Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Three reasons why Music must stay in the National Curriculum

Like politicians in the House of Commons, I try to avoid using particular individuals to make a point. But sometimes, that's the only way to bring home a message.

The three musicians pictured here are all unique in their own ways, as every student is. But what they have in common is that they all face physically disabling barriers to music, and they have all benefitted in the last five years from having access to formal music education, including accredited courses.

Charlotte White (top left) performed an abridged performance of Bach's Cello Suite No.1 Prelude, composed music for a festival in Norway and was recently profiled on Radio 4. Despite gaining A* in many of her other GCSE subjects, the only accreditation realistically on offer for her back in 2008 was Bronze Arts Award, which she achieved. Many accreditation boards were unable (or unwilling) back then to accommodate her performances done using assistive music technology.

Bradley Warwick (top right, seen here with Music certificate) has always been passionate about music and wanted to follow the same accreditation pathways as his non-disabled contemporaries. He was the first student to pilot Drake Music's 'Introduction To Music' Course in 2008-9, achieving Level 1 passes in all four units (GCSE equivalent D-G) He presented his work to PGCE students at Bristol University in 2010, using his VOCA (Voice Operated Communication Aid). With this qualification achieved, he has the opportunity to pursue more music courses in the future, should he choose.

Jordan Andow (above) attended a mainstream academy school in Bristol and wanted to take Music GCSE. However, the way his option blocks were organised meant that he couldn't pursue this, but the school supported him by paying for Drake Music to work with him in twilight (after school) sessions for two years. He achieved a Grade D pass in GCSE Music, and has continued to compose music for film soundtracks in his spare time since then.

My point? Disabled students like these have the most to lose if Music drops off the National Curriculum. At present, it is their main access to music every week (as it is for the majority of students) and their potential passport to follow accreditation pathways in music in the future. That said, this access and the quality of the provision is extremely patchy across the UK, with many music teachers needing more support.

But change is coming: Drake Music, alongside other organisations and individuals, have put access to formal music education for these students on the map in recent years. As part of out Curriculum Development Initiative we are currently teaching BTEC Performing Arts to seven disabled students in Bristol; a further six at a school in Stroud are halfway through the 'Introduction To Music' course. The numbers are going up and up and increasing numbers of SEN/disabled students will be looking to take a bigger part in KS3 lessons, extra curricular groups and to take GCSE, BTEC, A Level and beyond.

It would be ironic if, at the point at which the 'glass ceiling' is about to broken, Music dissapears from the NC and becomes out of reach once more to those with least access to it.

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