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

Saturday 19 October, 1.30pm until 3.00pm, Frobisher 1-3 School Fights

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?

Professor Frank Furedi
sociologist and social commentator; author, What's Happened to the University?, Power of Reading: from Socrates to Twitter, On Tolerance and Authority: a sociological history

Dr Susan Hallam
professor of Education and Music Psychology, Institute of Education; author, Music Education in the 21st Century in the United Kingdom: achievements, analysis and aspirations

Piers Hellawell
composer; professor of composition, Queen's University Belfast

Tom Hutchinson
clarinettist; teacher; arts project manager, Royal Philharmonic Society

Heather Piper
professorial research fellow, Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University; author, Researching Sex and Lies in the Classroom and Don't Touch!: the educational story of a panic

Claire Fox
director, Academy of Ideas; panellist, BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze; author, I Find That Offensive

Produced by
Claire Fox director, Academy of Ideas; panellist, BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze; author, I Find That Offensive
Tom Hutchinson clarinettist; teacher; arts project manager, Royal Philharmonic Society
Recommended readings
The only way to stop the drip-drip demolition of cherished music schools

As the first to raise the alarm ten years ago over a climate of sexual abuse in English music schools, and the first to expose subsequent abuses, I watch with dismay the daily diet of accusations and investigations against individuals and institutions, who are innocent until proven guilty.

Norman Lebrecht, Arts Journal, 12 May 2013

Don’t let abuse fears ruin music

A Savile-style inquiry into one of the UK’s top music schools could wreck the informality essential to music tuition.

Denis Joe, spiked online, 7 March 2013

One-to-one music tuition 'may be abolished'

Abuse claims may force review of traditional teaching methods, claims new head of Royal Northern College of Music

Helen Pidd, Guardian, 1 March 2013

The two sides of Chetham's: what the press reports – and what the parents see

The music school has been at the centre of a media storm. But, while its name is paired with sex abuse and suicide in the headlines, the modern reality for its 290 pupils is very different. Ian Herbert, whose son George is one of them, reports

Ian Herbert, Independent, 1 March 2013

Eric Hobsbawm wanted to use History to improve lives. Now, about those views on the Soviet Union...

On why, as jobs go, Marxist historian isn’t often suggested by career advisers at school

Mark Steel, Independent, 2 October 2012

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