Assessment isn’t always glamorous but it’s a right

Bradley pic w: Ben

‘…the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.’

(Paul Collins)

Is the way we currently assess and accredit the musical progress of disabled young musicians working?

This Friday I’ll be delivering a session at the Music Education Expo with Jocelyn Watkins (a real live music teacher, no less!) discussing this topic.

Jocelyn is an inspirational teacher at Treloar School in Hampshire and working with her over the past four years has had a real impact on my own practice and the way Drake Music advocates in this area. The quote above features in her presentation, and she’ll be raising further, challenging questions.

Assessment in music isn’t a topic that gets all the glory – there’s little glamour in assessment criteria, no ‘punching the air’ over learning objectives and levels. For many teachers, it’s simply something you have to do as part of the role.

But we’d like to put it centre stage once more because almost no-one at the Expo on Friday would be where they are without having had the opportunity to challenge yourself, explore new music, get useful feedback and having the sense of achievement when your music mark literally comes up to the mark.

More than this, it is a right for every young person, should they choose, to explore this strand of musical life whether that be through Sounds of Intent or an accredited music course.

Both Jocelyn and I will have a key message on Friday – that we need to move the discussion around assessing disabled young musicians from ‘should be able to do x, y and z’ (based on some existing frameworks) to creating fresh kinds of criteria which are better representative of what they can do, and more of what they want to do.

It can be done, but to be clear, it mustn’t be a separate set of ‘disabled music making’ criteria; it should be intelligent and inclusive.

We need to re-assert the knowledge of music leaders in curating the assessment process.

We need to skill up these same music leaders to be able to work with assistive music technology, so that participation can be achieved in almost any scenario, and increased opportunities for expressive playing and composing explored.

We need to need to capture all this on film and audio (evidence) and reflect upon it so that week-on-week, we can support young disabled musicians to take their music making further.

So, all of that in 45 minutes! (don’t be late…)

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