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music education

Discussion in 'Scotland - education news' started by CanuckGrrl, Dec 29, 2009.

  1. http://www.thecourier.co.uk/output/2009/12/29/newsstory14320230t0.asp
    i admit, this is a bee in my bonnet: music education in Scottish primary schools. If Scotland losing out to other countries in piping competitions as this story reports, it only highlights a broader issue in music education in this country.
    Here's a snippet:
    “...we think all the schools in the local area should have a tutor.
    He added, “This kind of thing has been happening in Ireland, in Canada and Australia and now these bands are coming over to Scotland and beating the Scottish bands in the major competitions.
    “They have been doing that for 15 years now. They’ve got tutors in all the primary schools...I just don’t understand why there’s not been more effort from the government, from any government, to try and do something about it in the primary schools."
    Tutors?? No, sorry. Canada doesn't have music "tutors" in primary schools, of course. Canada has full-time professional music TEACHERS on staff in primary schools who run professional and integrated music education programs free of charge in both choral and instrumental music for ALL children. Music education is as free and as inclusive as every other subject in Canadian primary schools because music education is, like maths and language education, considered a RIGHT.
    Wake up, Scottish councils. Wake up, Scottish government. Wake up, Scottish tax-paying parents. Put full-time music teachers on staff in primary schools, keep up with the rest of the world. Oh,and raise attainment in the process---you've all got your knickers in such twists about attainment: well, systematic music education from primary has been proven to go hand in hand with higher attainment, confidence, and learning enjoyment. It's a fact that Scotland cannot afford to ignore.
    It is simply criminal that a country with a proud music tradition that is known, esteemed, and loved the world over should have such ludicrously and miserably inadequate music education as I see in Scottish primary schools.
    Sorry for shouting. But this does get me exercised!
  2. Flyonthewall75

    Flyonthewall75 New commenter

    I couldn't agree more, CG.
    So many primary schools no longer have a visiting Music Specialist. Even those schools who do have one, know that when they leave, or retire, they will not be replaced.
    It's a quite cynical, money-saving exercise, with no concern for the future of music education in schools.
    What's worse is that schools will appoint so-called 'Music Co-ordinators' and go through a box-ticking exercise to pretend that music is still being covered in the primary curriculum.
    It just goes to show what a complete sham a Curriculum for Excellence really is.
  3. Exactly the position we find our school in. Class teachers (many of whom will readily admit the don't have a musical note in their body) who have to 'teach' music from a commercially provided book and a CD.
    Along with P.E. and Art, these are disciplines that people go to university to study. They are technical and skill-based and therefore something that ordinary teachers can't hope to match in terms of 'professional delivery'.
    Couldn't agree more.
  4. Dominie

    Dominie New commenter

    Interesting thread CG. Thanks for starting.
    Would I be too controversial if I suggested that the problem is connected to a very Scottish obsession with "general" education in Scottish Primary schools? Apparently it is perfectlyOK to suggest (as CFE does) that general education sould continue as far as S3 but not acceptable to suggest that specialist education (music, science, modern languages etc) should be extended down (chronologically speaking) to the middle and upper primary years?
    <address>Now that teacher education is under review perhaps it's time that this particular shibboleth was challenged? Maybe every teacher (primary or secondary) should be able to offer a specialism or maybe more than one?
  5. kibosh

    kibosh Star commenter

    Interesting. Are perhaps schools now having to compensate for the fact that an increasing number of parents are not giving their children what could be described as a general education? So the period of general education now has to be extended? I have come across teenagers who were genuinely horrified to be told that chips came from potatoes . . . 'ah ha so you do eat vegetables after all' . . . . . they were adamant that they never ate anything dirty i.e. grown in the ground. Other teens were astonished to find out that tuna was fish and that chicken came from an animal called a hen . . . . . they didn't know what chicken was but didn't think it was meat.
    If we consider that one of the purposes of education is to provide a counterbalance to 'nature', by providing the 'nurture' that socialises and homogenises us all, and ensures we are less likely to live in a clan or tribal system. (Look at any country that does not have an established and formalised tradition of education and you will see a tribal society) The gene pool in some areas of Scotland is pretty shallow and therefore the dominant family/tribal traits and views are strong and resistant to education (whole tribal pockets of culture based loosely around the fact that the IRA are good, all authority figures are bad, rangers and celtic are everything, an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth etc etc) In those areas I can see how an extended (S3) General Education is important. After all you can't be expected to run before you can walk. I think, in part, ACfE has been designed to address this. Unfortunately this is done at the expense of young people who really could do with more specialised education from a much earlier age simply because their 'nurturing' has already been done by the parents. Put simply, as other posters have pointed out numerous times, the dumbing down of society in favour of the lowest common denominator.
    Apologies in advance for rambling on a bit, largely thinking out loud
  6. Kibosh I think you have spoken the first bit of sense that I have heard in a long time. [​IMG]
  7. Flyonthewall75

