We have a national problem don’t we. Recruitment. We live in an EBacc world and we live in a world where there are cuts to arts funding. I don’t mean to be blunt but we now need to get over that and look for solutions in the face of adversity. It is cubical at this time of year that music teacher are equipped with the tools, passion and energy to recruit students to study music at GCSE…if not then A-Level really might die away in the future. I don’t profess to know all the answers, and everyone has a different context, but I feel compelled to share some of the things I do in the hope that it might help. Now don’t get me wrong, I moan about the current climate, but I really try to not let that get in the way. I have aimed to change the narrative in my own life so that I look at what I can do and be positive about my role in the school. So as I go in to this I really want to stress that a positive outlook, albeit it tough at times, is essential.
So here are my recruitment hints and tips, see what you think and get in touch if you have any thoughts
- Music lessons have to be fun, engaging, challenging and progress driven. They need to be current, they need to build on the previous lesson and they need to be preparing for the future. I start in Year 9 and I have a carousel, so it is a challenge. So I have made sure that what I teach is engaging and enjoyable, but also made sure that it points the way to the GCSE. So when I do composition lessons I mention GCSE and I show students that this stuff is going to help them.
- I make sure that GCSE is open to each and every student that I teach – they might not want to do it, but they need to know that they can if they want to. But they also need to know what to expect and what they will need to do if they want to actually take it. I also always stress to students that it is not just about being able to play an instrument. That is a crucial component, but so is composition! Some students don’t consider themselves a musician because they are not Grade 8 on the Piano, but yet they are a wizard on Logic, Garageband and Sibelius and come up with amazing tunes. Students sometimes need to be pointed in the right direction and make sure they are utilising their skills.
- Music has to be an important part of the school life in general – make yourself valuable to the school, SLT, parents and of course students. They want to see that what they are getting involved in is going to have benefits and be a good decision for GCSE.
- Make sure your classroom is a nice space to be in – tidy, organised, exciting, full of life and colour. I have my walls literally covered floor to ceiling in pictures of all we do in music. The students are surrounded by photos of current and former students doing music. I wish my practice rooms were nicer, but hey I try! I often clean my own room – but that is the cleaners job. Yes it is and they do a great job, but sometimes i want it even tidier and I take pride in my classroom.
- Remove the phrase – “thats not in my job description” from your vocabulary. This will be a sticking point I know as so many out there are trying to get work life balance sorted, and I will admit I am not good at that. But to some extent the solutions are within us and we sometimes do need to go the extra mile in order to make things work. I have spent years building up my department. at times it is overwhelming and difficult. At times I get the balance all wrong. But then there are those moments when the hard work pays off, and there are the lovely holidays to stop and reflect on a term well spent making music. For me, and I know it won’t be for all, I believe that hard work pays off. Going the extra mile is a signal to students that you care. I am speaking to the converted though as music teachers do go the extra mile. But I know some teachers complain on the one hand about not having student engagement and then on the other hand don’t want to do anything about it. Be your own solution where possible and the students will follow you. But also, get the balance right and make sure that you don’t burn out – NOTE TO SELF!
- Make sure that your options evening presentation is slick and engaging – this is the moment that you get the parents onside. Show the parents how much pleasure they will get watching their children study music. Show them the benefits, help them to picture themselves at concerts hearing performances. Remind them of the social benefits of music and also show them the links between success and creativity. Options evening is crucial as are the lessons leading up to it. I also make sure that one of the school bands performs at options evening and I have current Year 10 students there to help sell the subject.
- Ultimately give students a reason to want to study music at GCSE – link to it trips, performances, rehearsals. In orchestra rehearsal I am constantly referring to composition and ideas for compositions that we see in the pieces that we are playing. I also use the orchestra pieces in class so that students see a link. GCSE music needs to happen both in and out of the classroom.
- Make sure that you have good resources – if you don’t have the budget then you need to think about asking students to but textbooks or you need to put on events to raise money. Ultimately what you need is a presence in the community and a good strong set of bands that can go out and perform and raise money. At Christmas I am able to take groups out busking to raise money. This month I have a quiz night and then at the end of term a big concert. Make sure you have a raffle and a licensed bar and you will make enough money resource your department.
These are just a few thoughts of mine really. It is hard to say exactly that is right for you as every situation is different. My situation is quite unique because I get students in Year 9. I don’t have a massive budget by any stretch of the imagination and I have a carousel in Year 9 . So I have very little time to show them the real benefits of music. But I have created a culture of music making in school and the department really is a tight-knit group of young people. My Senior Management fully and totally support music and that is mainly because I have made sure that music impacts the whole school. Crucial – get SLT onboard and supporting you – don’t moan at them, give them music and make sure every event is enhanced by music.
I hope some of these are helpful, if not then get in touch! We must fight through and make sure students take music GCSE and A-Level. It isn’t easy, but it is so rewarding to put in the hard work and effort and see it all pay off.