General GCSE A-Level Extra Curricular

Today I met Lord Black

Today I had the privilege of spending time with Lord Black. If you are not sure why I am writing about this, or you don’t know who he is, then please do watch this:

Lord Black speaking in The House of Lords

I was keen to get this blog written now whilst I am still excited about the day. So forgive me if I ramble!

How it all started

I invited Lord Black to visit the school I work in through a colleague who had met him at another event. I am so grateful to her for chatting with him and managing to get him in to my school. She is a fellow music education evangelist in many ways. Without the foresight of Cath Millar from Berkshire Maestros today wouldn’t have happened. Thanks also to the Lynne Ellis, CEO of Berkshire Maestros, for being part of the day – I have a great Hub:

Berkshire Maestros

I saw today as a chance to chat with him about music education and share more of what I do. What today quickly became was a gathering of Berkshire Music Teachers, Head Teachers and Hub leaders – and it was really exciting. My music Hub is fantastic and they were the real driving force behind making today happen.

He really listened

Firstly can I say that Lord Black really did listen. He took in every word that we all said about the state of music education and also arts provisions in schools. I would say  he was potentially shocked by some of the real hard facts. But he was clearly interested to hear exactly what is going on in our schools. So if you are thinking that no one is listening, they are, and he did. I am quite confident that he is going to take back what he learnt today and we can all watch this space with keen interest. He was so interesting in everything that we had to say, and he spent a really long time chatting with my A-Level students.

We discussed a number of things across today that I wanted to blog about:

1. We discussed the provision of music in first schools and considered the positive impact that a Head Teacher can have. First schools represented commented on the fact that when their head supported music, it happened. I reckon Secondary Schools need to get into First Schools more and help teachers and inspire students.

2. We considered the Ebacc and he questioned us about the issues it has caused. He asked us simply “would things be better without the Ebacc”.

3. We looked at the differences between state school music and private sector music and it was clear that we are all facing issues – it isn’t just the state sector that is seeing music squeezed.

4. We discussed the knock on effect of changes in education several years ago. It became clear that the we are seeing a decline in people training to be music teachers and potentially some decline in the quality.

5. We discussed the issues schools are facing – funding, curriculum changes, data driven situations and lack of parental support. It was interesting to hear from so many colleagues and gather some really insightful anecdotes about the state of music in their schools.

It was clear at the end of today that we do have a fight on our hands – but it is all worth fighting for. We didn’t just discuss music, but considered all creative and artistic subjects.

My thoughts now

I am inspired to keep going. I love being a music teacher and I loved showing off my department today. Sometimes we can be afraid to talk passionately because we are aware that it is so hard for some colleagues out there. I am well aware of that.

But on the flip-side, I am not ashamed of the fact that I love my job. It hasn’t all happened over night, and it hasn’t been easy. I have been building up a department for 15 years. But surely my successes could help others? Surely my battles with funding and cuts can help give others hope?

It was great to have the CEO of the academy trust I work for and my school Head Teacher there today. They spoke about their desire to see a broad and balanced curriculum – that made me really happy. It is possible to keep music alive in schools, but we need school leaders on board. I proposed to Lord Black that we need passionate music teachers and engaged school leaders. It isn’t all about money, but it is about having a vision for arts in a school. I said quite clearly that one sentence on the Ofsted website that required all schools to provide a healthy musical experience would change everything.

So,  a great day, and I am sure lots will come from it. I feel so lucky that I got to be a part of it and host Lord Black for the day. He listened and I know that this is the start of something exciting.

Keep going

And for goodness sake keep going. Music education is worth fighting for. Go into every day passionate about it. Shout from the rooftops about the benefits. When you are tired, keep going. If you don’t want to rehearse, keep waving your arms. When you don’t want to teach, get excited about the learning of your students. If you feel like there is no hope – look to the students in front of you and remember why you got into this profession.

I know it isn’t always simple or easy. But we have to do something, and that something starts in the hearts of every music teacher in the world. We are getting somewhere! Lord Black is listening, and I think that he will be making some comments to people who will simply have to listen.


  1. Wonderful stuff! Do you think you could credit the fellow music evangelist who actually got him there by name?

  2. One of your students heard me playing in singing in the rain today. You inspired him to come and hear the show. James, you are an exceptional teacher. You do yourself credit, always.

  3. This is brilliant. I love your blog and your support on the Facebook forums is always appreciated. Thank you for representing music teachers all over the country in this way. Laura

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