CHAPTER ONE: THE CHANGING POLITICS OF EDUCATION
In his introduction to A Basis for Music Education, Keith Swanwick, in 1979, observed that music education was passing through an interesting, if difficult time with radical re-appraisals of beliefs and practices evoking controversy and soul-searching over the way the field was felt to be in need of some extensive remodelling. Since those days the practices of music education have undergone sweeping overhauls over the way the subject has come to be understood, presented and valued within the whole educational transaction, many of these reforms enabling something of its rich and complex diversity to be taught, conveyed to and enjoyed by, an ever-growing number of school students. From being a somewhat marginalised activity undertaken only by small numbers of students, music has dramatically moved centre-stage in corporate school life: flourishing bands, orchestras, choirs and assorted instrumental and vocal ensembles proliferate as never before, its very curriculum presence as a classroom subject now prescribed and underwritten by legal documentation. (DES 1985; 1990; 1992; 1995)
Rightly so, music education continues to have its own preoccupations, its own special fields of enquiry, psychological, pedagogical, and aesthetic and its own reflexive terms of reference. But whilst these concerns represent an ongoing internal professional dialogue that is entirely healthy, the subject has figured only infrequently as a discrete curriculum area within discussions of the post-National Curriculum 'settlement' and the Education Reform Act of 1988, as well as within more widely focussed critical sociological investigations of the fundamental shift from 'welfarism' to 'post-welfarism' (Gewirtz, 2002) in educational provision.
Described in The Managerial School: post-welfarism and social justice in education (2002), Gewirtz outlines that the displacement process involved a powerful movement from a broadly consensualised 'welfarist' settlement in schooling and education, (a settlement that had once commanded long-standing significant levels of popular support and had been endorsed by major societal groups such as trades unions, the principal political parties and big business), to the formulation and implementation of a set of policies which she terms the post-welfare education policy complex: an array of disparate, and sometimes contradictory elements involving not only the repudiation of Keynesian economics and distributive justice within education, but a deliberate replacement of these and other long-standing welfarist understandings with a commitment to competitive individualism and market 'democracy' (ibid: pp 2-3).
This distinction is a crucial one. The post-war 'settlement' had been characterised by the twin features of bureaucratic administration and professionalism (Clarke and Newman, 1997), the local education authority serving as the principal institutional locus for school governance and responsible for such areas as allocating resources, school building and maintenance and the organisation of school meals, transport and admission procedures. In essence, a general agreement of values over educational provision prevailed, a consensus omnium which tended to outweigh all possible or actual differences of opinion or interest. Characterised by the broad acceptance of the notion that teachers were relatively autonomous professionals, the headteacher acting as 'leading professional' and 'senior architect' of the school's curriculum (Gewirtz, 2002: 2), the policy manifestations of this complex had included the raising of the school-leaving age and the introduction and furtherance of comprehensive education.
The subsequent emergence of the post-welfare education policy complex replacing, and ousting, the welfarist settlement witnessed the questioning of these and other orthodoxies and the dismantling of the formal commitment to 'secondary education for all' through an emphasis on marketing, managerialism, the creation of new roles for headteachers, a rigorous régime of testing and inspection of secondary schooling, and the entry of such key watchwords as 'choice' and 'diversity'. Permeated by utilitarian discourses of efficiency, effectiveness, performance and productivity, (ibid: 3) this policy complex was to exhort schools into becoming more like businesses in their day-to-day operational lives, an injunction requiring them to undergo a process of re-acculturation into their new functions. Underpinning the reforms, and constituting a central rationale of the policy complex remained the belief that market forces and more efficient techniques of managing schools and teachers would raise standards, the assumption being that if schools were offered autonomy to respond to market forces (within the constraints established by the national curriculum, national testing and Ofsted's inspection criteria) then for those institutions failing to improve, blame could be justifiably directed at poor management and poor teaching:
A major impetus behind the post-welfare education policy complex
was the view that, if faith in the education system and the more
traditional forms of authority were to be restored, if public
expenditure on education was to be reduced and if schools were to
respond effectively to the changing requirements of the economy,
then schooling needed to be liberated from the control of teachers
and their unions. (Gewirtz, 2002: 13)
The concerted impact of this policy complex on music educators on their day-to-day lives has exerted fundamental repercussions for them no less than for their colleagues working in other curriculum areas. There can be no grounds for the music teacher claiming apolitical immunity or professional disinterestedness. Whilst not alone in having experienced drastic reconstructions of their teaching roles in accordance with the policy agendas of the last twenty years, music educators, in having little option but to acquiesce to and work within the current dispensation, might well have had to experience the transformative consequences of this policy agenda in very specific ways. If this is so, then there is a need to explore the possibility that music education and music teachers have been, and remain caught up at different levels within the outcomes and implications of the post-welfare education policy complex.
