Don’t call us, we’ll call you…?


I’m currently attempting to establish some dialogue with the major UK examining bodies around access issues for disabled musicians to GCSE, but it has not been completely plain sailing; navigating the jungle that is customer care, epic adventures through middle and upper departmental management structures, before, finally, many weeks of waiting for that elusive email…

Well, perhaps I’m stretching the point slightly, but in my experience many of the boards have been slow to respond to our enquiries (but helpful in the end) One of the issues I have been seeking to raise with them is identifying potential barriers to accessing the GCSE Music course. Now, I’m happy here to acknowledge that many of these hurdles have been addressed under the latest course specifications e.g. students no longer have to perform in the traditional sense, they can multi-track a performance using a sequencing program. Equally, in recent years SENDA legislation has ensured that ‘reasonable adjustments’ are being made with increasing regularity for a wide range of music students with disabilities/ SEN.

So, no issues then? Well, not quite; based on our day-to-day experiences working with disabled students in both mainstream and special schools, as well as previous conversations we have had with the examining bodies, we anticipate that there may still be some gaps between the specifications as outlined on paper and the reality of taking and passing the exam for some disabled students – in particular those who face severe physical barriers. One example is the question of establishing benchmarks for marking work played using assistive music technology, side by side with conventional instrumentals. It’s simply not clear how thoroughly tested certain specifications have been in this arena.

Equally, I have no current evidence (but I’d love to be put straight) that the boards have definite targets for increasing the numbers of disabled/SEN candidates, nor that they have bespoke initiatives to achieve this. In a separate, but related story, the BBC this year announced a rise in the corporate target for disabled staff to 5.5% by 2012. In the media generally, there is a concerted move by all major broadcasters towards involving and encouraging more disabled actors, presenters and production staff.

This is what I believe we need more of from the major examining bodies in the UK; to actively reach out to those disabled/ SEN students who are currently overlooked, or simply didn’t think that taking GCSE was within their grasp. Now that really would be something to celebrate come 2012.

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