Fourth in our series of interviews with Music SLEs (Specialist Leaders of Education) is Aoife Coyle of The Minster School, Southwell, Nottinghamshire.
To your mind, what does an SLE for Music do?
I believe the role of an SLE is to ensure that students across the education system are receiving an inclusive and creative music education. It is to support music teachers in developing and sustaining a music curriculum that meets these needs. An SLE will work collaboratively with other music teachers and leaders to implement support plans where needed but to also offer a helping hand through the simple act of sharing ideas and resources.
Describe your typical week during term time.
During term time, I teach a full time music and music technology timetable from age 11 through to 18. I have five periods a week that are devoted to our Teaching School status and SLE activities. These activities include producing a programme for the Nottinghamshire secondary and primary music hub networks that we run six times a year. This time is also spent preparing for deployments to other schools and attending different hub meetings in other counties. In our department, we plan collaboratively to ensure that we are setting a high standard of music education and extra-curricular provision.
What are the biggest challenges faced by music teachers today?
Many music teachers are faced with having to work alone in their department. They are carrying the weight of whole-school music delivery on their shoulders. Mixed with this, many departments are teaching classes on rotation, perhaps only seeing these classes for 13 weeks (only 13 lessons) a year. This, in turn, is seriously effecting the number of students who want to opt for this subject at exam level. Music teachers are, at times, feeling pressure from adopting whole school policies that don’t necessarily lend themselves well to whole school policies. On top of this, music teachers are juggling a full teaching timetable and extra curricular activities. Technology is changing all the time as well and, quite often, budget constraints mean many departments are unable to keep up with the speed of this change. Support from senior leadership is key to ensure that music provision is of the best possible quality and that our students are leaving school with wonderful memories of their musical journey.
What excites you about music education today?
I love that music education is evolving all the time. I enjoy creating exciting lessons and making new resources for my students to use and linking these to real life working practices. We are also able to offer our students more and more advice on where to take their music education when they leave school. There is a vast number of courses and career paths that people can take – they are becoming more and more diverse.
In our hub, I am so encouraged that more and more music teachers and co-ordinators, from both primary and secondary, are continually looking to take part in our CPD opportunities. It is so rewarding to visit our hub schools and see and listen to the music that their students are making.
The online music teaching community plays a vital role in ensuring that music teachers no longer feel isolated. It provides a successful platform where we can share resources, ask for help/support and keep on top of the ever changing policies in music education.
Music has the power to create exciting opportunities for our students and to develop their self-confidence. What’s not to be excited about?