusiasm and professionalism is infectious and it was a delight to watch 60 pupils really striving for excellence.

Here is a clip of the children singing. Please bear in mind they had only learned this song for about 10 minutes when this was recorded.Young Song Leaders - Bella mama (mp3)

Thank you so much to Merton Park for hosting and making us feel so welcome!

Friday, November 4, 2011

ICT and primary music

Here are some fantastic ICT resources for teaching music at primary school. Visit Malcolm Wilson's blog for some truly inspiring ideas and practical suggestions. I would strongly recommend following him on twitter. His twitter name is @claganach