The sound of … no timetabled music lessons at a school in Essex

A school in Essex, UK, has hit the headlines for dropping timetabled music lessons for children aged between 11 and 13, reports the BBC.

The Joyce Frankland Academy in Newport, near Saffron Walden, made the decision following the departure of a key member of staff in the music department. Faced with budget and recruitment issues, the school’s principal, Gordon Farquhar, ditched the offer from the school timetable to save money. Speaking to the BBC, Farquhar said: “I don’t think we want to reduce any subject provision. Unfortunately, in this situation, I have a music teacher who left so that has made me have to review the situation. By doing this with music we can be creative and we can continue to protect all the other subjects.”

The BBC news item added that a Department for Education spokeswoman commented: “The core schools budget has been protected in real terms since 2010 and is set to rise from £41bn in 2017-18 to more than £42bn in 2019-20 with increasing pupil numbers.”

But the story gathered momentum when it piqued the interest of Deborah Annetts, chief executive of Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) and founder of Bacc for the Future, a 100,000-strong pressure group campaigning for creative subjects to be a firm fixture on the proposed EBacc.

Bacc for the Future is against the UK’s Department for Education’s plans for a new English Baccalaureate or ‘EBacc’ that would exclude creative, artistic and technical subjects from the syllabus due to the EBacc’s minimum requirement for seven to nine compulsory subjects. On the ISM website, its mission states that “…the EBacc will leave little room, if any, for creative, artistic and technical subjects.”

In a statement, Annetts said: “Cuts to school budgets has thrown the harmful impact of the EBacc into sharp focus. The news that a school has felt under pressure to remove music from the timetable for Year 7 and 8 to balance their budget is becoming common, as revealed in research and also personal testimony from teachers at The Telegraph Festival of Education

“Although the headmaster at this Essex Academy is trying hard to keep GCSE music as an option in the school with the introduction of a few music days, the removal of music from the timetable is severely limiting the opportunities open to children at this important stage of their education.”

Annetts added: “Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, was absolutely correct at The Telegraph Festival of Education last week when she said, “We have a full and coherent national curriculum and it seems to me a huge waste not to use it properly. The idea that children will not, for example, hear or play the great works of classical musicians or learn about the intricacies of ancient civilisations – all because they are busy preparing for a different set of GCSEs – would be a terrible shame. All children should study a broad and rich curriculum. Curtailing Key Stage Three means prematurely cutting this off for children who may never have an opportunity to study some of these subjects again.”

The Joyce Frankland Academy is currently preparing a version on Monthy Python’s Spamalot for production in March 2018 and will continue to offer co-curricular music activities to its students.

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