Tag Archives: Music

Helpful or Ego

Below is a letter I have written but NOT sent to my child’s Head Teacher. It is in response to an email about a question I had regarding the incorrect wording of a letter from the school that contradicted a school policy. It was admitted that the letter was wrong but maybe a quick chat to a member of staff would be better than my original email asking the question. However I feel that the issues are a bit more far reaching and need more serious thought by the school.

I have thought long and hard about what is best for me and the school as you will see below.

I can not decide whether my response is from my ego or self. Is it supportive of me and the school or is my ego calling the shots. I would love to know your thoughts!


Dear Head Teacher

I have thought long and hard about what is best for the school and I keep coming back to the same belief. I am sending this email as positive constructive feedback which I hope will enable you to create the school which we have talked about at length!
I whole heartily support what you are trying to achieve at the school. I believe creativity and inspiration are the key not just to your success but for the future understanding and development of the world in which our children will be living.
I have personally committed 10 afternoons of my time to help re-launch music back into the school as part of what I believe is your vision of what RPS can offer it’s pupils with all the attributes and benefits related to it.
As an example this step sets you on a positive path that I hope supports all other ideas that can enhance the learning in the school. This is all brilliant. As it grows the school can be a truly great place to learn, work and live.
We have talked about community and communication before. It is here that an ‘untrue’ picture of what you are trying to create starts to emerge. Sadly these positive steps forward are not what I hear in the RPS playground. More of a concern is that it is not what I hear at outside clubs when parents from different schools are chatting about their experiences of the different schools.
For me the problem is that it is hard to adjust this picture. Yes I promote that I support the school to these parents. I say I am giving my time for free to help create your vision, show the future is bright and on an upward path.
However the battle is against history and real experiences. You will be aware of the great talking abilities of previous (unnamed) heads! Lots of rhetoric with smoke and mirrors. It didn’t help the progress of school.
So even when I am singing the schools praises and showing a bright future it is hard to combat negativity when based in fact not just ideal gossip and moaning hearsay.
I don’t have answers to these questions when I am asked them but knowing this may help you to help me combat them in future.
– My children say they are bored by all the Maths and English. I know it’s important and often dictated by the government but why does the school – the very people teaching my children – not demonstrate what they are saying is important to my children?
Letters are often sent out with incorrect information or spelling mistakes why? It shows the document has not been given due care and attention or checked through. Does this mean the school doesn’t believe in what it is teaching? Can the staff do the job? It’s seen as just a silly mistake that doesn’t matter? But it does seem to matter to my children when they are in class?
– Does the ethos and values of the school only apply to the children not all those involved in the school? Shouldn’t the school lead by example?
– Maybe they are so stretched and it is not possible to check everything. How is that going to work when the school is double the size as planned for the near future.? If they don’t even have time to read things properly I’m not sure about the safety of my child when the school is a building site.
– I don’t like the amount of time or structure of the homework. It is a real battle at home sometimes. What really gets my goat though is that after going through all that, the homework isn’t marked properly of even correctly. I just don’t care now it’s not worth the effort!
– My child got inspired by something in school and came home and did a whole load of extra work just because they wanted to. They took it into the teacher but they didn’t really pay any attention to it. I felt so sad.
– Why do the school not see the whole picture? Going on a trip before school means there is no club? But I have paid for this club already and there is no mention of it? Do I get my money back? If I do then the club loses their money that doesn’t seem right, can’t these things be organised more in advance? How is this making the school part of a community.
– I’ve asked the same questions to my child’s teacher about something but nothing changes, they don’t get it. I’ve stopped trying. The school is fine much like all the other local schools. Not like x school they are doing x they really know what they are doing it is like a different world!
– I think the new Head Teacher is great and the children really like him. The school could be really good but some of the staff are so stuck in their ways how is it really going to change? Are we going to have to wait for them to leave or retire? My child will be long gone by then.
There are many more but you will see the bigger picture and is not the picture that we have talked about. Yes you can say that you will always have people complaining but if the complaint has any amount of truth or reality in it then it has much more fuel.
As I said I am sending this out of concern. It can feel like every step forward then results in two back. To take a rugby analogy it looks good sometimes but they keep dropping the ball and can’t move over the game line.
I’m sure some of this may be possible to change now, some will take time and some things just need shouting about in a louder voice.
Anything you can do to help me answer these types of questions so I can continue to help support the school would be very helpful.
Kind regards

Spoon For Dotty

72x iAL Icon

This month percussionist Jo May (a friend of mine) is playing the spoons all over the country to raise money for http://www.dorothyhouse.co.uk – a hospice that is providing support for her sister.

I would like to support this great cause and so I am going to donate £1 from every in-app purchase of my app inspirationAL – wake up inspired to the fund.

How it works:

1.  Download the FREE iPhone/iPad alarm clock app NOW and you will receive 14 inspirationAL quotes to wake up to.


2. Make your in-app purchase from ‘want more?’ on the settings page of the app and you will receive unlimited quotes. Please make your purchase anytime between Mon 23rd and Sat 28th Feb and we will give £1 per purchase to Jo’s fund. (We receive £1.34 from the £2.29 purchase price after Apple take their fees)

3. Our daily data will confirm exactly how many downloads and purchases we receive and this will be given to Jo with the money.

So please spread the word and tell as many people as you can to download and lets see if we can help Jo raise as much money as possible for Dorothy House.

Follow Jo here to watch everything she is doing http://www.justgiving.com/spoonfordotty

Many thanks


You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook to see how things are going :



When you know you are really teaching

I wanted to share this not because of Christmas but it made me feel grateful for the knowledge of knowing when I am truly teaching.

The spirit in which you give (teach) is the most important thing.

So when you are busy, other staff are stressed, you have deadlines and targets to meet just take do time and remember what teaching is all about.

