Music, nature and the arts are key in education | Letters

Letters
‘Musical education, as part of a rich and broad curriculum, has been left to decay,’ writes Crispin Woodhead. Photograph: Kristina Strasunske/Getty

I was interested to read Charlotte Gill’s article (theguardian.com, 27 March) about music education in the UK. She is right that opportunities in the arts are not equal. Wealth and background have an unacceptable influence on outcome for young people and there is a great opportunity to level the playing field. The great sorrow is that musical education, as part of a rich and broad curriculum, has been left to decay. As a consequence, private schools and wealthy families obtain a renaissance education and the rest of society struggle or do without. It’s a scandal and incomprehensible given the winning, if cold-blooded, argument that children who are fully rounded in their education make the country richer. Teaching society to sing and dance and love the arts is a sound investment. It is also the right thing to do as an end in itself.

Thankfully there are organisations aiming to make music an open door, overcoming the hurdles to engagement that your article describes. We have many fabulous orchestras with super educational programmes – look at the Hallé, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia, Aurora and the London Sinfonietta and see what is on offer for young people around the country. There is nothing stale or academic about it.

The wonderful musicians I serve at the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment work with communities and schools all across England, helping children from diverse backgrounds write music about their local landscape, or move and shake to Handel, without required knowledge of scores and musical notation. Fostering instrumental technique is a solidly good thing, but we place equal value on instinctive appreciation and rule-free fun. But until there is a more universal recognition of the infrastructure needed to accomplish this consistently for all children, it falls to the valiant efforts of the charities, hubs and community groups and private tutors to keep the flag flying.
Crispin Woodhead
Chief executive, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

• Michael McCarthy is right (Screens have led to a nature deficit. Kids need to be outdoors, 1 April). The solution of a sterile GCSE is not going to be the answer, though. Why not a nature award? There is a model for this. In our college (for nine- to 16-year-olds) we find that many of our students choose to do Arts Awards. This is a recognised qualification sponsored by the Arts Council. The bronze is a level 1 qualification (equivalent to a lower-level GCSE) and the silver award is at level 2, ie, equivalent to an A*-C GCSE pass. The gold award is at level 3 and gets Ucas points. Local post-16 colleges recognise and accept this well-organised qualification for entry.

Our students can (and do) study anything they like and in any way they like. So they appreciate the opportunity to do a demanding portfolio-based qualification that gives them the freedom to study in any area of the arts, while demonstrating significant ability that is rigorously assessed. A nature award, based on similar lines, could be sponsored by any of a range of organisations that support McCarthy’s well-validated stance. How about some pressure from the Guardian for this?
Ian Cunningham
Chair of governors, Self Managed Learning College, Brighton

• Christina Patterson is right to say arts, and so creativity, matter in schools (A dance to kickstart the UK economy, 31 March), but to assume that science is separate from creativity is mistaken. Science requires a lot of creativity to imagine the theories that help us to explain the reality we experience. The problems in schools, as a teacher myself, is the science education that students experience barely touches upon this central issue. This means students are denied a decent art and science education.
Kartar Uppal
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes