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Exit routes from instrumental lessons

Discussion in 'Music' started by Clairebarbs, Oct 20, 2011.

  1. I am a PE teacher and we have some real struggles to have students excused
    from curriculum time if, for example, they have qualified for county finals in a sport,
    having attended after-school practices and matches for 6 months previously. However,
    it is deemed quite acceptable for students to miss curriculum lessons in any subject
    for a whole year to attend instrumental lessons for which there is no further exit route -
    eg school orchestra, assembly performances, community music activities. Whilst I fully support
    the students having the opportunity to learn an instrument, I resent the differing standards between
    music and PE/albeit sport.

    I'm really interested to know if there are many schools which offer instrumental lessons with no exit routes?
    I'm quietly confident that if I, as a PE teacher, was to take students out of other curriculum lessons each week
    to develop, for example, their volleyball skills - and I work in a school where we choose not to offer volleyball
    in the curriculum and there are no community exit routes - that this would not be allowed.

    If there is an exit route, then I don't take issue with it. But I do have an issue with double standards for music and
    PE. I'm curious as to what music specialists think about this as I appreciate I may have a slightly one-dimensional
    view in this?!!
  2. I'm not a Music or PE teacher, but have similarly lost pupils to music lessons...and my own children have taken music lessons during school time in the past...
    In my experience, music lessons involve very small groups of students, and where there are multiple lessons being given by one teacher, most secondary schools have a music lesson timetable that rotates the classes missed by any individual student. Also, those students would be grouped by musical ability, not age, so a class teacher would hopefully only experience one or two students missing part of one or two classes per term. (This small number of absences can be handled in a similar fashion to a child missing one or two lessons in a term due to illness). If there are too few students to vary the lesson times, then presumably only a very small number of students are involved at all.
    Conversely, my assumption would be that many sports activities - certainly team sports would require a larger number of students, possibly from only one or two year groups - and all would be missing the same lesson at the same time. This could have a much greater impact on the class teacher who is attempting to teach the remaining students in the class, knowing that the same work will need to be recapped with the missing students on the next lesson.
    If you were suggesting taking 3 or 4 students for 30 mins at a time to learn skills, (ideally missing part of a different lesson each week) then I can see the equivalence - but presumably you don't have that much free time to offer this kind of support?
    I can see that when students need to miss part of a PE class for a music lesson, it may be more disruptive than classroom based lessons - since your students may need to get changed before/after their lesson, and may need to travel to a playing pitch... which may mean missing an entire lesson, whereas other classes just need the student to walk out and walk back in about 30 mins later... (or arrive a little late, or leave a little early)
    However I'm not entirely sure what you mean by exit routes... Are you talking about observable results from having the lessons? Most students are not ready for group playing until they have reached a reasonable level of proficiency... but may well take examinations which could be counted as an observable result? There are also a wide range of playing opportunities that a school may not be aware of - certainly in our area, those having school lessons are also invited to county groups which occur in holidays and at weekends... and there are many other groups that are not connected with the county music service too...though presumably the students you have asked are not involved in this kind of thing yet.
    I'd be interested to see if my (similarly one-dimensional, but from a differen angle) view makes any sense to you?

  3. I have another view. I'm fed up of PE getting preference over music and drama! In our school, PE are allowed to take students out for fixtures, county sports, matches, House Sport competitions and that includes all the cover that goes with it. If I want to miss a meeting to do a rehearsal I'm told no (PE have carte blanche to miss what ever meetings they need to) and I have to fight to get any rehearsal time for concerts/productions etc. in school time and mostly I'm told I have to do everything after school.
    I suspect the main reason you struggle to take students out of curriculum time is the cover issue as if you take a team to country finals, a teacher needs cover to take them and therefore it starts to cost the school.
    I have no idea what you mean by exit routes. In my school, if they learn an instrument in school they have to take part in extra-curricular. The school subsidises the lessons and therefore they have to support the school. Instrumental lessons also have to be taught in small groups or individually - you can get to a very basic level as a whole class but no further.
  4. Apologies for not making it clear.....by exit routes, I mean that students
    having an instrumental lesson have somewhere else to go to, signposted
    by the school. This could be a school orchestra, a community orchestra,
    music exams or even music leadership activities.

