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Posted: 03 October 2016

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Singing and changing a culture - part 1

Singing and changing a culture - part 1

Liz Bryant Head of Music, at Darrick Wood School in Kent has taken her young choir on three music tours to the continent. This summer they had a fantastic school music tour to Lake Garda in Italy. In the first of four blogs, Liz shares some of the highs and lows of her career as a music teacher.

“I teach Music in a large mixed comprehensive academy, with ten classes of about 26 pupils in each year 7, 8 and 9 cohort. This year is my tenth at the same school, which I joined as an NQT, and where I am now completing my first year as head of department.

“Despite my (excellent) PGCE training course which included a strong and varied focus on the teaching of songs, in the early years of teaching I found singing in the classroom an uncomfortable challenge. Most of us have experienced as new teachers the cringingly awkward moment when a class proves very reluctant to sing, or refuses completely, and I either moved on from singing activities quickly with relief or, increasingly as terms went by, avoided them altogether.

“My schemes of work used to have a diligent little tick sheet at the front, with the old KS3 Programme of Study so that I could show to anyone who cared which parts of it would be covered. The first of its “Key Processes” used to read “Pupils should be able to sing in solo or group contexts, developing vocal techniques and musical expression”.

“This always seemed a ridiculous impossibility if I’m honest, and this tick box always remained blank, as I preferred to do without the embarrassment, hassle and (I assumed) poor results that would ensue. Nobody ever commented or even noticed.

“I had a choir, which contained in those early years about fifteen girls from a range of year groups. Never any boys – what boy would go to that? The sound my girls made was adequate, sometimes good, and we went on the department’s first school music tour in 2010 to Spain.

“On returning from maternity leave in June 2012 I noticed that the upcoming year 10 class for the following September contained several boys who had sung quite willingly in pop bands that my maternity cover had organised. I decided to grab this opportunity and make the choir compulsory for all GCSE music students from that point onwards.

“The events that followed this decision are another story entirely, with resistance (including some tears) from many and even some letters of complaint from parents, but we stuck by the decision as a department and by and large we had a choir which now included boys and girls.”

If you’d like to contact Liz or discuss a choir tour for your school, please call Senior Account Manager Alahree McDonell on 0208 772 2868. Or click on the links to find out more about our school choir tours and all our school music tour destinations.

Pictured: Liz’s choir take part in the Torbole music festival in Lake Garda this summer.

Next time: How singing lessons for Liz herself helped re-invigorate her and her department.

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