Noted - Episode 11
There’s a definite sense of a shift this week as we adjust to the first tentative steps in easing the lockdown. Primary schools have opened their doors a crack wider to allow in more pupils, we’re permitted to engage in outdoor socialising with more than one person, buy a new car if we feel so inclined, and of course there’s free football on the horizon (be still my beating heart). In terms of returning to educational establishments, I can report that my 10-year-old is delighted to be back in lessons, but that actually might be less about the school itself and more about being back with her friends and her two amazing teachers (whom she adores). Having someone who actually understands how to do Y6 maths is probably a bonus as well*.
How things are for the poor professionals welcoming the increased numbers of primary pupils may be a different story. I have heard varying accounts of the bewildering and convoluted policies put in place to offer a safe learning environment. Be it constructing teaching pods, delivering special meals, regular deep cleans, intricate toilet procedures, allocation of child drop-off and collection points, or trying to stop four and five-year-olds touching each other, it seems every aspect of school-life has become a complex puzzle to be solved.
Within the world of music provision, one of the most controversial debates (in education settings at least) has been over singing and playing instruments with children in schools and the extent that this will risk virus transmission. There has been endless contradictory opinions and advice released but luckily, there was some excellent and timely guidance from Music Mark shared this week addressing the difficulties of running ensembles and rehearsals in post-lock-down times. While the guidance highlights that the research is very much ongoing, there was a glimmer of hope in a quote from a recent Freiburg University report stating:
“The initial conclusion found that no difference in airflow was detectable for wind players or singers at a 2-metre distance, as compared to normal”.
With the gradual lifting of lock-down and partial reopening of all schools (helpfully coinciding with educators the final half term of the school year**), it appears that schools may be able to get back to some singing and playing music in groups, as long as we can maintain the social (more aptly ‘physical’) distancing. Considering the implications of this, we all might need to follow the joyous lead of Knavesmire Primary school and get outdoors to sing together. As we go forwards however, and the traditional British Summer ominously approaches, I think it's clear that music teachers are going to need more space.
For Music Education Hubs there is still huge uncertainty as to how things can proceed in terms of delivering the core and extension roles, even with schools reopening more widely. Given that the current*** government guidance (some of which was updated 41 times in one week) states there should be “no unnecessary visitors” into schools, it is seems that peripatetic instrumental teaching and WCET in the traditional format is not starting up anytime soon. Coupled with less than 25 per cent (in some settings much less) of children in a year group being able to actually attend school, it does leave a fair few challenges ahead in terms of enabling all children to access music education.
One effort getting underway aiming to construct some parity is the incredible ‘Bags of Creativity' project. REACH, as the Local Cultural Education Partnership for the City of York, is part of an exciting new regional initiative led by IVE, the Bridge organisation for Yorkshire and Humber. This is a project that will put creative activities, materials and resources into the hands of the most vulnerable children and young people in the city. REACH York is one of eight Cultural Education Partnerships taking part in ‘Bags of Creativity’. Between them they hope to distribute 8000 bags to vulnerable children and young people across the region.
#YMHShare continues to be filled with moments of musical joy and we are still welcoming submissions. As we enter this final half-term we would love to receive submissions from any schools demonstrating any socially distant music making! In our online learning area, we have moved the start time of the YMH Zoom Choir on Mondays from 2:15pm to 4:15pm to allow those returning from school to take part. It’s great fun and a fantastic way to start the week with an uplifting shared musical experience.
For now I’ll leave you with a link below to a joyous recent recording of some of the choir members taking part in a lovely song project for St Leonard's Hospice. The late Victoria Wood once said that music has “the power to revive your love of life” hopefully this will do just that. For all my friends and colleagues in school leadership and governance roles, this is for you. #JustSing #KeepGoing
*I have never felt more stupid
**Who knows what that even is anymore?
***At the time of writing. It may well have been updated seventy billion more times as you read this.