Wider opportunities..the final nail in the coffin!!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by 24aw, Nov 23, 2006.

  1. 24aw

    24aw Member

    I recently became aware of a music education policy that has been imposed on instrumental teaching service's that has been handed down from central Government and is being implemented rapidly due to financial sweeteners from Downing Street. It has the typically illuminating title of Wider Opportunities, its ethos is based on a grand socialist principal of the masses getting very little at the expense of the talented getting nothing. If the way i read it is correct, it would seem to be probably the end of instrumental tuition in schools as we know it. As severe financial pressure is yet again being put upon music services all over the country. The policy is destined top be the ruin of bands because the limited pool of players we now have will be diluted by talented players not getting the chance to polish there skills because money for instrumental tuition will be entirely focused on the Wider Opportunities. The education secretary will get the chance to stand up in Parliament and announce look how clever we are, since we came into power X amount of children are getting the chance to learn a musical instrument, but he/she will be careful to not mention that the tuition consists of a hour a week in a class of 20 learning the cornet as a group!! Yes folks its a socialist inspired chocolate fireguard policy, and i dread to report it will be the final nail in the coffin of banding!!
  2. Cornet_player

    Cornet_player Member

    I don’t really know much about this project but it is of real interest to me as I am studying to become a teacher. I’m interested in why giving pupils class lessons like this is necessarily such a bad thing- obviously the students will not benefit from one-to-one tuition and progress might be slower. However the current system isn’t working- at least not in the context of brass bands. Many people say 'I wish I had had the opportunity'- this scheme (in theory) gives everyone these opportunities- the more dedicated or talented are likely to go out and get private individual tuition as many people do anyway (I certainly found that as I progressed school instrumental lessons just weren’t adequate due to time constrictions etc.)

    Indeed many bands already offer free tuition services to new players, such services supplement the current system so why not a new one? Maybe this is something that we should embrace as movement. If nothing else this new project COULD be used to raise awareness of the movement, and I think many schools would be grateful for support from local musicians. (I’ve not met many music teachers who have turned down workshops, which have been offered by people outside of formal education, assuming that the workshops are appropriate for the age group etc)

    Assuming that the tuition is given by a competent performer then I think that it is a really good idea to be introducing instrumental learning in Primary schools- too many students reach secondary school without being able to read basic music and many feel by this point that its ‘too late’.

    Youth music is the way forward and I think we should support the education system. Yes it has it problems and is by no means an ideal solution but I think that its good that they are trying something, the current system isn’t working very well so try something new- it might just work!
  3. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    OK, Imagine the scene, little johhny is rapidly becoming a thug as his hormones kick in at the end of y8. Little lucy is rapidly becoming an orange faced slapper as hers do the same. These two get into a bit of a tangle at the back of the class and, because neither is really interested or committed to playing the instrument, theirs get damaged beyond repair in the process.

    Who pays?
    How long will it take to repair
    Has the disruption caused by the fracas frightened off some of the more timid and/or sheep-like children so that they fail to progress further?

    When will people get real and actually try to think what happens in the real world with real children?

    I currently have about 20 glockenspiels that are unplayable. They were new at the start of last year. Who has destroyed them? Y7 and y8 children (the only ones who use them). Because they play them in class activities, and I can't actually be in every part of the room all the time, so, some child loses concentration and before you know it, off comes the rubber, maybe a bar or two, the pins come out.... Who is to blame? Don't even try to blame me until you've seen me perform. Besides, I actually got a nasty letter from a parent last year because I refused to have a child in my classroom whom I had caught quite blatantly destroying one of the instruments and who then lied about doing so. He was actually a very lucky boy (or I was a very lucky teacher) because that is actually the first and only time in 20 odd years of teaching that I have been genuinely angry with a child. I had an actual vision of that child being operated on to have a glockenspiel and a pair of beaters surgically removed.

    How much more damage will ensue with these large classes? This labour government has absolutely no clue about real people and real children. It also is totally unrealistic about music and the other arts. I could go on...
  4. Cornet_player

    Cornet_player Member

    As I understand it (and of course Im more than likely to be wrong) the trials for this scheme were carried out in Primary schools? I think its far more likely to work in Primary schools than secondary- intially at any rate.
  5. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Thing is, traditional notation and the reading of it is not actually included in the KS2 requirements.

    Most primary schools do not have a music specialist on the staff.

    The guidelines for music are not statutory.

