Recruitment starts with you

I read a post on Facebook today asking about A-Level Music recruitment and it got me thinking.

We have a challenge don’t we. Recruiting students to study music can be a challenge and at times far from easy. We are at the point where we want numbers to be strong in order for our subject to survive, but we also want to get the right students taking music. It is no good having loads opt for our subject if it isn’t fundamentally the right choice for them, but also we don’t want to turn away students and risk not hitting the target number for our school.

The thing is recruitment is OUR issue and it does start with US. We can’t wait, hope and wish for numbers opting for music. We have to do all we can to make sure that students take music for GCSE & A-Level.

Recruitment starts with YOU – the music teacher.

So what do we do?

  1. We live, breath and love music. We talk passionately about it, we show students how much we love it and we definitely don’t moan at them about the issues. We sell it to them and we show them that they will be taught by someone who is passionate. We tweet, post and instagram. We brag, enjoy and shout about our department. Try it, you will feel better I promise.
  2. We get the results – topical as it is results day, but crucial. I know it is easy to say that we have to perform well, but if we don’t then students won’t take us seriously. So if you are looking to secure more A-Level students then start from the ground up and ensure that you get the outcomes at GCSE. It can take time, but it is worth it. Improving results is another issue or course, so if you need to then think about how through careful results analysis.
  3. Make sure that studying in the music department looks desirable to the students. If you have current A-Level students then offer them some privileges here and there – all within professional boundaries of course. Maybe designate a practice room or area of the classroom to A-Level. Get A-Level students taking a lead at concerts and events and maybe even ask them to help you with lessons. Students like to see opportunities for leadership and development.
  4. Make sure that you have resources that are up to date and relevant. Make it as easy and accessible as possible to study music.
  5. Target students who you think should study music. But not on results day, target them in Year 7, or in my case, Year 9. If you have students who you think could or should take music then start making a fuss of them well ahead of time.
  6. Show parents that music is credible through results, communication and effectiveness. Parents want to see that music is a reliable and solid department for their son or daughter to be part of.
  7. If you have an open evening, speak with passion. Ditch the photocopy of the specification and just talk with enthusiasm about why music is such a good subject to take. My line of choice – “Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard & Yale all have a music department – therefore music must be worth studying”.
  8. Organise A-Level trips, students love to go out and feel mature, respected and looked after. An A-Level course is way more than a textbook and a computer screen. Show them that music will take them on adventures.
  9. Link it to other subjects and talk about the cross-benefits of music. A student taking English will have the chance to use their writing skills in the music essays and a history student will gain even more insight into how societies and cultures have changed over the years.
  10. Don’t give up as you never know when students will ditch one subject in favour of another. It is a little bit like the Premier League Transfer window in September and students may decide that they want to swap to music.

Ultimately the message is simple – WE have to recruit. Yes there are national issues. Yes we have the Ebacc battle. And yes, Exam boards don’t help when they provide spurious and incorrect judgements. But we know all of that and our job is to work with the system and make it work for us. I truly believe that music teachers can recruit students purely on the fact that they are passionate about what they teach. So when you go in on September 3rd (or whenever you start) start recruiting then. It is a marathon at times and not a sprint. But it is worth it in the end. Be Passionate & Be Positive!

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