Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A response to Toby Fox's recent Teaching Music Editorial

Dear Toby,

I really enjoyed your blog; it was honest, funny and relevant. Most importantly it's that rarest of things in music education at the moment, an authentic voice from the coal face. I echo your feelings about Music conferences being potentially awkward spaces for music teachers; I sat through a conference at the IoE late last year about the future of music education, and when the absence of teachers in the crowd was politely raised, the questioner met with a distinctly frosty response from the stage.

As a teacher who really struggled in my first job, the key thing is professional isolation. In order to reflect on things that happen, and to have a motivation to read widely and discuss contemporary issues, you need colleagues, sounding boards. I struggled just to keep going, often running the dept on my own; like you, I had no motivation, let alone time to keep up with the wider zeitgeist. I did care, it just passed me by, especially with no team to share it with. Think about nurses; they must suffer from the same kinds of issues in terms of being too busy to keep up with the latest research in the Lancet; but what they do have are colleagues, big teams of like minded, supportive staff.

I definitely benefit from being part of a small close-knit team in the music charity I work for, and I know I'm fortunate. We need wider teams of musicians from different backgrounds working together in schools throughout the week; not just one-off summer projects, e.g. the ubiquitous African drumming for two days in July. That’s why musical hubs – as recommended by Henley – are potentially a great idea. It links people in and increases the offer for all students in music. And it also goes a long way to helping classroom teachers care about keeping in the loop. Good luck with Hairspray!

NB: Toby's editorial can be found at

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