Rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic


I’m guessing that someone had the job of being in charge of deckchairs on the Titanic. I presume that they spent their days and nights dreaming up ever more complex ways of arranging the deckchairs in patterns, and then occupied themselves for hours doing that. And maybe, even as the ship was sinking, they were concerned that their deckchair arrangements were being spoiled. Maybe they were just too busy rearranging them to notice the bloody great iceberg bearing down on them.

This long metaphor is how I view some parts of music education at the moment. Many music services (MSs) don’t seem to have realised that when Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) are normal for all secondary schools, they (MSs) may not be required. At the moment we have a situation where MSs don’t aggressively encroach into each other’s territory too often. Can you see MATs doing that? We have local continuation routes for music education predicated on the school>local schools>area band (or whatever)>regional band>County band (again, or whatever) model. Can you see aggressive MATs doing that? There will be a <<Insert Name of Trust>>model, where music making is kept within that MAT. Now, this may not a bad model per se, the MATs may genuinely put a lot of effort into their music offer, and, having done so, will want to reap the reward of so doing, but it strikes me as extremely unlikely that they will want to play nicely with other MATs. After all, Tesco don’t cooperate with Asda on how to make their baked beans better, I don’t think?

And this is the iceberg that is looming. (Well, one of them anyway, I actually think there is a whole flotilla of icebergs on the horizon, but that’s another blog!)

So, what’s in it for MATs, MSs, schools, and kids? Well, this is what we don’t know. This isn’t an anti-MAT blog entry, far from it. We do know that some current MATs take a lot of care with their music education offer, and genuinely want to do well by and for their kids, and for these MATs, good music education and high quality music making go hand in hand. We also know some MATs don’t care so much, and are more concerned with other aspects of schooling. Music services could well feel the pinch, with bad MATs forcing a race to the bottom in terms of fees and services, and working regardless of MS and hub boundaries. For schools this will mean being tied into the MAT music offer. Again, this may be no bad thing, but if, say, a MAT music offer is predicated on performing, then a teacher wedded to a composing pedagogy may wish to look elsewhere. And finally kids. Continuation routes contained within a MAT may well be no different to those of a music service or hub, but it is unlikely that both will flourish, with the MS offer likely to suffer most. This might not be an issue in urban contexts, but out in the remote wilds of the Shires, this could entail a lot of travelling.

So where is the deckchair re-arranger? Well, I talk to a number of hubs and MSs, and I hope that they are out there on the bows of the ship looking anxiously ahead with their binoculars. But some aren’t. They are soon going to be spending a lot of time on the poop-deck wondering what it’s like to be struck by an iceberg, leaving them well and truly up a well known creek!

As for music education? Well, I feel that we are entering uncharted waters for many reasons, and we will need all our wits about us. There are icebergs, sure, but bad weather, predators, and Pirates too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and arrange “Abide with me” for deckchairs and noseflute. And don’t bother me, I’m far too busy to ever find myself without a …..

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