Inspiration from Last Night of the Proms

Sue Williamson, SSAT CEO, writes…

‘…there can still be firsts for women in 2013.’

These are the words of Marin Alsop, the first female conductor of the Last Night of the Proms. In an inspirational speech, she expressed her surprise that her appearance had attracted so much publicity and refuted the claim by Vasily Petrenko that female conductors struggled to be taken seriously. However, females do still struggle for equality in the boardroom, politics and education.

In many parts of the world, girls are still not being educated. The shooting of Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban horrified the world and highlighted the fight for girls’ education. Charities such as Room to Read are working hard to get girls through secondary education, as they understand that when you educate a girl, you educate her family. It is hard to comprehend that in 2013 millions of girls do not get a basic education. I recommend that you read John Wood’s book – Creating Room to Read – it describes their work in tackling global literacy and helping girls. Some schools already support charities such as Room to Read and have partner schools overseas, but we could do more to solve this problem. We need to think global and challenge or students to come up with solutions – it will help them develop as global citizens.

Alsop also spoke out in favour of keeping music education at the ‘front and centre’ of society. ‘The power of music cannot be over-estimated. It’s what makes us human beings; it’s what makes us nations; it’s what makes us a great civilisation.’ Judging by the number of people in the various parks around the UK, the Proms have been successful in moving towards greater inclusion in classical music. Yet what priority is music being given in our schools?

I am concerned that not only is the time music is allocated being squeezed, but also that we are going back to a time when music is seen as a subject only for the most able. How many music teachers are being trained this year? When I visit schools providing ITT, I am told that there is no demand for teachers in the creative arts. Can we really envisage a curriculum that is devoid of the creative arts, or a time when this is seen as delivered outside the school day?

SSAT is publishing a pamphlet in the redesigning schooling series written by Dylan Wiliam on principled curriculum design and it will be in member schools in the next week or so. If we adopt Dylan’s principles for curriculum design, we will surely recognise the importance of the creative arts in developing the young person.

Marin Alsop’s final words were: ‘I want to say to all the young women out there, as I say to all young people: believe in yourselves, follow your passion and never give up, because you will create a future filled with possibility.’

I would say to all school leaders: adopt principled curriculum design, have confidence and belief, and you will provide a learning environment that gives every young person a future.

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