    For some reason I can't get onto the standards site to check exactly. Seems the government are still having computer problems!:rolleyes:

    I am going to upset a lot of people now, but I don't care. Music is an elitist subject. Just because most people can hear music does not mean that they all like or appreciate it in any way or are capable of creating it either by performing or by composing. You either have the interest and the ability or you don't. Truly creative musical talents are rare - just as any other creative talent is, and while I feel sorry for those who can't do it, they will have some other talent in which they can excel. Trying to make people who have no aptitude for music musical is like trying to make me good at football. Impossible. I have neither the inclination nor the coordination nor even the interest. I never have had. My friends all seemed to find it fascinating. I just wanted to read. When I discovered music at age 11 that was my apotheosis. There was no longer any other course open to me.

    That isn't down to training, that is in-born. I don't know why people can't just accept that. We can't and shouldn't all be good at everything. If we were, then we would all be the same, and we're not.

    Vive La difference, I say.
  6. 24aw

    24aw Member

    well the current system is working under massive pressure, it has been under funded for years now, that is why most authorities can only make ends meet by paying there teachers on a hourly basis (that makes the 13 weeks holidays per year a real laugh!!) and charging the schools, this means the only viable way schools can offer a service to there kids is to lump them into groups of 4 during a 20 min lesson, and as we no with kids, by the time they have picked there nose, turned up late, got the cornet out the box. there isn't much time to do anything. Music is the only thing this country still does the best in the world, and surprise surprise our wonderful war mongering government seem intent on ruining that as well, meaning all the talented musicians in this country can end up like our engineers, miners and steel workers,............working in in MacDonald's!!!!!!!!
  7. Pops2501

    Pops2501 Active Member

    :clap: :clap: :clap:
  8. timbloke

    timbloke Member

    Easy tiger - this country has some of the finest engineers (me) in the world and easily the most respect professional engineering bodies such as the Institution of Civil Engineers, and highly recognised standards (eg BSi) and forms of contract (eg NEC) which are used the world over.

    But that said, I know exactly what you're saying, and will be watching this thread with interest. I'd be inclined to agree with Cornet_player (perhaps because I'm always an optimist), and argue that we should be turning this to our advantage. We need a Jamie Oliver to get out there and start a campaign to get kids into music, we need to get more bands to have training bands, and get training bands to start working with each other, and with local schools and music departments.

    Here's the challenge - if you take part in a junior/training band get in touch with all the local training bands, organise an event together, get the local press and regional BBC news to come along, claim that the government is systematically destroying young music, get a website set up to encourage sponsorship and new membership, and get a famous banding face to back it. Lets start the revolution here!!
  9. andywooler

    andywooler Supporting Member

    Coming from a part of the world where things are slightly different, the scenario painted wouldn't even be 20 kids learning cornet or tenor horn - it would be 20 on trumpet and French Horn - the music services in this part of the world are dominated by an Orchestral or Wind Band bias - yes, there is a County Youth Brass Band (very ably led btw by Marcus Plant who comes from a banding background) but do we in the movement get to see any of these kids? Of course not - any activities they do are centred around the music service offerings because that's what the peri's are paid to do. (That's not criticism of them btw - they have a right to earn their living as much as I do!)

    A much more useful thing would be for funding to be made available to the brass band movement to provide trained resources to work with us on a local basis, or to fund training our own people to be better instrumental teachers. My own band has a very large and prosperous Youth band - all generated by the dedication of members of the senior band, none of who have a teaching diploma between them!. The instruments are funded by a combination of band funds and local authority and lottery grants.

    The % of our junior players who also receive tuition at school is not that high (Bladder - if you still come on here can you confirm that? Ta).
    Those we do have though want to be here - not so sure they would gain anywhere near as much in a 20 strong group classroom environment.

    In summary, anything that starts to mass promote playing that is managed by the County Music Service down here will not benefit the brass band movement one iota. (IMHO o course) - any South Coast based peri's on here who feel that is not the case, feel free to respond.

    If you look at the brass players from my part of the world (Sussex) who have been succesful in the movement, most actually started in the movement and not with the peri services (although of course, they will have been involved with them as their standard improved and musical careers beckoned) . And of course, most moved North to the band focussed colleges and were lost to us anyway!! (But that's another debate!)
  10. Texus

    Texus Member

    The world of education for the masses as we know it....... The Governments policies of bland education for all mean the loss of music as a true subject, along with seperate sciences etc.etc.
    Music for all - every child gets to blow a trumpet or strum a guitar and this gets called 'wider opportunities'. Fabulous.....
    People such as Rattle were shouting this a few years ago, but the situation and funding still decreases. Sorry for the rant but as a teacher i see it everyday!
  11. ophicliede

    ophicliede Member

    Wider opportunities.

