Music Education Solutions

We now offer Skype Training Packages!

BIG NEWS! We now offer Skype Training Packages! Perfect for schools and teachers on a tight budget, an hour’s training comes in at just £69.95! Choose from sessions on pbuzz, singing, the national curriculum, behaviour management, whole class ensemble teaching, creative instrumental teaching, and more! Visit our Skype Training page for all the details!

 

 

In the last of our 10th anniversary ‘top ten tips’ blogs, Dr Liz Stafford offers some advice for music teachers on surviving the Christmas concert season. 

  1. Start taking Lemsip now. I don’t care if you don’t have a cold, you will do by the time the last day of term comes round and by then you’ll be too knackered to recognise the symptoms.
  1. Remember that John Rutter is a lovely, lovely man with an immense amount of talent. It’s (probably) not his fault that your choir can’t sing in tune, so try not to harbour murderous thoughts every time you hear the introduction to the Star Carol.
  1. Also remember that other Christmas music composers do exist – Bob Chilcott, Will Todd, George Fredrick Handel, The Pogues…
  1. Insert some earplugs. There are going to be a lot of performers having crises of confidence; but if you can’t hear them, then there isn’t a problem. In fact, why not leave the earplugs in during the concert. They never watch you when you’re conducting, so why should you listen to them?
  1. Never, EVER operate a backing track yourself. It’s bound to go wrong and leave you in the firing line of an angry parent whose little darling didn’t get the chance to shine. Instead, give that responsibility to your least favourite pupil – if you happen to teach at the school that your own children attend, that would be ideal.
  1. Resist the temptation to shout at anyone who calls it ‘The’ Messiah.
  1. Resist the temptation to shout at anyone who asks why you didn’t do the Hallelujah Chorus in your performance of ‘The’ Messiah. Bide your time until Easter Sunday, turn up at their house at 6am and play ‘The’ Messiah at full blast on your car stereo.
  1. Never get involved in the ‘Staff Performance’ – remember that you are a professional, and you don’t want your musical credibility ruined by accompanying the rest of the staff as they belt out a questionable rendition of ‘All I want for Christmas is You.’ Less ‘Love, Actually’ more ‘Cringe, Actually.’
  1. Remember that Christmas is a joyful time of giving and sharing and you should be grateful for every… no sorry, I was just testing to see if you were still reading.
  1. Don’t eat the post-concert mince pies – they will inhibit the mulled wine from getting into your bloodstream. Nobody needs slow release alcohol after suffering through ‘It was on a starry night’ 476 times in three weeks. In fact, why not get to the buffet table early and take the entire drinks tray – you’ve earned it.

Copyright © 2018 Music Education Solutions Limited. All Rights Reserved. 

At the moment I am in the middle of one of my regular work trips to Jersey. This is lovely for many reasons – the people, the scenery, the food, the weather (not this week, admittedly!) – but fundamentally because unlike in England, the place of music in the curriculum is secure.

There is no question of music being ‘cut’ from schools in Jersey – it’s in the curriculum, therefore it’s a statutory requirement. Yes some secondary schools opt for BTec rather than GCSE – and vice versa – but they are all DOING music. In the primary sector the majority of schools are teaching music enthusiastically and, with the help of the fabulous JMS Music Development Partners Katy and Gina, with increasing levels of confidence and skill. Many primary schools have a music specialists teaching throughout the school, giving them an enviable overview of progress. Even those primary schools where music isn’t their foremost priority have access to a comprehensive development programme for all staff through the MEPAS initiative.

Now obviously Jersey is a much smaller place than England, they have their own Education Department so are not governed by the vagaries of DfE policy, and one suspects that they have a bit more money to play with. However, their commitment to music is in my experience not drawn from these factors, but from the understanding that music is in the Jersey Curriculum (their equivalent of the National Curriculum), and is therefore a statutory right for all children. Music in the curriculum is supplemented – rather than replaced by – a vibrant programme of extra curricular projects and ensembles, and as a result pupils are able to progress and develop regardless of their socio-economic background.

With all the focus on ‘inclusion’ in music education in England at the moment, I think perhaps we could learn from the Jersey model. There are multiple meanings of ‘inclusion’ but at its most basic level it surely means ‘access for all.’ It is right and proper that we should strive to make our extra-curricular music projects and ensembles accessible for differing needs and abilities, but I think we may have lost the idea that however ‘accessible’ we make our projects and extra curricular offers, they can never be truly inclusive. Projects and ensembles are always going to have a limit on the number of participants that can be involved. The time and place that they are run will prohibit attendance for some. Many projects are finite and therefore at some stage will cease to be accessible to anyone. Many have a cost implication that precludes poorer children from attending, or even if they are free they rely on funding which may eventually run out. And ultimately, even with the removal of every single accessibility barrier, children and young people can simply choose not to attend.

