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Why aren't 14 year olds able to read music?

Discussion in 'Music' started by Phantom of the Opera, Jun 20, 2007.

  1. This leads from another thread.

    After 9 years in formal education, 3 years in secondary school, national curriculum requirements to include notations of various sorts and, for most opting to take GCSE Music, some sort of instrumental lesson and extra-curricular activity, why is it that, if the comments on this forum are to be believed, their are pupils who have opted to take music in Key Stage 4 who are unable to read music?

    Is it bad teaching or stupid pupils? Sorry, I really can't think of any other reasons.

    And why, after all that time and effort, are these pupils allowed to opt for a subject which requires specialist skills? If you are unable to read words and make sense of them in context would you be allowed to take English Literature? Would someone who cannot write a word of French be allowed to opt for French? Would someone incapable of turning on a computer be encouraged to opt for ICT?

    Why is it music has so many who clearly haven't acquired the most basic of skills by the end opf Key Stage 3 (this, of course, doesn't correspond with figures reported by schools in their levelling of students) and why are GCSE classes filled with people who cannot understand notation?

    Just WHAT are state school music teachers up to?

     
  2. This leads from another thread.

    After 9 years in formal education, 3 years in secondary school, national curriculum requirements to include notations of various sorts and, for most opting to take GCSE Music, some sort of instrumental lesson and extra-curricular activity, why is it that, if the comments on this forum are to be believed, their are pupils who have opted to take music in Key Stage 4 who are unable to read music?

    Is it bad teaching or stupid pupils? Sorry, I really can't think of any other reasons.

    And why, after all that time and effort, are these pupils allowed to opt for a subject which requires specialist skills? If you are unable to read words and make sense of them in context would you be allowed to take English Literature? Would someone who cannot write a word of French be allowed to opt for French? Would someone incapable of turning on a computer be encouraged to opt for ICT?

    Why is it music has so many who clearly haven't acquired the most basic of skills by the end opf Key Stage 3 (this, of course, doesn't correspond with figures reported by schools in their levelling of students) and why are GCSE classes filled with people who cannot understand notation?

    Just WHAT are state school music teachers up to?

     
  3. Because little to no time is spent on reading music at most primary schools and at KS3 we get i hour per week. We therefore have approx. 30 hours a year for three years - so thats 90-100 hours over three years. I could teach everyone to read music in that time however we would not get very much practical music making done.

    I agree that being able to read music is a very important skill BUT it is not the "be all and end all". I am re-opening an oft-opened can of worm on this forum and I know that many of you will not agree with me. However, I make no apology for putting practical music making first for my pupils.

     
  4. Surely practical and notation can be taught hand in hand?

     
  5. POTO:
    Why do children have to read music? Why western classical notation? Does guitar tab count? Have you heard of Pro Lucy Green? Have you heard of Musical futures?
    Children should be introduced to notation (in whatever for is app) as and when ness. Some kids may never need it. I have taught plenty of kids that have achieved grade A GCSE without being readers. They might not be the greatest readers or writers notation, but they're great song-writers and performers.
    I really don't mean to be rude, but i feel that your attitude towards music education is very dated. Perhaps you should consider a different career.
     
  6. Oh dear, another apologist for free for all do what you want approach to music education who doesn't understand the issues puts words in people's mouths and cannot see the danger of their nonsensical position.

     
  7. I hope that my own children never have their love for music removed at school by a teacher like you. Are you friends with Julian Lloyd-webber? You should be.
     
  8. To try and answer the OP's question.

    In my school, a large proportion of students have literacy special needs, and many of these students struggle to write a sentence. I have sent notes to students and they have come to me and asked me what the note has said.

    Surely reading music is a quest too far when so many of students in our schools have such poor literacy skills?

    Also, there are so many different ways of achieving 'musical literacy' that is it relevant to have students reading musical notation at 14?

    If you choose OCR or AQA at GCSE, then students don't need it then either.
     
