I’ve just see the front cover of the first edition of Music Teacher UK Magazine’ and it certainly catches the eye. A skeleton, engulfed in flames and playing a keyboard (naturally), stares out above the tagline ‘Going up in smoke?’. ‘The music education sector’, says writer Marc Jaffrey, ‘is standing on a burning platform’. In most cases, burning platforms are usually hard to salvage and easier to rebuild.
It’s hard to disagree with him that the music education sector appears to be in peril and is certainly standing at a major crossroads (‘A bloody mess’ is how Ed Miliband succinctly put it in recent history). Nobody obviously wants to see organisations and provision disappear from the sector. But, if things are to reach a head, there must surely follow an opportunity to re-group and re-build; this is an inevitable response to any sector which over time has come to a point where it needs to be re-organised, to become more effective and more responsive to it’s core users. To use a current comparison, everyone in this country loves and values the NHS; we know it provides an excellent service. But many people accept that it needs re-structuring (following proper consultation) to remain effective in the new century. Easy to talk about, hard to achieve (but definitely possible with the right leadership)
From the point of view of a relatively small music charity like Drake Music, the current activity around forming regional hubs has the potential to regenerate local music provision. With a wider range of organisations at the table, there is a chance to completely re-think how things are done: are we reaching those who have least access to music? Are we sharing the resources and knowledge we have with other for the greater good? Can we get better at ‘joining up the dots’ in terms of how music projects and programs are planned and delivered, so that we avoid overlaps in provision?
For the majority of disabled and SEN students who have only recently begun to enjoy their entitlement to a full music education, this really is a big chance. Think of it like any new-build Academy School. When the architects draw up plans now they automatically make the entire building accessible to all; no add-ons, no wait for new ramps or lifts. The new deal for music education in this country must not be an exercise in window dressing. It has to involve a proper consultation with music teachers, and it must be (at the expense of using a cliche) an exercise in thinking outside the box. The box we’re currently in is definitely smouldering.