The only place that we can truly guarantee an inclusive music offer is in the curriculum. Every child has to go to school and attend curriculum lessons*, and there is no danger that we will decide to close all the schools! Extra curricular provision whilst important can never by its very nature come close to this level of inclusivity in the purest sense of access for all.

So this is why the Jersey model makes me happy. All children are experiencing music in the curriculum to some degree, and some choose to engage further through extra-curricular activities. I think that in England the messaging that we sometimes receive from on high is that extra-curricular music provided through centrally funded initiatives as part of the National Plan for Music Education is somehow ‘the same as’ or ‘instead of’ music in the curriculum. It isn’t. We need both. Without curriculum music there would be limited participants for extra curricular music, and without an extra-curricular offer there would be limited progression routes for those who want to extend their learning.

Imagine what could be achieved in England if we worked together to revitalise and secure the place of music in the curriculum as the bedrock of our music education offer, and then built on this to create a symbiotic relationship with extra-curricular provision. Now that really would be inclusive in all senses of the word!

Dr Elizabeth Stafford, November 2018

*Yes I realise it is possible to home school! However my experience of working with parents who home school is that music and the other arts are emphasised more rather than less than in schools! 

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Dr Elizabeth Stafford explores themes from Unit 2 of the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators.

Every good teacher knows the vital importance of planning. The planning process allows us to really think about what we want our pupils to achieve, and factor in any benchmarks – such as exams – along the way, so that the pupil’s learning journey runs as smoothly as possible. It also ensures that we arrive for our lessons with all the resources that we are likely to need, and knowing exactly what we hope to cover in the lesson, meaning that everything is in place to create an enjoyable and productive learning experience for our pupils.

The Four Components of Lesson planning are:

  1. Objectives and Outcomes
  2. Activities
  3. Resources
  4. Evaluation (to inform future planning)

Objectives & Outcomes

Objective = What I want you to learn     Outcome = How you show me you’ve learnt it

Objectives and outcomes are the building blocks of all good lesson plans. Sometimes teachers get carried away thinking of the exciting activities that they could do with their pupils, and try to structure the learning journey around these activities. However a stronger learning journey is created if objectives and outcomes are planned first, and then the activities are devised to dovetail with these.

If Objectives and Outcomes are planned carefully, then as soon as the pupil demonstrates the outcomes, we can be confident that the learning objective has been achieved.


Activities

Sometimes teachers make the mistake of thinking that their activity is their objective. For example their objective might be listed as ‘Learn the new Grade 2 piece.’ However, the objective should be thought of as an overarching learning aim which is linked to, but not dictated by, the individual lesson activities. So in this case perhaps the objective is in fact ‘Developing understanding of major and minor’ for which one activity would be to learn the new Grade 2 piece, which is in a minor key, but which would also cover learning the new minor scales for the grade, the recognition of major and minor for the aural test, and so on. Framing our objective in this way means that we are developing our pupils holistically as musicians, rather than ‘teaching to the test.’

It is also the case that sometimes teachers think that their activity is the outcome of the lesson. This is more of a grey area, as sometimes, but not always, it can be! For example, ‘able to identify ¾ time visually from flashcards’ is clearly a discreet activity, the successful completion of which achieves the outcome. ‘Able to play a waltz melody with the correct feel’ however, is the culmination of many activities – sight-reading or copying back the piece to learn it, practising the piece, doing required technical work to master the piece, learning to phrase correctly for ¾ – the combined result of which achieves the learning outcome.


Resources

Once you have designed your activities for the lesson, you will need to source the resources that you need to deliver them. In some cases this will be easy e.g. if you are working to an exam syllabus you may just need the exam repertoire book, the student’s instrument, your own instrument, and maybe a piano or audio player (if using backing tracks). However, in other cases you may need to design and print flashcards or worksheets, provide writing materials, or source a particular type of music to listen to.

In all cases, resources should be stimulating, well-presented, high-quality, and interactive, so that they motivate the student to engage with the lesson activities.


Evaluation

Unfortunately for us teachers, it’s not sufficient just to plan a brilliant lesson, we also have to teach it! And during the process of teaching the lesson, we may find that things don’t quite go as we expected! This is where the process of evaluation comes in.

It is important that we plan for evaluation to take place, rather than leaving it to chance. If we do not, then although we may have the best of intentions to reflect on our lessons, we may get distracted by other pressing tasks, and before we know it the next lesson has rolled round, and we haven’t adapted our planning to take account of what happened last time.