Recontextualising pedagogy: implications for music educators
At first sight, music in education may seem to represent a region far removed from the kinds of politically motivated processes just referred to; perhaps some 'common-sense' understandings of this expressive mode might dictate that it is, whilst others might suggest that perhaps it is not. In tracing some of the historical and philosophical threads accounting for this view, it is possible to see that especially during the nineteenth century, by virtue of its seeming abstractedness and disconnection from worldly references, music came to be venerated as the paragon of all the arts. In supposedly existing to be contemplated for its own sake, music served as a model for the abstract art and 'art for art's sake' movement of late nineteenth and early twentieth century modernism in the visual arts. (Regelski, 1970; 2004)
One of the simplest manifestations of this problem remains the assumption that music is an 'art of personal expression', that a piece of music is somehow expressive of feelings that have been put into it by the composer, the expectation being that he [sic] is somebody 'out of the ordinary' and more than a mere craftsman. Indeed, as Christopher Ballantine has suggested, underlying nearly all writing about music, all teaching and talking about it, is the taken-for-granted view that music has little to do with society; or if such a connection were to exist, it need not be of much concern to anyone, since to focus on styles, skills, techniques and issues related to performance - in other words, to 'keep to the facts'- is a far more worthwhile and relevant approach. (Ballantine, 1984: 4)
Lucy Green makes a related point. Within a discussion of music, musical meaning and ideology, she critiques the assumption that music is somehow lacking a material objectivity, that it stands in want of such objective and external existence.
To hold this assumption is to commit an idealist error, an error which itself constitutes a facet of ideology (Green, 1988) and serves to legitimate the superior value placed on concepts that might be thought of as being 'natural' and self-evident, such as originality, autonomy and individuality: properties held to be spontaneous sources of eternal worth perceived as encapsulated by particular musical pieces or within styles or genres and which, by extension, might be thought absent in others (Green, 1997; 2003). In other words, the notion that a piece of music is eternal or universal, involves suggesting that it must exert an immutable, inevitable or 'natural' appeal to all human beings regardless of who they are, where or when they live; in being understood as 'something' existing independently of the social world, musical value itself thus becomes reified: an abstraction - 'value' - becomes (mis)perceived as being a material thing and having causal powers erroneously attributed to it.
This dissertation starts with the opposite assumption: that any type of music is affected by its social background, by the people creating it as well as those listening to it, the starting point being that there is no such thing as music existing independently of the social world. As a product of human behaviour in time and space, music forfeits valuable dimensions of meaning if the surrounding cultural frameworks from which any musical artefact originates are overlooked. (Merriam, 1964; Bogojeva-Magzan, 2005)
Within these considerations, two questions are significant, the first enclosing an assumption made over the relationship between music, music educators and the wider political context, namely (i), whether music teachers might be too readily disposed to accept their ideological detachment from politics, possibly because of the reasons given above, and (ii) whether music itself, no less the substance of the living 'stuff' that they and their pupils handle every day, remains 'untarnished' by whatever socio-economic or socio-cultural environment it resides in.
