Guidance for full opening – schools

For once I don’t think we can distinguish between activity in the classroom and ensemble work. Seems to me that colleagues might struggle to deliver an active music curriculum if students are in straight lines and practical work is limited. So, there has to be a conversation in school that is wider than just music. What are the plans to teach science, D&T, the other performing arts,, in fact any subject where apparatus is concerned. Don’t isolate involve your wider curriculum colleagues.

I hope that the DfE and DCMS are talking to each other on how ensembles can perform. We know that professional orchestras are performing again in Europe with Wind and Brass players distanced at 1.5 m and string players at 1m, all with individual music stands.  So if professionals can do it why not children?

 There is however the question of transmission and here we have conflicting stories. The re-locking down in Leicester has mentioned that children are transmitting the virus at a high rate, but hitherto that did not seem to be a factor. Yet non peer reviewed research from France ( found that children appeared to be both “less contaminated and less contaminating”, than was generally thought at the outset of the epidemic. They are in fact “very low spreaders” of the virus, the author said.

Bubbles can burst and DfE guiduance on extra curricular activities says , “Schools should carefully consider how they can make such provision work alongside their wider protective measures, including keeping children within their year groups or bubbles where possible. If it is not possible to maintain bubbles being used during the school day then schools should use small, consistent groups. “ Therefore an ensemble of max 15 drawn from across the school is possible.

American schools, where the bulk of music education is ensemble based, are exploring ensembles being taught as sectionals or in chamber groups.  The Creative Repertoire Initiative ( is a collective of composers and conductors committed to creating adaptable music for ensembles in the coming academic year and beyond, due to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t think this is anything new for us in the UK as there are lots of flexible ensemble publications such as the “Kaleidoscope” series. So my gut feeling here is not to get too worried about it yet. This is day 1 and things change everyday and we have two months before schools return. I know timetables have to be written and lesson plans need adapting. Ofsted won’t come knocking for at least a term so now is an opportunity to re-imagine. There are some bigger fish to fry

Published by askrichardarts

Recently retired (September 2019) after a 42 year career in Music and Arts Education I am an experienced arts educator specialising in school leadership and all aspects of arts education but with particular expertise in music and music education. From 2011 - 2019 I was Music and Arts Strategy Manager in South Gloucestershire leading the South Gloucestershire Music Hub, Arts Council England’s preferred provider of Music Hub activities in South Gloucestershire. Always regarded as a minor risk organisation it provided teaching and ensemble activities to over 4000 children a week and many ensembles achieved national recognition at the Music for Youth Proms and National Festival. From 2005 to 2011 I was National Specialist Coordinator for Performing Arts and Music at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust effectively a national adviser on arts education contributing to many national initiatives e.g. Music Manifesto, Musical Futures, Henley Review of Music Education, and Building Schools for the Future. I also provided curriculum support and professional development to over 600 schools in England and in 2010 gave a keynote speech on Music Education in the UK at Gifu University in Japan. The bulk of my teaching career was at Richmond School in North Yorkshire where I led a highly successful Music Department with over 300 students a week learning musical instruments and large classes at GCSE and A level. I commissioned a number of works for School Wind Band by composers such as Bill Connor, Adam Gorb and Philip Wilby and developed UK and Worldwide commissioning networks to commission works by Christopher Marshall and Marco Putz. As an adjudicator I have worked throughout the UK, in the Netherlands, Australia and the USA and Canada. In retirement I am a Trustee of the Music Education Council ,Independent Chair of the Music Hubs in Somerset and Torbay , and a doctoral student at the University of the West of England.

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