Everyone is going to need to work harder at advocating for music following the pandemic. But with so many other pressing priorities for you as teachers, where should you start? I hope these tips will help:
1. Write down and rehearse a set of three to six reasons why music is important to your school and pupils – and repeat, repeat, repeat
Three to six key messages to make the case for music is plenty. Make them as specific to your school as possible, and to the current situation.
Right now people – and particularly heads – will not want to be presented with a list of vague justifications for music and links to research evidence. They (mostly) know that music is important as part of a well-balanced curriculum and that a range of benefits come from groups and ensembles. They’re used to these messages, and may even switch off when they hear them.
But they will be more open to hearing what music can do, now, for your pupils – and particularly the most vulnerable. They will also want to hear about how music can link into or be funded by initiatives that are already in place or important to your school eg:
- Trauma Informed Schools, Pupil Premium – music as a way to provide mentors and role models, help young people to feel included, feel a sense of wellbeing, learn resilience and feel able to achieve.
Although not written for teachers, these blogs may help you to craft your own messages:
- Advocating for music education, youth/community music and music therapy during the pandemic
- How to write an annual report that has impact – Part 3, key messages
- 3 simple copywriting tips to help you avoid the fear of the blank page
- I’m also writing a template letter to heads/SLTs/CEOs of academy chains which may help you with this – it will be available soon. In the meantime, there is a letter here, written by the ISM. Want to be a critical friend to review this letter? Contact me.
2. Assemble your advocates
Get in touch with people who can help spread these messages (better still, ask them to input so you can adapt them for your school/community – but don’t be tempted to make them more complex and vague!).
Don’t feel overwhelmed and not take action. Just choose one or two people who are likely to have the most influence over music being maintained in your school. This might be:
- The peripatetic music teachers you contract for your pupils
- Other teachers, SENCOs, TAs in your school
- Music co-ordinators’ in your local primaries
- Heads of music/performing arts and music teachers in your local secondaries
- Members of the school leadership team
- School governors
- Other community ‘influencers’ like local councillors or local council staff
- Your local music education hub (in England), music service, and local music education and community music organisations who may also help to spread the message
Ask them if they’re willing to help by X, Y, or Z. Make one or two very specific and easy to action requests. Eg Can you talk to/ask X about this? Can you share this post on social media? Can you add this question to the agenda of the next meeting, raise this question at the meeting?
3. Provide them with the things they may need to help advocate for music, and keep them informed
This might be:
- a letter to the head, school leadership team, or governors (see point 1). Include a specific ask ( eg for music to be discussed at a leadership or governors meeting, for reassurance that music will not be cut, for a commitment to maintaining the current level of music and budget, etc)
- for students, ongoing conversations about the benefits of music to them, and how they can tell other people
- stories/anecdotes about specific pupils in your school and the impact music has made
- a blog outlining these key messages
- posters created for your music room or school notice board (Music Mark, the national association for music education has created a leaflet and posters called 10 Things Schools Should Know About Music. These aren’t specific to the current situation but they will help with the general visibility of the ‘case for music’
- a simple way to keep in touch – a department email address, a social media channel or group, face-to-face opportunities, opportunities to see your pupils in action
Make these messages seen and heard by everyone, share them, keep on asking others to be active in repeating them to their own circles of influence.
4. Connect with organisations who want to help you (follow on social media, subscribe to enewsletters, join as a member), for example:
- Your local music education hub (in England)– find yours here (scroll down to the downloads to see Music Education Hub contact details) or music service
- Music Mark, the UK association for music education – which is running a campaign called #CanDoMusic (see also the leaflet/poster for school heads, in 3. Above)
- ISM (Incorporated Society of Musicians) – which is partnering in the above campaign
- Although not set up for music teachers the Youth Music Network is a brilliant resource for all sorts of topics on music work with young people (and particularly youth voice)
5. Finally, use the time between now and school return to educate yourself
- Watch these TED Talks by Dr Anita Collins, a music educator and academic based in Australia. These are old, and we know even more about these subjects now, but they’re still a really good starting point:
- Follow Bigger Better Brains on Facebook or Twitter; visit the Bigger Better Brains website and/or sign up for the community or online course. This is a resource developed by Dr Anita Collins to help teachers and others to advocate for music, using the latest neuroscience research. It provides posters, PowerPoint presentations, infographics, and more at a very low annual cost, or a one-off payment for the online course.
- Read these blogs and resources:
Music Mark’s 10 things schools should know about music campaign (currently part way through).
The Music Education Works website
You may also like to sign up for my enewsletter for music/arts education organisations. It’s for organisations, rather than teachers – but you’ll still pick up communications and advocacy tips you can use in your work.
Could you suggest improvements to this advice? Have I missed anything? Get in touch, and I will update this blog. The more we can all work together, the better.
Finally, do share what you’re doing to make the case for music – either here in the comments, on social media (@tag me on Twitter @anitanee or DM me on Facebook @writingservicescomms and LinkedIn @anitaholford).