  9. What has Julian to do with it? If it is his opinion that notation is important then, yes, I do agree with him - wholeheartedly.

    If all you want are a few strummers and warblers who don;t really understand what's really going on in the music then your approach is fine. If you want music education to be robbed of talent and future then your approach will succeed. If you want the music industry to die (because without the various arrangers/producers/etc/ who do read notation the gormless minisculed talented frontmen would look even more stupid then your approach shoudl be followed.

    However, if you want a vibrant music education in which youngsters can understand and appreciate a range of styles and for the UK's music industry to continue to shine then your appraoch should be ditched - we need to establish a few basics, one of which (and the National Curriculum includes this) is notation.
     
  10. ipod

    So do you think that is why GCSE has gradually been watered down to be the equivalent of Key STage 2 SATS?
     
  11. To go a bit further into the OP's questioning.

    In comprehensive schools we should be allowing students to choose what subjects they are interested in. In an ideal world this should be a wide and varied curriculum not just stifled by academic subjects, but a range of qualifications.

    The OCR GCSE Music Spec quite clearly states on its mark scheme that the marks are awarded in accordance with what that student has learned within the opportunities of the course (or some such wording). There is no stipulation that the requirement to read music notation is a condition, and nor should there be. If I stipulated that, I would be out of a job and several fine musicians would be denied the opportunity of pursuing a subject they loved.

    Why SHOULD GCSE Music classes be filled with students who understand Music notation?
     
  12. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Short answer: because GCSE requires so little knowledge of notation. A bit like an English exam in which you don't need to write your poem - you just speak into a microphone what you intended to say if only you could write.

    Long answer: because it comes from a misguided opinion by the powers-that-be (aka QCA) that great music has been written by those who know nothing of notation. Yes, there are a few (Cole Porter and Lionel Bart among them). But this view doesn't take account of the armies of amanuensies, dictation-takers, arrangers and orchestrators who have brought their works to fruition.

    It is well worth reading the memoirs of people like Russell Bennett who was absolutely scathing about the way that many famous American songwriters couldn't get beyond a few notes without the assistance of unacknowledged and poorly rewarded professional assistance.
     
  13. Having never received Music assessment figures on KS2 SATS it is difficult to answer that question.

    How students learn, whether it is Music or any other subject is constantly changing.
     
  14. Sorry, to repeat from my starting point:

    Why, after 9 years in formal education, 3 years in secondary education.... etc. can't they read notation?

    What goes wrong that means they can't?

    There really is no excuse given the amount of time available, the quantity of resources available, etc.

    So, either you're saying the students are thick (sorry have learning difficulties) or that teachers aren't very good/can't be bothered/are just lazy.

    To be honest GCSE SHOULD insist on being able to read notation `nd understand it - it would give the subject back some rigour that has been lost in the past twenty years. I think GCSE compositions should be submitted in an established notation (not wishy washy annotations - ******), perfromances should be from an established notation and the listening paper should require more questions about reading notation.
     
  15. Yes, Florian, it is always interesting to find out who ACTUALLY wrote Paul McCArtney's "classical" works!
     
  16. POTO - bring back latin as well?
     
  17. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Post 10, while I don't think that notation is the be-all and end-all of music, I regard iot as seriously important. Without it, how can anyone easily interpret anyone's compositions but their own?

    But I'm fascinated to learn that OCR says that "marks are awarded in accordance with what that student has learned within the opportunities of the course".

    Does that mean the GCSE course, or the Narional Curriculum course?

    If the former, it seems to me like a GCSE in maths in which no prior knowledge (such as simple topics concerning division or area) is required.

    Is that really what music teaching is about?
     
  18. Gilly

    It would be more useful to more youngsters than German as it would provide a general background understanding of many languages and the root of much of our own.
     
  19. And in some schools (including mine) Latin never went away thankfully.
     
  20. ....it's starting to make sense now.
     

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