I referred at the beginning to Swanwick's survey of the changes affecting music education. Most of these changes had evolved organically from within the subject area, but there have also occurred changes whose origins have been extrinsic to the field, re-orderings applied to ongoing practices, implanted into the field and imposed from beyond the boundaries of music education. No less than for other subjects taught in the curriculum, the teaching of music has had to contend with agendas other than its own.
These distinctions resonate with Basil Bernstein's formulation of the discursive 'recontextualising field' whereby pedagogic discourse is transformed as a consequence of having been relocated and reordered. (Bernstein, 1996: 32-33).
Pedagogic discourse is a principle for appropriating other discourses bringing
them into a special relation with each other for the purposes of their selective
transmission and acquisition...a principle which removes (delocates) a
discourse from its substantive practice and context, and relocates that
discourse according to its own principle of selective reordering and focussing.
In this process...the social basis of its practice, including its power relations.. is
removed ... (Bernstein, 1990: 183-184)
The active principle of this de- and relocation is recontextualisation, a process which operates both bi-directionally and simultaneously as it 'selectively appropriates, relocates, refocuses and relates other discourses to constitute its own order and orderings'. (loc.cit). Pedagogic discourse, on the one hand, embodies a selection from existing 'expert systems' - as in, for example, the field of music education - within 'the primary context' of the production of discourse in higher education, and, on the other, incorporates the social relations of that aspect of social life with which the expertise is concerned.
Bernstein's elaboration of these concepts may prove helpful when we try to understand the kinds of transformations that have occurred within music education over the last century. One example of an organic change, and a fairly recent one, has been the deliberate weight given to 'practical' rather than to 'theoretical' musical knowledge, a radical displacement in emphasis representing a shift in praxis noticeable over the past two or three decades (e.g. Paynter,1982). In witnessing the evolution of a particular approach to curriculum research and development in music in both Britain and in the United States, the 1960s and 1970s can be marked out as a period which saw the emergence of professional curriculum developers working in collaboration with teacher professionals to meet a widely acknowledged need to reform the content and approaches of music teaching, (as well as to those of schooling generally). Almost an industry grew up generating large- and small-scale curriculum projects, which although 'marketed' to schools, were not imposed on them. By the end of a line of controversies, failures and some small, but no less significant, success stories, a consensus emerged on some fundamental concepts and strategies for the effective development of the curriculum. A key feature of this consensus had been the long-standing agreement that music teachers could be left to construct their own programmes and schemes for their pupils (Plummeridge, undated). Indeed, the ability to devise schemes of work relevant to the needs of pupils in a particular school had been regarded as one of the music teacher's necessary professional skills. Whilst in higher status areas of the curriculum a measure of national consensus over subject content had become necessary as a consequence of the requirements of public examinations, teachers of arts subjects had not been subject to similar demands. (ibidem)
Nevertheless, the conviction emerged that for a curriculum, music or otherwise, to be successfully understood, at least two fundamental requirements demanded recognition: (i) that there should be an alliance between the theoretical and practical aspects of a subject domain (Jenkins and Shipman, 1976), and (ii), that since an effective curriculum should not, and cannot, be devised in an office, engaging with teacher professionals in its stage-by-stage development had to become a sine qua non requirement in order to ensure its feasibility and practical effectiveness as a worthwhile project. Accordingly, the presence and perspectives of those who had to work with it would need to become a crucial factor to music education. Thus the acceptance grew that whilst the core around which curriculum theory was constructed comprised largely idealised representations of reality (Owen, 1973: 54), a necessary condition in any curriculum construction had to be the recognition that curriculum-in-action, by definition, grapples with real things, real acts, real teachers, real schools, real children, all more immediate and richer than, and different from, whatever theoretical representations may be accorded to them. (Schwab, 1970). Curriculum theoreticians therefore had to heed the complexities of classroom life, to understand the culture of teaching and realise that 'curriculum', in having to vary with context, would mean different things to different people at different times and places and, crucially, would need to work with the profession rather than merely 'deliver' packages to its door: curriculum development implied curriculum research. In having originated from within the fields of both music and education these perspectives and the initiatives they produced were instances of the Pedagogic Recontextualising Field, as Bernstein terms it, at work.