    I think my main gripe comes from the fact that the same students always
    miss a PE lesson for their music instrumental sessions; for example, for half
    of last year I 'lost' 6 top set year 8 students to instrumental lessons. Apparently
    there was absolutely no way that the music lessons could ever fall at a different
    time of day to their PE lesson. I can spend hours and hours after-school with a cohort
    of students and if they qualify for 'finals' by winning after-school fixtures, it is an absolute
    nightmare to try and get the school to allow them to participate.

    We are asked for calendar dates for finals etc a year in advance; this is difficult to do as schools
    often don't organise these, nor have a clue whether they will qualify or not. For every activity which does
    hit school time, we've probably done an additional 30 hours unpaid in OOHL.

    It's just a bugbear of mine that there are different sets of rules for different subjects; it's
    interesting to see that there is a reversal in some schools.

    What does need to be addressed, though, is the need to ensure that all students are recognised
    and have the potential to achieve in whatever disciplines suit them. If a student is committed to their
    music, they have every right to be afforded opportunities in that; if they're a great mathematician, they
    should get more opportunities in that area.

    We just need a bit of consistency!! Both staff and students should be able to be passionate about and to
    want to be inspired by whatever engages them,be it music, drama, French, sport etc. I think I've gone off
    on a tangent now, but these things matter!!
  5. I would suggest you take this to management.
    Most schools support instrumental tuition by having a rota system of lessons so that pupils do not miss the same lesson every week. If you have a good music department this should be happening. Secondly as stated in an earlier post all students who are paying for lessons will find that the school has to create a susbsidy for those lessons and therefore should expect that these pupils contribute to a school ensemble, I know many schools have this policy.
    This all works for me at my school and the school is consistent in supporting all subjects.
    I would suggest that you ask for the school departmental policies on instrumental tuition which in your case don't sound as if there may be any. As a music teacher, I like you put in many unpaid hours of extra work in running school ensembles, which I do consider to be part of my job. There are times when I wished I taught a subject that did not do this but then it was my choice. PE and music teachers are notorious for giving up a billion hours a year for these sorts of activities - such is the nature of our subjects.
    I would write to your SMT and ask for a discussion on a way forward. I certainly value the PE department as much as any other and would not want to be taking children away from this subject on a regular basis. However maybe your school has a different set of values. Good luck.
  6. As with other posters i'm sure that this varies from school to school. There are not really any particular 'exit' routes with instrumental lessons, certainly none that stand out to me more that the equivalent in sport would. However, you should remember that a new thing added onto the league tables recently is that schools will get recognition for any students that gain grade 6 or above on any instrument or voice. That may be a contributing factor as to why the lessons are getting more support than your sports requests.
  7. In response to one of your points about missing the same lesson every week, I try to ensure my pupils miss different lessons every week or at least different parts of the lesson e.g. one week the beginning, the next the end etc. However, my main issues which make it really really hard is that all lessons are doubles. If I have a music service member of staff in from 9-11 then even if I change the times every week it will still be the same lesson they miss and that is simply not my fault. My school can't, nor can the music service, get staff in at random points in the week to suit every other lesson. (Not saying you expect this!) Occasionally I get staff saying to me - oh Thursday at such a such a time is a good time - as if that child takes preference over every other child, school and staff members timetables in the borough!

    I hate the stress this causes, and agree that in many schools the roles are very much reversed!
  8. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    I'd far rather my children had a music lesson than did PE. I know it sounds harsh but I hated PE at school and so did my children. It's not that we were shy of exercise as we've gone on to do other different sports after school, but school PE was miserable.
  9. jonowen

    jonowen Occasional commenter

    Totally agree with you Doit, I had my violin lessons instead of PE after my 1st year at high school (the PE teacher was horrible and made fun of my slow running - I was very fit for a 12 year old as I walked a mile to school and back and went home for lunch every day so was walking at least 20 miles a week)
    I have a similar problem now with other staff being awkward re releasing pupils for lessons. We have a rotating timetable so they never miss the same lesson 2 weeks in a row. There is a line in the contract to which the pupils and parents agree to catch up with missed work and this has never been a problem in the last 5 years, but I find new staff sometimes panic about the wee dearies missing their lessons and they moan at me. It has taken a bit of calm explaining - there is no point in getting one's knickers in a twist!

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