At a basic level, we want to establish whether the learning objective has been met. If, as in our example, you are using one learning objective for multiple sessions, the answer to that might be, ‘because we’re still working on it’ which is fine! However, if it is the last lesson in the scheme, or if you had a different learning objective for each lesson, and it hasn’t been achieved, then we need to think a little more carefully about why that has happened.

Perhaps the activities weren’t allied closely enough to the objectives and outcomes so the learning has gone off on a tangent? Maybe the activities were too difficult? Maybe the pupil forgot their instrument, or had to leave halfway through the lesson to attend some other activity? There really could be any reason at all, but the important thing is to find it, and see if there is anything we can do about it next time.

We also want to establish whether there were other noteworthy things happening in the lesson, for example certain activities that went down really well, or really badly, or individual students who were having difficulties, or excelling.

Once we have this information, we then want to use it to decide whether our planning for the next lesson needs to change, and also (if we are intending to use these plans or activities for other pupils, or in future years) what alterations need to be made to the existing plan before you teach it again.

Copyright © 2018 Music Education Solutions Limited. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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To celebrate our 10th birthday, every month in 2018 we’re publishing our ten top tips for different areas of our work. Drawing on our experience with the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators, and our suite of online learning courses, this month Dr Elizabeth Stafford presents our top tips for Distance Learning.

  1. Distance Learning requires concentration. If you’re doing it on your laptop in front of the TV, then you’re doing it wrong! Set aside a time and place with no distractions and treat it as if it’s a classroom situation. You probably wouldn’t watch Killing Eve in a lecture, so don’t do it when you’re trying to self-study…
  1. Limit your screen-time. Human beings weren’t originally designed to stare at light-emitting devices all day, so just because it’s Distance Learning it doesn’t have to involve your computer 100% of the time. Try printing off some of the materials so that you can read them old-school style instead.
  1. Make the most of your Distance Learning community. If there is a forum, post to it. If you know other people on the same course, keep in touch with them. If you have a tutor or mentor, don’t be afraid to contact them. Distance Learning can be a lonely business, so try and build a community around you so that you can offer each other advice and support, and combat any feelings of isolation.
  1. Set yourself realistic deadlines, and stick to them. When you’re working by yourself, it’s easy to get distracted by the day-to-day and suddenly realise that the end of the course is looming. On the very first day that you start your Distance Learning programme, you should look at how much time you have to complete, and then work backwards from that, factoring in all the other events and commitments in your life, setting some realistic deadlines along the way so that you’re not left with the entire course left to do the day before your deadline!
  1. Don’t procrastinate. You’ve set your deadlines, now stick to them! Don’t let other tasks or projects play havoc with your distance learning timetable. If you procrastinate now, you will pay for it later! Yes life throws us a curved ball once in a while, but most of us can tell the difference between a real unavoidable emergency and the sudden desire to do ANYTHING other than settle down and study!
  1. Don’t rush, mull it over. While procrastination is a no-no, so is rushing through all your distance learning tasks at surface level. While the flexibility of distance learning means that you can often get courses done in a fraction of the time that a face-to-face course would take you, this is not always a good thing! Sometimes taking extra time to think about theories and concepts can deepen your understanding, which in turn can improve the quality of your assignments.
  1. Use external sources. Just because your course provider offers a ‘complete’ learning package, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t more information out there in the big wide world. Depending on when the course was created, there may be more up-to-date material published that you could draw on, or views from different perspectives to consider. Researching outside the course for additional materials can help you to make your assignments richer and more stand-out, which is particularly good if your qualification can be achieved at different levels!
  1. Print out and proof read. Our eyes see what we want them to see – so it’s ideal if you can print out your final assignments and evidence and proof read them on paper. You’ll notice far more of the errors than you would if you were reading on screen.
  1. Relate it to the real world. There’s no point learning anything if you’re not going to apply it in real life. As you go along your Distance Learning journey, make sure you pause to reflect on the relevance of what you have learnt to your current career. It’s ideal if you can start to put the theories and techniques you’ve learnt into practice as soon as possible, otherwise you’ll find yourself thinking in a few years time ‘I sort of remember learning something about that once…’
  1. Celebrate your achievement! Just because it’s Distance Learning doesn’t mean you can’t make a fuss when you pass! There may not be a graduation ceremony, but you can still shout about your achievements to family and friends. We won’t tell anyone if you throw your hat in the air in your own front room!

 

Copyright © 2018 Music Education Solutions Limited. All Rights Reserved.

