A friend of mine sent me the following draft of a faculty review report. He recently graduated from Teach to Lead and is now an Associate Assistant Head with responsibility for Tradition and Knowledge. He is very much enjoying his NQT year and is currently writing a book entitled: “A broken nation: the progressive legacy.” It is hotly anticipated in certain circles.

Faculty Review.

Expressive Arts Faculty



Progressive ideologies have taken a grip of this faculty – this has led to poor outcomes.  The Expressive Arts and PE Faculty have a number of experienced teachers who need to reimagine what is possible with poor students. Poor students deserve a tough love which embraces the challenges of studying theory and introduces young people to the fundamental aspects of musical knowledge found in the classical canon. Afro-American traditions such as hip-hop and funk are unlikely to contain examples of the best that has been thought and said – although they do come a very close second.  Just imagine how good Grime would be if it had a few melodies.

Learning is characterised by low expectations, group work and attempting to engage students with fun activities. There is little attempt to embed knowledge and understanding through appropriate drills and memorisation techniques. Most students are allowed to work in an atmosphere of exploration and creativity.

Teachers need to realise that they have got things about creativity in students very, very wrong having been hoodwinked by the doctrine of progressive constructivist education.  Traditional thinking, knowledge rich loving art teachers are thin on the ground. Thankfully this much maligned minority are finally beginning to find a voice through social medial and are making a stand for all the white middle class males that are under-represented in music education. (Find out more in my blog: “Why study Missy Elliot when we have Beethoven?”)

We are also beginning to see that students need years and years of patient study before they can be allowed to compose. Quite simply, pupils need more rigour, more focus and more practice before being allowed loose to compose their own music. Such activities are futile and do nothing to improve standards.

Many arts teachers still cling to the idea that all students are creative. They often hold the oppressive view that students are already able to express themselves and form opinions and ideas. They forgot the importance of the role of the apprentice and the role of an apprentice in being subservient to his betters. It’s time that the silent majority reclaimed its position in society and made a stand for truth and justice.

 Summary of Findings

Evidence was taken from learning walks, book looks, staff and student voice and analysis of data. Particularly instructive of the issues was this comment from a year 8 student:” I like music – lessons are fun, we get to work in groups.”

Data showed some poor outcomes particularly for disadvantaged students who had been allowed to play the wrong kind of instruments. Orchestral players were nearly all better readers of music. Unsurprisingly they also seemed better adjusted young people.

Music department report

 Music lessons were characterised by group work in composition and performance.  We heard some very unmusical parallel fifths – we gave them an instant demerit. Too many students were allowed to work collaboratively and learn from other students.  In one lesson we saw year 8s attempting to play Salsa in a group. It was clearly an example of untrammelled progressive ideology. The majority of the group were unable to cope with the complex syncopations and challenging part writing. The occasional daydream or floundering music making in a practice room may seem innocuous, but these seconds gradually amount to minutes and hours of learning time lost. Instead we felt drills in keeping time to a 4/4 beat would have developed much better internalization of tempo and rhythm.

In another lesson many students were learning repertoire that they had chosen. This shows low expectation and colludes in lowering standards. For example one student was using an  iPad to watch a you tube video on how to play the riff from rabbit run – dismayed with such low expectations we gave her a copy of sheet music for Schumann’s Kinderszenen satisfied that she would learn some valuable truths about the nature of creativity and endeavour.

Traditional teachers have high expectations for students and don’t rely on modern technology and its engagement traps. Very few intelligent people actually like Grime and its known that students who are allowed to play too much rap end in a life of crime.  No wonder so few students carry on to be world renowned orchestral players.

Very few lessons were characterised by individual study of theory. This led to the low standards in performance and shocking misconceptions in compositions. Students should not be allowed to express creativity through composition work if they do not the difference between crochets and quavers. Many music teachers do not sweat the small stuff. Students who incorrectly resolve a leading note need immediate remedial attention in order to prevent the rot from spreading.

Too much talk of embodied knowledge skirts the issues that students need more knowledge – the right sort of knowledge. Philosophers like Lakoff and Johnson just need to read more widely. Knowledge is knowledge is rich knowledge.

People are too attracted to silly and outdated notions that we are living in post-modern, post truth society in which the powerful shape truth for their own advantage. Let’s reclaim our traditions, the power of truth and bring back common sense ideas and optimal pedagogy to our classrooms.



  • Introduce all teachers to the greats of music – We suspect many music teachers are not able to rank appropriately the ten best symphonies of the 19th century and are seriously lacking in rich knowledge.
  • Remove group work until students are 14 or at least grade 3 standard.
  • Theory and harmony to focus on the rules created by Bach. Studying harmony in the context of modern popular music gives students the wrong idea.
  • All students to learn violin and introduced to a better appreciation of classical music.
  • promote knowledge before creativity.
  • Music teachers to focus on developing a knowldgerichcurrriulcumtradionalandnoexcusesculturewithoptimalpedagogy.



This was an exceptionally dark place.


Remove from the curriculum


In conclusion 

“to recognise that ‘being creative’ is, at least potentially, the natural and normal state of anyone healthy in a sane and stimulating community, and that realising that potential is as much a matter of collaboration and ‘co-creation’ as of splen- did or miserable isolation;”

“to insist upon a vision of creativity that embraces radical forms of re-creation and includes actively engaged kinds of re-vision, re-membering and re-familiarisation (as distinct from the relatively passive notion of ‘recreation’), and thus resists casual notions of divine creation ‘from nothing’ or of purely spontaneous expres-sion welling up from nowhere;”

page 17 Creativity Theory History Practice

The great strength of the concept re . . . creation (which is therefore its greatest potential weakness) is that it draws attention to the possibility of missing or excluded terms. It invites us to see through the existing possibilities to words and worlds beyond as well as between; and it encourages a view of ‘difference’ that is genuinely other- wise. Put another way, it is an invitation to keep on jumping or bridging the gap; for it cannot be permanently filled in, and simply ignoring and then falling into it gets us nowhere.

Finally, I would argue that a concept such as re . . . creation offers a more responsive and responsible vision of ‘creativity’ than that provided by the standard definitions in the specialist literature. There the emphasis tends to be upon the ‘new’, the ‘novel’ and the ‘original’ in their narrowly ‘modern’ senses (see above p. 57). Re . . . creation leaves more room for conserving and sustaining as well as recasting and refreshing, while resisting conservative, reactionary impulses of an unthinking and merely reflex- ive kind.

Page 88 Creativity Theory Practice

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