One to one tuition in the dock? The crisis in music schools

ESRI’s Heather Piper joined an impressive line-up including Prof. Frank Furedi, Dr. Susan Hallam, Piers Hellawell, Tom Hutchinson and Claire Fox  at the Battle of Ideas 2013 to discuss ‘One to one tuition in the dock? The crisis in music schools‘.  The website explained the rationale for the session:

“Over recent months, the actions of predatory adults and their often appalling effects on children and young people have hit the headlines: the Jimmy Savile scandal; high-profile arrests associated with Operation Yewtree and most recently, two convictions for sexual abuse at Chetham’s School of Music. Further allegations of abuse are currently under investigation at world famous music schools such as Chetham’s, the Yehudi Menuhin School, the Purcell School, Wells Cathedral School, St Mary’s Music School and nationally, police continue to appeal for victims and witnesses to come forward.

Music teaching in the UK is in turmoil. But is the understandably intensified scrutiny of the culture and practice of music schools going too far, and placing thousands of dedicated music teachers under unfair suspicion, and impinging on their ability to teach music. For many music teachers, the ability to position an instrument and teach muscle memory through physical direction is a crucial part of the teaching process – as it is in other disciplines like dance and sport, where this has also become an issue. RPS Honorary Member, violist Rosemary Nalden, has spent the last 20 years running the Buskaid Soweto String Project and says: ‘you cannot teach a stringed instrument without at some stage physically putting your hands on your pupil. If I want to put a violin under your chin, I have to deal with you physically’. The Musicians’ Union takes a more precautionary view, advising its members to ‘avoid all physical contact [because] any physical contact with pupils can be potentially subject to misinterpretation or even malicious allegations’.

So, how do we protect pupils from abuse without destroying the ability of music teachers to pass on their complex specialist skills to future generations? Will no-touch policies protect young would-be musicians from abuse or impair their ability to learn how to handle instruments? Is the one-to-one teaching model unsustainable? Can specialist music schools survive, and how do we separate the exacting demands of music, and music teaching, from an alleged culture of abuse, intimidation and bullying?”

The discussion is now available to view on YouTube.

If you would like to read more about this subject, Heather, Stephen Rogers and I wrote a paper ‘Managerial Discourse, Child Safeguarding, and the Elimination of Virtue from In Loco Parentis Relationships: an example from music education‘ in Power and Education.  The paper explores the consequences of the NSPCC and the Musician Union’s Keeping Children Safe in Music campaign, for which the video below was made:

I’ll leave you to make up your own mind about that.

James Duggan

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