    Flyonthewall75 New commenter

    I suspect the model for primary education was established under the Education (Scotland) Act 1872 when education became compulsory for all children aged between the ages of 5 and 13, with the earliest leaving age being raised to 14 in 1901.
    Children were given a basic education to equip them for the type of job opportunities available to most of the population at that time.
    Above all, compulsory primary education had to be provided as cheaply as possible, hence the 'generalist' teacher.
    Burgh and parish schools came under the control of local School Boards and larger School Boards set up higher grade schools, staffed with 'specialist' teachers with a variety of qualifications. This became the model for secondary education beyond the age of 14.
    Over the years, the primary curriculum has been developed and expanded in line with changes in society and the workplace. Visiting Specialists for Music, Instrumental Instruction, Art, PE, Fabric Craft and Drama were introduced. These staff complemented the work of the generalist, primary teacher whilst, at the same time, providing young children with the security of having 'their own class teacher' for core subjects.
    Now in 2010, we find that many primary schools are losing their Visiting Specialists, and other support staff, and the primary teacher is just expected to 'fill the gap', at least on paper, in order to provide primary education more cheaply. That's what they call progress.
    One can't help but suspect that the CfE changes in secondary schools, particularly at S1-S3, are geared towards further reducing the cost of education.
    The expansion of computer technology, interactive whiteboards, online resources and, so called, 'brain-training' gadgets are seen by some policy makers as a way to do away with the need for a large number of teachers. Even where the purchase, maintenance and 'refresh' costs of such technology are substantial, they are apparently considered a better investment than additional staff.
    The vision they like to conjure up (usually with the help of an 'artist's impression') is of motivated pupils entering the school of the future where they log on, at a terminal, to a limitless source of educational resources with a 'facilitator' on hand to assist with any problems.
    The potential this has for a carefully controlled, state theory of learning to support the political agenda of whoever is in power, should not be overlooked. This brave new world could be exciting, or downright scary, depending on your point of view.
    Why, perhaps pupils wouldn't even need to come to school at all but simply log on from home. Think of all the money that could be saved by not having to build, or maintain, school buildings.
    Oh, wait a minute, that would mean every parent would have to pay for expensive childcare or have their children under their feet all day.
    Maybe having a good mix of class teachers (generalist and specialist) interacting with pupils is not such a bad idea after all.

  8. Why on earth would this not be "acceptable"? and acceptable to whom---government? councils? tax-paying parents? I assure you that this is considered common sense elsewhere---and I hate to harp on about Canada, but so many Scots harp on to me about Canada being some kind of El Dorado. Clearly one reason for that could very well be our 21st-century education system, as opposed to the 19th-century one here.
    If the debate about Scottish education is truly stuck at this level, and if powers-that-be have not figured out yet that young children benefit immensely from full-time on-staff specialist teaching in subjects like modern languages, phys ed, and music, the situation here is even more backward than I thought.

  9. Fly, thank you. It's always important to understand the history of local education, and if it's based on an 1872 act, then my previous comment about a 19th-century education system is spot on.
    As for your analysis of the future of Scottish education...
    I fear you may be spot on there as well. As an example: through the grapevine, a comment relayed from HMIe to our staff ran something like this: a computer in a classroom sitting idle is like having a teacher sitting idle.
    So much for the old saw that the most important element in the classroom is the teacher.
    No wait, did I say "teacher"? Sorry, I meant "learning facilitator".
    NB to Mike Russell et al: as for "brain-training", that's what I do all day in my classroom, out of thin air, without the use of any special gadgets. I work magic!

  10. kibosh

    kibosh Star commenter

    I too have wondered about this especially when Glow was launched. I had visions of one on-line teacher delivering a lesson to thousands of pupils all over the country at once.
  11. Not to mention the pupils all being at home, thereby producing massive savings by doing away with school buildings [​IMG]
  12. Flyonthewall75