Music education profited considerably from these lines of thought, and action, the effects of which were educationally beneficial to both teachers and their pupils. The renewed attention and emphasis given to composing, performing and listening was crystallised by the then new General Certificate of Education in Music (DES, 1985), the pedagogical emphasis of which involved promoting and reinforcing the conceptualisation of these areas as necessarily blending together in a seamless fabric of student actions enabling the pupil to confront and engage with the problems and practices of music in all its aspects. Through their active involvement with the 'stuff' of music, students would be encouraged to come to a greater appreciation and a more integrated understanding of the musical 'whole' rather than having their attentions needlessly deflected and (mis)directed onto unimportant detail, such as an excessively atomistic analytic focus on music's component parts, or with an over- preoccupation with the finer points of musical history. Widely applauded by many teachers, the criteria of the GCSE, in providing opportunities for curriculum innovation, had represented an attempt to establish a new sense of curriculum order by incorporating cardinal changes in thought about the nature and structure of knowledge. (see e.g. Carlton, 1987: 99-104 for a description of the evaluation and assessment procedures of the [then] new GCSE in music) This transformation in praxis, one brought about by many years' mostly purposeful argumentation, in having originated from within the subject area, exemplifies an instance of the Pedagogic/Professional Recontextualising Field in operation in transforming the pedagogic discourse of music and music education. Thus, for teachers wishing to preserve their established practices, the GCSE examination did not, of itself, present a serious challenge to their professional control.
Politically motivated pedagogic recontextualisation
With the advent of the National Curriculum, the situation became markedly, and very suddenly, different. In terms of content and activities, what now (1985) was to 'count' as music education would be governmentally determined through the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, and under the rigorous guardianship of the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) would be meticulously monitored. The indications that externally inaugurated changes were about to take effect were unmistakeable, the roots of the agenda lying as far back as the mid 1970s, and with the passing of the Education Reform Act (1988), sweeping differences in both conception and detail that constituted politically driven and enforced re-castings of music as a curriculum subject were enshrined in documentary directives which would decree how music was to be 'delivered' by the teacher. In Bernsteinian terms, these incursions represented instances at work of the Official Recontextualising Field, a field 'created and dominated by the state and its selected agents and ministries'. (Bernstein, 1996: 33) Imposed from outside the field of music education, these changes had represented all-embracing pedagogical and curriculum re-orderings essentially inorganic to the domain. Based on theories developed in research offices, the approaches adopted behavioural objectives models (see Bull, 1985; Marshall, 1991: 63) and centred on what teachers ought to be doing rather than working from what they actually did; indeed teachers were no longer agents even to be consulted. An essentially economistic, 'systematic efficiency model' (Stenhouse, 1975: 185; Kelly, 1990: 65) of curriculum planning prevailed: in having become virtually coterminous with 'content', and in being wedded to an 'aims and objectives model', (Kelly, 1990: 59) within what really amounted to 'a marriage of inconvenience', the 'curriculum' would now merely require agreement on what teachers should be teaching and pupils should be learning, both models viewing education in linear terms. Within this régime the teacher's role would be redefined, for she would 'deliver' a single curriculum that would not only unproblematically suit all contexts, but, as Kushner puts it, require (1994:36) 'little post-sales maintenance'.
Pedagogy and politics: dilemmas for music education
It may be seen from the above account how Bernstein's two discursive fields of recontextualisation bear some complementarity
to the twin policy complexes detailed by Sharon Gewiirtz, for both
authors accentuate the nature and fierceness of the rupture in education and schooling which was to assail the profession two decades ago. Both highlight the quality of this fissure, directing their own special searchlights on it, and without overstating the point, it may be seen that both sets of concepts stand in striking relation to each other. Bearing a symbiotic relationship to Gewirtz's notion of the welfarist settlement in education with its accent on the drawing together of diverse and frequently contradictory ideas, and covering a whole range of values and practices, the Bernsteinian concept of the pedagogic recontextualising field draws its convictive power from the relative fearlessness with which often conflicting ideas within subject domains, especially ones with distinctly 'liberal' or radical interpretations, were explored, all in the interests of the 'common good'.
