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BTEC vs A level

Discussion in 'Music' started by ineedsleep, Sep 1, 2011.

  1. ineedsleep

    ineedsleep New commenter

    Hi all
    I'm just after some advice from your experiences if you have time to reply.
    I'm deliberating whether to ditch A level and replace it with BTEC in music, but have never taught BTEC. In an ideal world I would like to teach both courses but finances dicatate that the department can only run one KS5 course.
    I am looking to the BTEC as I think it might cater for a larger range of our students and in the last 2 years I have been disappointed with the A level results and the rather erratic marking.
    Does anyone teach BTEC and if so which qualification do you go for? I'm not entirely up on all the different titles. Also, you don't really try and teach all the guided learning hours do you? I presume these are filled with homework and independent tasks. Otherwise they wouldn't have time for other qualifications!
    Any observations from your own experiences would be greatly appreciated.
    Many thanks
  2. You need to consider what your student intake is. The BTEC in Music Practice can accommodate strong musicians who are not from a traditional music education background, much more so than A-Level in my opinion. e.g. A great electric bass player who can run rings around a chord chart and can improvise well yet can fall apart a little when 'dots' are put in front of him. It works well for a strong course in popular music if designed and delivered effectively. If the stream of students coming to you are from a classical background then I would stick with A-Level.

    I also feel that you should structure the BTEC carefully to make sure you fill the skills deficit that the typical student may have, e.g. that they get the training in areas such as practice regime (a lot of mine are self taught on entry), that you can offer good instrumental specialists, reading practice is essential and that you don't allow fundamental knowledge such as classical music history and more advanced theory to be ignored. I ensure that my curriculum hours allow for me to deliver a compulsory weekly 3 hr musicianship session, and in addition choir, instrumental lessons and working under a musical director. I also structure the course to balance each part of it with heavy academic alongside the practical units.

    Where music technology is concerned there is no question that the BTEC is stronger but then it does offer 3 times the amount of experience as the single A Level so you would hope so! You also need to make sure you have the resources and the staff with the production expertise!
  3. ineedsleep

    ineedsleep New commenter

    Thank you for your reply. You highlight all the thinks I am unsure about! We have a combination of popular and classical musicians and at present the popular musicians are missing out on or struggling with A level. We definitely can't teach music technology as we have no recording studio and our portable facilities are limited. But hey ho we can't teach everything. I will keep reading up on it all
    Thanks for your help
  4. Popular musicians do struggle more with A-Level as a rule and it isn't geared up well to accommodate them. There are classical units on the BTEC which cover classical performance specifically (alongside several which are generic performance units so could be tailored to any genre of music) there's also a 20th Century unit and others such as Aural Perception Skills and Arranging which are generic and can be angled towards any music.

    Are you in a position where you have enough students to effectively create 2 groups? You could deliver core units together and then send the popular music students off to do a unit such as 'Pop Music in Practice' while the classical group go off for their unit?

    The other thing to consider is whether the students that would traditionally do A-Level want to do BTEC. Unless you're going to only do a Subsidiary Diploma and import some of the classical units into that, you are talking about them doing the equivlent if 3 A-Levels in Music. Also think about their progression, more traditional classical music schools may have issue with the BTEC. While the popular music conservatoires like the BTEC (e.g. Drum Tech, ICMP), I'm not sure how it would go down at the Royal College.
  5. Before you do the swap to BTEC just consider how you would accomodate all the paperwork that comes with it. You could be swamped if you have a large class that is soley your responsibility. I also agree with the other writer saying consider your intake and also if they want to do music in university. Not all uni's recognise the worth of the BTEC. Sad but true. That being said I much prefer A levels but that is because I'm a traditional musician and it's simply easier for me to understand and I think that makes my teaching of the course a lot clearer for the students.
  6. ineedsleep

    ineedsleep New commenter

    Hello and thank you for your replies.
    Running two courses is not an option due to finances for staffing. I was consdering running the subsidiary diploma (performing) in the hope that the classical and popular musicians would still be able to peform in their chosen genre. Each year we only have around 1 student who continues to study music at university and looking at the current cohort the next few will probably go the conservertiore route and most don't expect music A level and will audition. I am very torn about this as I very much value A level, but my numbers are low and the marking seems impossible to figure out. Perhaps it is better to have more students studying music for longer even if it is not a traditional A level. I think I will ask my year 11 what they would prefer and go from there. The BTEC performance also allows students without GCSE music to come back and study the subject,
    thanks again
  7. Depends how much patience you have also. My experience of BTEC performance is that it attracts much bigger numbers. However, it also attracts those who can't play anything and must sing. Think of it as sing in the loosest terms - think bad x-factor auditions. So as I said you must be prepared to judge their talent outside of our normal opinions. You need to consider also that you would have to run it in conjunction with your drama department unless you plan to do this also although I doubt you could as it would take up a considerable chunk of your timetable. And again, I must emphasise yhe amount of paperwork and the many, many assessments you must complete. Very different to anything that you have had to do in GCSE or A level. I would recommend finding a local school who run it so you can see it in action and speak face to face with the co-ordinator so that you can see what you are getting into. I do not wish to put you off, but if you are proposing to run it with all responsibility on you, I worry you are taking on too much. Please be careful!
  8. But you can set a pre-requisite as you would with any course, to not do so would be foolish, they couldn't pass the criteria if they don't have proficiency on an instrument at entry to the course.

    Why? We don't at all. The drama department are running a different course, why would you have to run in in conjunction with another qualification?

    The paperwork is completely manageable, it is possible to make the amounts you produce ridiculous but there is no reason to do this. Write the assignments at the start of the year and plan the assessments carefully. OP there is an assignment pack on my resources where you can see how we spread assessment out. You should never leave all assessment until the end of the course, this is asking for trouble for a multitude of reasons.

    Good advice, although I would recommend that instead you visit a good FE college that delivers it if you are looking at Level 3.
  9. ineedsleep

    ineedsleep New commenter

    Ooh so much to think about. And I am definitely going to visit centres who already run the course and see it in action. I am not too worried about the paper work, I imagnie it similar to the NCFE courses I have run in the past where you need to design your own assessments and create record sheets for recording feeback, marks etc. Hopefully the school I visit won't mind sharing. I shall continue my research and discuss it with my colleages as I would like us to share delivery. All fun! Thanks again
  10. I don't know the NCFE but have heard the paperwork is insane. We design our own so I've never looked but there may be some tempates on the Edexcel website that you can use. Don't forget, one key thing is that you need an Internal Verifier, someone who can check your assignments and feedback. Most places now operate with an internal Lead Verifier, if not you will have to send samples off to Edexcel. You'd want some guidance on this part of it. Is there any other department at your institution that is experienced in running the BTEC, even in an unrelated subject area?

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