    Flyonthewall75 New commenter

    I am tempted to say having an HMIe Inspector in a classroom sitting idle is like having a teacher sitting idle as well.
    Why don't they just get back into the classroom and show us all how to do it?
    Having talked to a number of teachers working in Canada, it seems that they are much more respected, and valued, and are allowed to get on with doing the professional job they were trained to do, with proper support, and without constant interference and meddling.
    HMIe please take note.
  13. jubilada

    jubilada New commenter

    I've been away and missed this important post!
    But how can we make them wake up and see the benefits of proper music teaching as you suggest? I fought very hard too maintain the limited specialist music provision we had to no avail.
    The advent of McCrone was one of the reasons for the downfall, but it could easily have been a golden opportunity if examples of education in Canada and elsewhere had been considered.
    I think it takes some one with the experience of a musical background (not necessarily a trained musician) to understand the benefits proper music teaching at primary can bring. I wonder how many of those at the top taking these educational decisions have that kind of experience?
    So what next?
  14. kibosh

    kibosh Star commenter

    I would say they might have the experience of passive enjoyment of music, attending concerts, operas, recitals, orchestras, buying CD's etc. but do not take part in making music themselves. On a cerebral level these people(the decision makers) will make the connection between the two, but due to cut backs are unable to bridge the two . . . . . and so we are unfortunately having to watch a rich music tradition in Scotland going down the tubes. I find it sad, tragic even, that as time progresses, our grass roots and often quite spontaneous, musical folk tradition will wane. Skills are not being passed on from generation to generation, a whole subtext of understanding, cultural and narrative, is being eroded. There will be less and less people able to hand make instruments, play instruments live, sing etc. The alternative we are being offered as an olive branch, in music and many other disciplines, is technology. It's cheaper and does not have bad hair days [​IMG]
  15. I suppose positive change would requires a concerted and insistent effort by an influential group of music educators within the education system along with vision and courage on the part of managers. Aye, right. Perhaps such creatures exist here, but I have seen no evidence of them so far.
  16. The budgetary argument against full-time music teachers is utterly fallacious and a red herring.
    The thing is, putting full-time music teachers on staff, who can deliver a co-ordinated and integrated music programme within a school (or maybe two schools, depending on rolls) would not cost ONE PENNY more in terms of teacher salaries than the current system of putting "McCrone teachers" on staff whose sole purpose--let's be honest---is to relieve class teachers for up to 2.5 hours a week.
    The waste of opportunity here is mind-boggling. Can someone not take a wee trip to Canada, to see how easily music education in primary schools can be done?
    And in case anyone starts harping on---pardon the pun---about the expense of instruments, let's be clear that instruments are not an up-front cost for a music program since much can be done with vocal music alone at the beginning. Instruments, bands, etc, can easily be built into a budget over time, using fund-raising, rental programs, and instrument exchange programs---that's how we did it at my very poor school in rural Canada.
    First things first---and the first requirement for a proper music programme is the professional full-time music educator on staff.
  17. You're exactly right. Canadian education does just fine--better than Scotland, in fact---without an inspector in sight.
    I think it has to do with trust, and that includes trust not only from the public, but from the employer. Formalised inspection, which is ingrained into the mind-set here---and not just in education----goes along with the pervasive culture in the UK of micro-management. It's as if no-one is trusted to do their job in this country without someone looking over their shoulder.
  18. ban those pipes
  19. jonowen

    jonowen Occasional commenter

    Brilliant post!! Most reading this will know that I am a primary and secondary music teacher, teaching ages 3 - 18, and HATE the way music is being pushed out of our (once-wonderful-but-slipping-down-the-pan-now) education system.
    I am "working from home" today as I should be near to Altnaharra (coldest place on record) but can't get there, hence reading this post.I quickly read the link and feel that the mannie fae Fife should look a little closer to home. Highland region has always upheld the tradition of our national instrument - we have a fantastic regional Youth Pipe Band based in Inverness and many dedicated tutors, who work collaborativley with classroom music teachers, put in hours of extra-curricular work to sustain this success. The National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland draws on young pipers from all over Scotland and although I don't have the exact results to hand, I know they are world class.
    I think Mr.Rowley is wrong to ask for piping funding for 3 years as there are so many primary schools with no music provision AT ALL (thanks to Mr. McCrone and his idea to have any teacher babysitting for another teacher, to allow them non-contact class time during the school day-I won't go off on one about that now as it would spoil my day, but why not use only McCrone teachers instead of Art, PE or Music teachers? We provide an important part of all children's General Education).
    Here we are again with a councillor having another idea about what to spend our poll-tax on...............oh, Happy New Year everyone!
  20. jubilada

    jubilada New commenter

    Wonder if any of you have read the article in the recent Libretto magazine "Music and the Mind" Full version at www.ioe.ac.uk/Year_of_Music.pdf. I haven't read the full version myself as yet, but it contains some concrete evidence to support the inclusion of proper music teaching in the curriculum from an early age.

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