You Can’t Stop the Music
by Megan Morris, Principal of Malcolm Arnold Academy, Northampton
Music. Songs literally sing to us. We turn them up in the car, these anthems that trace our personal history and the soundtrack of this, our human life.
When schools go back, there may be temptation towards a recovery curriculum that promises the world a magic, a saturation of ‘core subject repair.’ You may see schools that try to strip back tuition to the 'basics', giving children a lot more time for that English, Maths and Science, by trading off Music, the Arts and Sport. Any success that comes from such an approach will be short-lived and superficial. Because it is Music, the Arts and Sport that are what makes us human - these are our 'basics'.
When Covid pressed pause on face-to-face music teaching, musical groups, instrumental lessons, choirs and clubs, we felt a significant, almost physical loss. It was as if we didn’t even know how much we needed music to colour our lives with its’ beauty. As a school, we learned pretty quickly, through its absence, how music is a primal need.
We know that children thrive when they feel successful and that what they do matters. In our haste to fit everything in, we must not lose the good things, the things that make their souls sing. The Arts, Sport and practical subjects and a well-structured enrichment programme are not places to make up for lost curriculum time - they are curriculum. They are a part of your curriculum where some children find their place. Sometimes a drama lesson, or after school rock band, or the coding club, is a child’s place to shine. We must let them continue to have that place, to shine and let others see their light.
And it is so important to welcome back into our schools those visiting music teachers who do such a valuable service in working with individual students. They are highly valued professionals in our school community. 1:1 tuition is not just about getting better at the clarinet; it's a vital, focused connection between musicians. This may well be the most important thing in a student's week, a time when they are really seen and really heard. For us, including our visiting music teachers in Covid testing and our risk assessments has meant that they will be straight back with us on March 8th - safely returned and back in their seats for this, our all important ‘Act II.’
As a school, we are returning to our full school life, both inside and outside the classroom. Enrichment, extra support, top-up tutoring, clubs, events - the whole lot. The Arts, in particular, bring us together in a way that is distinct and only ours. We are at our best when there is music ringing down corridors and in our large spaces, from multiple instruments woven together in alignment. We are at our best when voices are singing to us from the chapel, in a chorus that collects us and becomes our soundtrack. We - all of us in education - are the guardians of this. You can’t stop the music.
Principal, Malcolm Arnold Academy