    I find it interesting to read some of the comments on this thread about Wider Opportunities. It is not a new scheme of work it has been in place for several years and is targeted at Key Stage 2. This is years 3,4,5 and 6 not in Key Stage 3. It enables a whole range of musical instruments to be taught to whole classes and give all children the opportunity to experience playing. If people can remember when instrumental lessons were free every child was given the opportunity. It does not replace small group or 1 to 1 instrumental tuition but in some repects enhances this by not making music elitist for those that can afford instrumental lessons. Some children find they have a natural talent and the practitioners can spot this and encourage those children to have small group lessons. This scheme was a brainchild of the many contibutors to the music manifesto if you read this then you might realize that these contibutors are all in the music profession and they have made their recommendations to the government. Try reading the manifesto at www.musicmanifesto.co.uk . The only problem with the scheme is that you need very good instrumental musicians that are able to cope with 30 children at once. I have seen some very good teaching practice whilst observing wider opportunities. My only hope is that funding continues for music services to continue to run this scheme into the forseeable future.
  12. O.k . So the wider opportunities might be more orchestral or recorder based in schools and not feed our movement but if some children find that they love making music then it has worked. As a movement, we have to publicise our groups and encourage those interested in music making to 'have a go' on a band instrument. Surely the idea will reach and find more musical children than doing nothing!
    What about bands having an 'open day' occasionally in or near a school to promote young player opportunites.
  13. ophicliede

    ophicliede Member

    Wider opportunities.

    Wider Opportunities is not orchestral, I am teaching cornets, euphoniums and trombones. It seems there is another issue with people moaning about youngsters coming into brass banding. Maybe instead of moaning about why don't you motivate young people and work week in week out helping them learn to play a brass instrument in the brass band genre. So people do, some youth bands are well motivated with talented young musicians coming into the movement. Chalford, Ratby, Tredegar, and many other bands work successfully at this. Don't just rely on the local authority music service. We have an independant community youth band run by very talented volunteers have a look www.greatwesternyouth.com . Even the website has been set up and maintained by a young 16 year old euphonium player.
  14. Texus

    Texus Member

    I am sure that the principles of wider opportunities are fine, and that staff are finding innovating methods of working with large groups.
    The music manifesto however doesn't provide me with the funds and resources to deliver the curriculum - it may be well intentioned but it leaves many music teachers exasperated - myself one of them. Give me the funding and time required to build and work with my students needs.
  15. 24aw

    24aw Member

    The system is purely a money saving hash..........if the 20 kids that spend a year trying to learn 5 notes, decided they love it and want to do more of it, how will they get that opportunity when by 2010 there will be no music service for them to go to? (privately at £25 per hour!!!) All music service employees will be, is watered down class room teachers who will be going into school purely so primary heads can tick the box on the musical education part of key stage whatever.........music unfortunately is elitist, some people have talent, a lot don't, the only opportunity wider opportunities will give will be for our smug government to convince the dumbed down public they are doing there bit for music. The best thing they could do is to leave the music services as they are, fund them properly, and let the cream rise to the top. Teaching in this country will go the same way as the police, teachers will become form fillers (cos yes, you guessed it, with the advent of this great policy comes a stack of paper work which will keep the army of admin staff that now litter the work place busy) who when they have done there paper work can spend the few remaining hours of there day actually doing there job!!
  16. ratley

    ratley Member

    I'm one of those admin staff and I'm actually still at school at 6.30 on a Friday night littering the workplace. The only member of teaching staff left here is the Headteacher... and she's on £85k....
  17. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Just to step in and avoid a fight...

    Ratley, I think 24AW is saying that teachers should be in the classroom/musicroom teaching and not being turned into admin staff, who are very poorly paid for the immensely useful work they do in schools. However, the flip side of this is that a lot of admin staff are now needed to do the jobs teachers have been told they're not allowed to do (and don't get paid for doing any more) but the amount of paperwork you have to fill in keeps mounting towards the ceiling and so on...

    As with many things, the principle of wider opportunities is great providing several things happen:

    1. government provides adequate funding - which they never do
    2. The children whose families are poor and therefore cannot afford to supply instruments are not encouraged to develop a love of music and then dropped like a hot potato when they get to secondary school because they are unable to pay for lessons/instruments. To me, that is just plain cruel. There should be on-going funding to provide for this. There never will be.
    3. Families whose children develop an interest in music are encouraged to support their children. Even today, there are families that will not allow their children to follow a musical career. I personally know of at least one such (damn near broke my heart) who prevented a talented daughter from going to university to study because of their stupid religious beliefs. I'll never forgive them for that.
    4. Secondary schools are given funding that can't be siphoned off from music training to make allowances for 2 and 3 above. As you can see, all this is just a pipe dream.

