There have only been two articles written on this website over the last twelve months. This is because of the upheaval caused by being moved on from my music-teaching post at Manorfield Primary School in Tower Hamlets in July of 2017.
By April 2017 my headteacher at that school had finally stopped hinting and told me that he would be replacing me with two tutors from the Colourstrings organisation to save the school money. This was a massive blow to me as I had spent the last four years building up the level of musicianship right across the school.
I was offered a post as a regular class teacher and the chance to continue as the ‘subject leader’ of music. Accepting this offer was out of the question for me as it would have meant being in the building while two tutors continued the work that I wanted to be doing myself! And anyway, I am now committed to being a music teacher. Of course, the reason for this offer was simply so that the school would not have to make me redundant. It was a cynical move and one that completely disregarded the efforts I had gone to in building up the music-provision there.
I wrote to the governors explaining the loss to the school that the headteacher was overseeing but by then it was too late. My message was really just a way for me to express my intense frustration and to put into writing the unnecessarily insensitive way that the headteacher chose to handle the situation. There is no need to outline the details here. Only a few indicators are enough to illustrate the sorry story: the head chose not to confirm his own decision until the middle of April leaving me four weeks to find a new post; oddly, the head told me several times that my post costs the school more than my salary (true for all staff); the head did not attend the extraordinary concert I had organised at the local secondary school or even ask me about it; the head publicly described the music provision as ‘good’ rather than ‘outstanding’ despite it being a model for the borough’s ‘Gold Standard’ of music at primary level; and so on and so on.
It was a horrid period of time for me because it was so confusing and upsetting. Nonetheless I am proud that I established the program of Kodaly musicianship that is now being continued by the two Colourstrings tutors. I also initiated the steel pans program that is still being taught by Kyron Akal who is a brilliant musician and teacher who, as a London-born Trinidadian, represents the real culture of pan for those children.
I think the bitterness that I feel is justified but I am also aware that my experience is not unusual for a music teacher in the state sector. I visited primary music teacher Jimmy Rotherham at his school in Bradford recently (you can read an account of this here). He told me that he receives three or four emails a week with similar stories. Bizarrely the UK continues to see itself as a place that supports the arts and as a place that has a flourishing arts scene. With regard to music, this point of view can only be understood in terms of cold hard cash (think of Ed Sheeran, Adele and so on) or by looking at music-provision in the private sector (think of, for example, Kensington Prep School where 97% of children learn an instrument, the main school orchestra has 115 members and the Senior Choir has 80 members). These examples are the sort of music-making and music education that the English political class approve of.