It is at this point that I want to reintroduce my exploration of how these ideas might affect the work of music educators.
Music educators, I repeat, have not been alone in having had to accommodate to the kinds of extrinsic pressures outlined above. The documentary directives and curriculum re-orderings of the Education Reform Act of 1988 have impacted upon the work of all teachers in state maintained schools in particular ways, not the least being the extent to which the nature and intensity of their work has been intensified and fundamentally reconfigured. But the literature examining, specifically and directly as to how music teachers' work has undergone substantive re-ordering appears not to be plentiful, even though crucial issues relating to teacher status, to the nature of teacher professionalism and to work intensification (Larson, 1980; Apple, 1986; Delbridge et al, 1992; Gewirtz, 1997) continue to demand enquiry for they are no less relevant for these professionals. Indeed, an urgent case exists for music educators to grapple with the unavoidable matters raised by the operations of the Post-Welfare Education Policy Complex and to understand that their own professional positioning within its social, political and pedagogical ordinances brings consequences no less unmitigated than for other teachers. For if, as Paul Woodford has submitted (2005: 57), the nature and value of a liberal music education and the general health of the music profession depend on music teachers becoming more intellectually and politically involved in the profession and its problems, then, as he suggests, music teachers will have to develop a social vision and more of an explicit political purpose.
Woodford's criticisms can be trenchant and involve more than merely censuring the profession for what he sees as its want of interest in philosophical and political issues and inability to engage intelligently in public conversations about educational questions and values. He believes that the lack of perceived relevance of music education research to professional practice and to society, coupled with the continuing standardisation and routinisation of music education curricula, repertoire, and pedagogy, have contributed to the profession's increasing stultification. Pointing out that today's music teachers are inadequately represented in public conversations about the nature, value and purpose of music and music education in wider society, he insists that in order for them to understand what has been happening to state education and to recognise their own culpability in the societal devaluing of music education, it is crucial for them to acquire and develop explicit critical political perspectives. For a decade and a half now, music teachers in this country have been accountable to a national curriculum and a régime of external inspection evaluating the degree of compliance shown in meeting curriculum objectives. Excluded, along with their colleagues, from every aspect of educational policymaking, their workloads have increased to the extent of leaving them little time and energy for either becoming involved in public life beyond their immediate professional responsibilities or to reflect at length over the pressing challenges facing the profession. Principal amongst these is the need for both music educators as well as music teacher educators to search for ways of reinvigorating undergraduate music education such that music undergraduates are compelled to engage in sustained dialogue with representatives of other disciplines as well as with the public about the centrality and ubiquity of music in their own lives.
As Woodford comments (2005: 75), rather than avoid controversy, music teachers need to demonstrate their intellectual vitality by re-engaging with individuals and groups and to become aware of the political developments affecting state education, some of which can have dire consequences for them in respect of their career. Prominent amongst these consequences is the issue concerning the extent to which (1) a centrally prescribed music curriculum exerts a counterproductive effect of working against teacher professional development, (Kushner, 1994) rather than contributing towards an enhancement of teacher professionalism. Another (2) concerns the very nature of that 'professionalism' itself, i.e. whether the changes have brought about an 'emerging [new] professionalism' (Nixon and Ransom, 1997; Beck, 2008) in music teachers or have produced a new generation of subjugated teachers, carrying out work that has become 'stifled...not allowed to breathe' (Marcus, 1998) because of the way it has become framed within a constricting economic policy paradigm at the macro-level, a level arguably informed and shaped by a set of global conditions reaching directly down into schools at the micro-level:
The level of the economic does not merely provide a context; it
actively intervenes in and shapes the political, the social, the cultural,
the ideological (Hatcher and Troyna, 1994)
Two further potential difficulties for music teachers lie embedded in Hatcher and Troyna's perspective, both possessing the potential to affect the work of music educators in wholly different ways from those of their colleagues working in other domains.