I hope this makes you feel like giving what truly matters in your classroom – inspiration – allow your pupils to dream, live and in turn give to others what you have taught them.

Do you know what to study?

Below is a great letter from Paul Archibald in response to an article written by Nicky Morgan The Education Secretary here in the UK.


I love it because it shows how everyone’s life is different, the wonders that are available to anyone if you only do what feels good and right for you.

For me this is everything no matter where your life interests or studies take you.

“The Education Secretary says that too many teenagers are making GCSE and A-level course choices at school that ultimately hold them back for the rest of their life”

Dear Nicky Morgan
Education Secretary

For those of us involved in the arts your statements concerning the value of choosing a career in arts and humanities have come as a shock. To say to young people that these subjects, if studied to degree level, will hold them back and restrict their future career path is misguided and extremely misleading. I think you are wise to highlight the importance and value of physical sciences, engineering and technology degrees but surely not at the expense of age-old disciplines such as Classics, Languages, History, Literature, Music, Theatre, Dance, Philosophy and, of course, your own area of specialism, Law.

Please allow me to offer a personal perspective on why I would wish you to reconsider your view. I am sure my story can be echoed by countless other poor souls who, as a result of a lifetime of study, thought and consideration within the area of arts and humanities, have been ‘held back’ or ‘disadvantaged’ by their choice of career.

As a brass player, I’m a stereotype I’m afraid. Northern lad born in Yorkshire, my dad descended from generations of miners in the North East of England, my mum born illegitimately and eventually, as a result of an advert in a local paper in Nottingham, adopted by a family living in the city. My parents met each other through the Salvation Army and hence, when I came along, my musical influence was firmly routed in the sound of brass, and in particular, the sound of brass bands.

It was wonderful. My brother and I spent 7 days a week playing our beaten up brass instruments – yes, it was straight out of the classic film, Brassed Off – soaking up the world of music, music, music. No orchestras, no dinner jackets or evening dress – that came later. Just hymn tunes, assorted arrangements and selections, marches, seasonal christmas carols and more hymn tunes with the band

Meanwhile, at school, I did well enough to pass my 11 plus and was sent to Eccles Grammar School near Manchester. A few years later, a move back to the north east by my parents, meant that I spend the last three years of my school life in a comprehensive school on a council estate in Darlington, County Durham. I went from being quite a bright lad at primary and grammar school to a fuzzy-headed dunce at the comprehensive who only collected a few O levels and a hopeless collection of CSEs. Throughout this I practiced, practiced, practiced….

I was 17 years old and, one Sunday afternoon, I played a solo with my band and a member of the audience told me I should go and study with him at the Royal Academy of Music in London. I’d never heard of it or him but later discovered he was principal trumpet of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and a famous teacher. My parents duly packed me off and after three years of study I succesfully auditioned for a position in the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

How on earth did this transformation take place? In a few years I went from playing football in alleyways in the mining town of Ashington, gradually doing ok at a good school in Manchester then flunking big time in a council estate comprehensive but, somehow at the age of 21 becoming a member of one of the most prestigious and elite classical organisations in the musical world?

It couldn’t be my interest in music because, according to you, music holds me back. Music makes me disadvantaged. Music is most definitely not a good career choice. You tell me the more practical disciplines should be studied to “keep young people’s options open and unlock the door to all sorts of careers”. But, as a kid from the north with parents who gave their life to serving in the Salvation Army for a pittance, my chosen career takes me to every continent in the world and allows me to meet great musicians such as Paul McCartney, Sir Simon Rattle, Bob Geldoff and composer John Williams. Add a few royals such as Prince Edward and Prince Charles and, of course, some politicians such as Margaret Thatcher and Edward Heath and you can see that a life in the arts can be quite colourful. I also meet the severely autistic in Hampshire, the aged and infirm at a dilapidated care centre in Trinidad, kids at an orphanage in Sri Lanka, the disadvantaged in Burma, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. A few weeks ago I mix and perform with musicians who know about hardship as their country is tormented by conflict in Ukraine.

But this has to be a mistake. This rich and varied life that has been my privilege – a life full of interest, diversity, challenge and contradiction just isn’t rated by you. You tell me that “too many young people are making choices age 15 which will hold them back for the rest of their lives”. Nicky Morgan – I have some news for you. My career options have been many. Music has opened doors that I could never have imagined. It has allowed me to meet some very special people. It continues to throw at me something different everyday. It demands new skills as I try to keep up with an ever-changing world as the priorites change at the whim of politicans and leaders. Music demands intellectual rigour, self-discipline, communication, sincerity, emotional and spiritual awareness and self-sacrifice. Most of us in arts and humanities don’t end up rich or famous. We do our best to develop and deepen an understanding of the world that we believe arts and humanities can bring.

You have a difficult job as education minister. You have to make difficult decisions and it’s inevitable that not everyone will agree with the decisions you make. Please encourage young people to pursue physical sciences, engineering and technology and to think seriously about their careers. At the same time, try to accept that we travel through life via different routes. We can all make a difference in our own small way whether it’s through rocket science or nuclear physics or as a dance teacher or poet. But please don’t devalue or compare what, for many of us, is a vocational life that provides constant surprises.

Kate Landells, Headteacher at Hill House School in Lymington, a residential provision for students aged 11-19 with autistic spectrum disorders, severe learning difficulties and associated challenging behaviour says it simply and succinctly on her Just Giving Page for the 2014 Great South Run when she explains the reason she is participating in the event is because she believes music changes lives. Music has changed my life too. All I ask of you is that you appreciate the arts, support them and be an advocate for them. Encourage children to value them and be enriched by them. In that way you just might make a difference too, which is why you became a politician to start with, isn’t it….?