MTAwards19_Primary_EY Excellence_FINWe were delighted to discover that we had been shortlisted for the prestigious Music Teacher Awards for Excellence, in the Primary/Early Years Music category. This is the first time we have entered the awards, and to be selected as finalists on our very first try is a great honour for us!

We feel that this success is a reflection of our 10 year commitment to improving music education across the UK, and welcome recognition of our sustained and cumulative commitment to primary schools and teachers across England, the UK, and increasingly the global education sector.

In the last 10 years we have worked with: 197 UK state and private schools; 99 music education hubs; 79 independent teachers; 43 music education businesses; 8 international schools; 7 UK music services (non-hub); 6 Fund C organisations; and 6 universities. In addition, our newest initiative, Primary Music Magazine, has reached 15,500 readers since the inaugural issue in March 2018!

We estimate that our work with teachers has impacted on tens of thousands of children in the UK and beyond, and it is our aim in the next 10 years to reach hundreds of thousands.

We would like to thank all of our staff, associate consultants, clients, customers and friends for helping us become the company that we are today. We look forward to celebrating with many of you at the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence Ceremony on 6th March, whatever the outcome, and we wish all the other finalists the best of success. Together we make music education great!

Dr Elizabeth Stafford explores themes from Unit 1 of the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the company of young people, whether as a parent, teacher or as a passer-by, will instantly recognise that music is extremely important to young people’s lives. Music, like clothing, hairstyles and body art, helps young people explore and create their own identity, and helps them to forge friendships with like-minded peers. The importance of music continues into adulthood; it would be extremely rare to find an adult who didn’t like or listen to music, apart from on religious grounds.

But here we are talking about ‘music’ not ‘music education’. A study conducted by Youth Music found that ‘91% of children and young people aged 7-19 say they like listening to music, but only 39% report engaging in music-making activities.’ This statistic suggests that there is a disconnect between enjoyment of music and engagement with music education.

Most musicians would argue that music education is important for its own sake. However, music has also been proven to have an impact on many other aspects of children & young people’s development, and much of the advocacy for music education now centres round these ‘extra-musical’ benefits.

• Critical evaluation skills
• Leadership skills
• Collaborative skills
• Communication Skills
• Emotional Intelligence
• Thinking & Reasoning skills
• Creative Skills
• Academic skills (particularly English and Maths)

This advocacy argument may work on teachers and parents, but is probably not going to work on children & young people! So how can we help to bridge the gap between their enjoyment of music and engagement with music education?

The simple answer is to ask them! Ask children and young people why they do or do not engage in music education activities. Find out if there are alterations that can be made to existing activities to make them more appealing. Discover new types of activities that could be offered to suit children and young people’s requirements.

If we want more children and young people to engage with music education, then we need to tap into their enthusiasm for music. This may be at odds with our own interests and expertise! As educators it is important to find ways to bridge the musical gap between our pupils and ourselves, and that means valuing and respecting their musical interests.

Copyright © 2018 Music Education Solutions Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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We are delighted to announce that the KS1 Music Teaching Resource which we developed in conjunction with award-winning brass instrument developers Warwick Music Group, has won the Music category of the 2018 Teach Primary Resource Awards with the maximum rating of 5 stars!

 

Developed with mini-musician’s little hands in mind, the creators of pBuzz, Warwick Music Group, wanted to enable any teacher to use the instrument as a resource, whether they were a musician or not. Working in partnership with Music Education Solutions a step-by-step guide and support system for schools was designed.

The resulting pBuzz KS1 Music Teaching Resource introduces pBuzz to Years 1 and 2 through lesson plans, assessment trackers, teacher support videos, specially composed music, teacher development materials and cross-curricular activities. The resource covers the entire National Curriculum for Music at KS1, and is specifically designed for use by non-specialist teachers who may lack confidence in teaching music.

Writing about the resource, music category judge Gary Spruce said “The accompanying lesson plans are pedagogically sound and are well structured to support children’s musical development.”

Further information about the Teach Primary Resource Awards, including the full list of winners and all the judges’ comments can be found in the next edition of Teach Primary, which is due out on 12th October 2018.

Music Education Solutions would like to thank our amazing team without whom we could not have developed this award-winning resource: Elizabeth Stafford (Writer / Vocalist / Project Leader); Kay Charlton (Composer / Trumpeter / Music Producer); Jenni Axtell (Writer); Dave Smith (Video Producer); Steve Pretty (Recording / Mastering); Susie Riddell (Presenter); Thomas Green (Guitarist).

We’re delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted for the Birmingham Awards in the Contribution to Education category! The awards will be decided by a combination of a public vote and a judging panel, and the winners will be announced on 24th November.

Please vote for us here: https://www.birminghamawards.co.uk/voting/

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