The first is an emerging issue having quite distinct implications at two different levels for individual teachers which at first sight might appear to unrelated to the above quotation. It concerns the balance between high-level performance activities, which in mainstream schools do not cater for all pupils, and general or class programmes of music education that are available to everybody.
There tends to be a widespread assumption in many schools that teachers of music will arrange various musical activities and mount concerts and other similar events. Faced with this assumption, teachers have the task of 'delivering' the music curriculum whilst at the same time being required to maintain various other non-timetabled pursuits. There is a view that choirs, bands and orchestras somehow 'represent' school music and therefore deserve receiving additional support from those who manage and exercise control in schools, the critical issue being as to whether these activities are similarly perceived outside the school as well as within it. Whilst it is far from clear as to whether any legal obligation exists that would compel teachers taking on these duties, failure to do so incurs the risk of a loss of credibility in the estimations of those to whom they feel morally and professionally accountable. (Plummeridge, 1991:113 [his emphasis]) In wishing, quite understandably, to demonstrate to headteachers, to colleagues, parents and governors that they are discharging their duties effectively, (since it is through the extracurricular dimension of their work that they are most likely to gain recognition and approval), teachers may place a particular accent on the development of extracurricular activities and public performance so as to improve their own standing. If that does happen, then, viewed from this angle, it would be reasonable to conclude that the purposes of school extracurricular activities were more in the interests of teachers rather than their pupils.
Moreover, musical and other artistic events can operate as effective public-relations exercises (Plummeridge, 2001: 628), and serve as manufactured 'fabrications' (Butler, 1990: 136). Whilst it is true that many schools deservedly enjoy a good reputation because of their pupils' achievements in choirs and orchestras, it is also the case that in an age of accountability and competitiveness between schools, musical activities may become valued as a means of advertising the accomplishments of a school, with teachers readily disposed to focus on these areas since they attract public attention. In being 'selections among various possible representations of the organisation or person', (Ball, 2001: 216) fabrications produced by both individuals and institutions operate as carefully woven strategies of impression management, manufactured purposely, as Foucault reminds us, 'to be accountable'.
Whilst teachers may, quite rightly, believe it to be part of their professional responsibilities to ensure their pupils have every opportunity of taking part in musical activities, it is also necessary to recognise the existence of such underlying messages that may be present within a school's social system and that exert a direct influence on daily practices and attitudes to parts of the curriculum. For such is the education market that school promotion has become an actively encouraged ploy as schools become increasingly attentive to the need to manipulate the ways in which they present themselves to their current and potential parents through promotional publications and 'glossified' brochures, school events, school productions, open evenings, school concerts and websites, as well as through local press coverage. (Ball, 2001: 217). The classroom music teacher working within the institutional pressures of such a promotional régime may be tempted to neglect general class music programmes and concentrate instead on extracurricular activities and preparations for concerts because of the perception that this is what she should be doing. For those teachers who comply with the promotional orthodoxy and ideological norms of the system, the rewards can be considerable, the likelihood being the according of greater autonomy and relative freedom from managerial interference and direction. (Gouldner, 1959). If schools are presenting concerts and other musical events solely for the extrinsic purposes of school promotion, it could be claimed that there is a danger that pupils are being manipulated and exploited rather than being educated.
The second issue relates directly to the music itself, not only in how it is taught, produced, learned and consumed in schools but how the very meanings suggested by, and embodied within music itself can be nuanced by the socio-economic contexts of privatisation. In being directly related to the question of how music comes to be commodified by the effects of global capitalism and serving, as Christopher Ballantine expresses it, the very special function within such an order of 'tranquillising and lubricating a system geared to profits' (Ballantine, 1984:9), the ideology works its way down to the particularities of school music-making in quite specific ways. If the arts come to be regarded as purely commercial products, valuable only insofar as they can be used for attracting 'customers', then the ethical conflicts that could be unleashed by these policies could seriously vitiate the educational outcomes. As Plummeridge writes, (1991: 114) 'One might imagine a situation in which certain traditions, repertoires, innovations and experiments were avoided for fear of giving the school the wrong type of reputation'.