    The British don't really like music, they just love the noise it makes.
  18. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - surely this is where the local bands should step in, just before further development and opportunity is stripped away from the kids? :confused:
  19. 24aw

    24aw Member

    oh don't get me wrong, the job you and your colleagues do is incredible, i have no doubt at all who runs schools, secretary's!!! But the work place as a whole is becoming admin crazy, forms for this, forms for that, forms to get forms, For instance, many years ago, we had a thing called common sense, now we have risk assessments, Forrest loads of paper work in the place of taking it for granted young kids will need a helping hand getting off a coach!! And why? many because we have let a litigation culture infiltrate our country with out us knowing...A good analogy i have heard about this countries obsession with paper work is if Britain was a Resturant, it would employee two chefs and 600 waiters!! i.e a few people doing and making and a shed load administrating it!!
  20. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    I teach one Wider Opps class per week (this is my third year of doing so) and I consider it to be an "interesting" experience for the peripatetic staff, class teacher and the students.
    I do NOT consider this to be the same as learning an instrument in a one to one lesson.
    I do not consider it to be the same as learning as a band.
    I do NOT consider it to be as good as the excellent class music teaching that exists in some schools (sadly FAR too few).

    What it is very good at is allowing each child the chance to experience music through the medium of an instrument.

    Wider Opps is another one of those great ideas that required a great amount more in the way of thinking by the people who actually do the job, rather than a few big names and a bunch of politicians. The people they had supporoting the scheme (and the Music Manifesto when it was launched) were people who had about as much to do with classroom teaching as Jamie Oliver has to do with school dinners. They provide a famous face, but have not got a great deal to do with the actual work being done.
    What has happened since the Wider Opps schemes started throughout the country is that there are now a vast number of different concepts and ideas being used and there is no cohesive nationwide strategy. This means that some schemes are excellent and being ignored whilst other ones are less than impressive and yet are being presented as "beacon strategies."
    I have taught my version of Wider Opps for three years and have had very little in the way of training for it - I am basically using what I know as a musician and have discovered as a teacher to produce a scheme of work that is basically a "band method" based strategy. I have seen other schemes in action that are primarily classroom teaching based methods, with a small amount of instrumental use. Both are referred to as Wider Opps schemes, yet they are most definitely not the same way of teaching and don't achieve the same results.

    As for the people who claim that there is an orchestral bias - that might be the case in the vast number of schemes you have obviously looked at, but in my experience it is simply wrong. In my scheme we are using trumpets, euphoniums and trombones. The reason we are using trumpets is NOTHING to do with the fact that I am primarily a trumpeter, but rather that we had more trumpets in the stock cupboard than cornets. We are teaching all of the instruments in treble clef, including the trombone, much to the annoyance of at least one colleague, who feels that bass clef is the only way for euphonium and trombone. We do it that way because it is frankly EASIER to teach all the instruments in the same clef, rather than explain to a bunch of 9 year olds that a Bb and a C can sound the same, but only if the instruments are x and y.
    I have colleagues teaching Wider Opps on tenor horns, french horns, strings, african drums, steel pans, glockenspiels, recorder, clarinet - whatever the school has asked for - if a school asks us to do a brass band based Wider Opps, fantastic - at least it is brass:clap:

    Mike - this sums up one of my BIGGEST gripes against the scheme (I have many, but this one really hacks me off). In the first year we ran our scheme we had one lad who had never been exposed to any instrumental music beyond the drum and bass. To say that the family was not well off would be an understatement. He was one of those kids that was always in trouble and had been marked a troublemaker by all the staff. From the first lesson he showed a fantastic talent and aptitude. Every time we walked into the classroom his whole attitude changed - he became possibly the best behaved of the whole class, definitely the most talented and it spread into his regular classwork. Sadly, the parents showed no interest in his developing talent. His Dad did attend the end of year concert, but it was only a phonecall from the class teacher that persuaded him. Sadly, at the end of the year the instrument had to go back and that was the end of his music. I have managed to keep vaguely in touch with what he has been up to in his new school. I would love to say that the one year of proving to himself and the world that he wasn't a talentless child paid off and that he is now doing well in school. Sadly, I can't - he has slipped back into his old habits and has been in quite serious trouble since joining the school. I can't be sure that if he had continued he would be a less disruptive child, but I can think of a number of people who saw the change during the year we were working with him who might think that it could have been a good thing to keep him playing.

    There are many, many things wrong with the Wider Opps scheme, but at least there is something happening. It would be nice if the government would fund individual instrumental lessons, it would be better if they put the amount of money into teaching that they do into such ridiculous things as their own salaries (quick test - who do you think is worth more, the people who taught you to read/write or the person who sits in the House of Commons and claims to represent you and your interests) or illegal invasions of a country.

    My apologies for the rant - this is a subject I have a lot of personal experience with and sometimes it is good to vent about it

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