Essex Music Hub’s first regional conference was held online at the start of September, bringing together tutors, teachers, heads of national organisations, all in the name of finding ways to unlock music in school for the new academic year.
Following get-together catch ups for musicians and leads around the County, the final session was a panel discussion titled “Every Child’s Musical Journey”. The aims of the discussion were to look at the idea of what do we want every child to have achieved by the time they leave their secondary education, and how do we as music education professionals help get them there. Chaired by Philip Flood (Director of Sound Connections) who has worked with music educators in the County before, he was joined by Bridget Whyte (CEO of MusicMark) and leads from Essex Music Education Hub, as well as music educators who joined in.
Starting at the very beginning, they looked at Early Years – it’s not covered by the current National Plan for Music Education (an important document for any music educator) which focuses on 5-18 year olds, but there is considerable amount of national and local work being undertaken, notably in Essex through the Paul Hamlyn Foundation in providing those first vital musical steps. This work featured the Music Service’s tutors working alongside staff, as they do in other Hub schemes, to enable staff to learn alongside and develop their skills as well as those of the children.
Moving onto Primary education, Sarah Goldsmith (the Hub’s Schools’ Music Curriculum Officer for Essex and Assistant Head at Northwick Park Nursery and Primary Academy, Canvey Island) talked through the importance of exposing Primary students to as rich, broad and deep music curriculum and experience as possible before their views and opportunities narrow as they get older. John Hutchings (the Hub’s Schools’ Instrumental Music Lead Officer) talked through the Hub’s Play-It! whole-class instrumental scheme which encourages children to learn music through an instrument. Supported by Government funding and free for year groups in KS2, every child gains that crucial first-hand experience as part of their musical development.
KS2 to KS3
Noting that the transition for students from Year 6 to Year 7 is a point in their lives where they can be most vulnerable, Peter Lovell (the Hub’s Head of Service and former head of music at The Boswells School) talked of his experience in bringing students from feeder primaries into the school site to make music so as to make the transition as smooth as possible, and also for both student and teacher to get a real sense of what could happen when the student arrives in Year 7. To encourage this, the Hub has a great deal of school support work across districts, such as for the isolation of one-person departments, quadrant projects, and having MusicMark membership through the Hub. John spoke of the musical experiences happening outside of school which can remove the Year 6/7 label, such as in a one of the Hub’s Community Music Centres, or in county music groups or national ensembles, making creative relationships with other students not defined by age or year group.
Music Students in KS4
Bridget lead a discussion around the national issue of numbers at GCSE, and the link to MusicMark’s Ten Things Schools Should Know About Music. The Hub can help music leads in making the case for music in their school by offering a MIDAS visit, with options for eLearning packages and other offers from the Hub. The panel also looked at what happens to those students who are musical and haven’t signed up for GCSE, and how to keep them enthused and developing, be it through the Hub’s Band-It! work, eLearning, and pushing the rounded-student aspect – if the school runs an ‘advancement’ style discussion club, push for music to be featured, or run cross-curricular events, which can be supported by the Hub.
What’s happening now
The panel looked at the training available from the Hub for curriculum teachers as well as the staff in its Music Service. Then they moved to a discussion around the local and national effects on music as a result of Covid-19. The Hub is keeping as much music-making and music-learning going as possible, dependent on whether schools are admitting music tutors or not, with a risk assessment on the Hub’s website that will be kept update in line with national guidance.
Finally Bridget led the group through Music Mark’s #CanDoMusic scheme, and highlighted that the easiest way to get a school to want to make more music is to show them another school where it works well and make your school leadership envious of what could be done!
Our very great thanks go to Philip and Bridget, our home team, and all those who joined us on the day.