We must SAVE MUSIC in our schools!

It won’t have escaped your attention that the landscape for music education in this country is not looking great. Budgets are being cut, class sizes are diminishing and on the whole music education is under real threat. My heart sank when I saw the headlines the other day and I just can’t help  but think that we need to do something about this.

But what can we do?

Affecting the nation is difficult from your own classroom. Unless you get fully engaged with national bodies like MMA & ISM it is going to be hard for your to change national policy. But I believe that as music teachers we can change things on a local level and hopefully this will have an impact. Call me “too positive” or “a dreamer” but I do believe that the change can start now and it can start with us. If we can change what music looks like in our own school then we might get the momentum we need across the country. We all know how valuable music is, and I think ironically so do the policymakers and SLTs. But we need to strengthen this and we need to show that schools need music. My hope is that if you are reading this you will engage with what I am saying and that you will be the difference in your own school. It is a battle at times and it is not easy, trust me, I know. But I am also in a school that supports music and supports me. There are things they can’t give me and things I have had to put up with, but the school values music. We all need our schools to value music and that starts with music teachers.

  1. This week do something different in your department. Take the time away from the marking and the coursework to start a new group, or gather musicians together to chat about what they want. Form a committee of musicians to see what ideas they have. Put on an event or concert. Offer music for assembly. Go out into the town this weekend and take some musicians with you. Stay a bit later one day and run an extra rehearsal. Do something that you haven’t done before to create a buzz!
  2. Stop moaning and start acting. Yes it is hard, yes there are problems, but what we need at a time like this is a positive wave to rush through music education that will change it for the better. If we keep moaning about time and pressures then we will neglect the students who want to make music. Yes we have to be careful about work load, but soon there might be no work or laid at all if we are not careful. So I urge us all to be the positive change that music education needs.
  3. Follow other music teachers on Facebook, twitter or blogs and just give them positive vibes. Go on the Facebook groups and help out others, share ideas and general be the positive boost that is needed. Lets have a week with no complaints and just a really positive and supportive network. Retweet everyone that you can, help spread the love for music education.
  4. Join a national body like MMA or the ISM and get engaged with the national agenda. Write to your MP, share the tweets battling against the cuts to music.
  5. Meet with SLT and tell them what you are going to do. Offer solutions to problems and not just more problems. Organise a fundraiser for music, or a concert. Offer SLT some music for assembly this week.
  6. Gather together the future GCSE students and make sure they are already getting prepared for GCSE. Also start talking to Year 10 about A level music now so that they might take it.
  7. Email, call or meet your colleagues in other schools, especially feeder schools. Offer to go in and work with the younger students to get them inspired about music. Run an after school session in your school for anyone and everyone in the local community to come along and make music – your music hub will help you with this.
  8. Get local businesses, rotary clubs and other organisations on board. Get sponsorship, get publicity and get music out there in the local community. Get people talking about music in your school.
  9. Do absolutely all you can to get the results you need. Support students more than ever, go the extra mile more than ever before. You need results to be strong this summer so bend over backwards. Yes it will take time, yes it shouldn’t be like that, but this is what is needed. If students need help with performing then help them, meet with them, motivate and inspire them.
  10. KEEP GOING. Eat healthy, stay happy, sleep well and live well. Be positive and keep going! Music education needs music teachers who are in the best place they can be. Get yourself inspired. Listen to the music you love! Go to a concert. Do anything you can to get you in the right place.

If we are going to save music education in this country then we need music teachers, leaders and practitioners to pull together! We need to change the narrative to one that is positive. We need to start showing the benefits of music to anyone and everyone that will listen. We will need to work hard and fast – and it will be tough. But it is possible! We will need to not moan about longer hours and bigger classes and budget cuts. We will need to raise money, do more work and potentially support students more. But that is what it might take. I am happy that there are people fighting our corner on a national scale. But for me I am going to do all I can to keep music alive in my school. When it is hard I just imagine life without this job that I love. When I am working really hard I just remember that I am so lucky to have a job that I love. I try and keep going and keep motivated. I am a glass half full person and I believe in being positive and keeping on going. I get up everyday knowing that I am going to a job that is just the best! I am tired sometimes and it can get a bit much. But every day there is something wonderful to see and hear if you are looking and listening. Every day I am inspired by the tenacity of the students and their love for music. It is that very thing that keeps me going. The students! They are my motivation. If they are working hard, so am I. If they want to do more, so do I. I love my job and I want to keep loving it and I want to see if grow.

You may find this all very annoying and you may think that all of this is great, but it isn’t going to change anything. My feeling on this is simple. Maybe we can’t save music education and in a few years our schools have no music going on! That would be a tragedy and would put me out of a job. I don’t want that! So what I am going to do is do what I can and believe that it might just make a difference!

So who is with me? Who wants to make the change in their school? Who wants to join with me in saying that we are going to do all we can to save music in our schools! We need each other and we need to save music in our schools! It might not be easy, but we have to start somewhere and we can always do more!

3 comments

  1. I totally agree – as soon as I get a permanent job after relocation, the ‘battle’ will recommence. Even the annual amount generated by the arts in this country, even music alone, should be see the powers that be pushing kids our way! Even if they don’t get into music, art or drama specifically, there are so many other roles that they could find by taking this path in the first place. One of the key words for 21st century is creativity and the needs of our county do not seem to be backed up with the demands of the government. What happens when everyone has the same qualifications and the same grade and there are not enough jobs for everybody? My question is always, if arts are not available, how is the curriculum a well rounded, all inclusive opportunity for all to succeed? What would I have done if I was faced with a school like that being the ‘arty’ kid??

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  2. Great blog, James – and well down for going beyond the usual airy fairy sentiments and offering an excellent list of action points. Roll up your sleeves, music teachers!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Need your unerring optimism lots today, James. Had the worst possible day. Last year music was put on a rotation so students only receive music tuition twice a year for 5 weeks. I took the bull by the horns and wrote a manifesto for music’s survival. In the fallout surrounding the curriculum shift, the head agreed that I didn’t have to have a form, could run TAG music groups in registration and other extra curricular groups too as our lunches were also shortened to 35 mins. All seemingly supportive. The TAG groups have taken part in local composition competitions, performed at school concerts and live lounge lunch performances and conducted their own ensembles. They’ve raised the profile of music in the school massively.

    I heard today that this won’t continue as I will be required to take a form next year. We can’t run groups before or after school as the students are bussed in. Lunch rehearsals are ridiculous to attempt although I have persevered.

    Feel cheated, deflated and hopeless. I need an injection of your optimism! I’m doing EVERYTHING I can to keep music alive in the school. The smack in the face is that I have to deliver a lesson in PSHE tomorrow about the importance of STEM subjects. Believe me, I will be getting a little STEAM in there rather than just STEM!
    I’ve rolled up my sleeves so much this year and just fell like this is such a slap in the face.

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