At the heart of these concerns lies the fact of the Western world's embrace of the 'market model', a model, wherein, as Brown and Lauder (1996: 3) put it, 'the prosperity of workers [will] depend on an ability to trade their skills, knowledge and entrepreneurial acumen in an unfettered marketplace'. Whereas in former times national governments had made market decisions with the aim of benefiting their citizens, these same governments have become increasingly beholden to the market forces themselves. (Henry et al, 1995). And with the market comes marketisation, which in schools is characterised by the increased priority given by the headteacher and governors in school marketing to the 'image-building' aspects of school promotion, to intake recruitment and current pupil retention. (Bash and Coulby, 1989; Hatcher, 1994; Gordon, 1995; McClaren, 1995; Smyth and Shacklock, 1998; Ball, 1993 and 1998; Hartley, 1999; Gewirtz, 2002)
Since the 1980s, advocates of markets and 'choice' in education have exerted considerable influence in restructuring schooling systems in many countries (Levin, 2001), and now seemingly accepted as an unquestioned orthodoxy, school marketing has assumed an all-pervasiveness having adopted several forms within the system including that of open enrolment and per capita funding (Maguire et al, 2001). Defined by Kotler and Fox (1995: 6) as the 'analysis, planning, implementation, and control of formulated programmes designed to bring about voluntary exchanges of values with a target market to achieve these objectives', the marketing orthodoxy is such as to assume an indispensable managerial function without which schools cannot achieve 'success' in the competitive environment (Oplatka, 2006). Under this view it is held that schools require an 'image' for parents and 'stakeholders', to be actively encouraged to listen to the views of their 'clients' because of the emphasis on satisfying customer requirements through the provision of desired goods, services or experiences from which they can choose (Gray, 1991; Kotler and Fox, 1995; Hanson, 1996; Woods et al 1998). Demanding schools to exercise 'consumer-responsiveness', the orthodoxy involves providing parents with information on which to make judgements about school performance. This information might well tactically include open enrolment (the principle that parents could 'choose a school' for their child 'best suited' to that child's needs [DES, 1991, updated, 1994]), diversity of school provision, competition among multiple providers and demand-driven funding.
The germinal roots of the credo lying behind these movements can be identified in the work of both F.A von Hayek and Milton Friedman, the historical origins of 'free-market choice' traceable to the written reflections in an essay of 1955 by Friedman, 'The Role of Government in Education', in which the viewpoint is advanced that the freedom of the market should assume precedence over all other considerations, a freedom through which, as the author puts it, 'educational services could be rendered by private enterprises operated by profit...the role of government...limited to ensuring that schools met minimum standards such as the inclusion of a minimum common content in their programmes, much as it now inspects restaurants to ensure that they maintain minimum sanitary standards' (Friedman, 1955: 127). Quality would be assured through the preservation of the 'rules of the game, enforcing contracts, preventing coercion, and by keeping markets free' (ibid: 124). Parents would no longer need to assert themselves through elected officials or at public meetings, but instead, directly, by withdrawing their children from one school and sending them to another' (ibid: 129). But other conservative analysts, such as Myron Lieberman in Beyond Public Education (1986), have gone much further, proposing the discontinuance of all government participation in education and schooling, the suggestion being that since publicly-funded schools have nothing of value to contribute, the solution is the creation of a nationwide network of profit-making entrepreneurial schools.
Whilst the proponents of the 'choice' thesis might well argue that their advocacy of the 'small state' and their stance against what they perceive as 'collectivism' and unacceptable bureaucracy constitute policies designed to protect and enhance 'democratic freedom,' the flaws lying at the heart of such arguments should not pass uncontested. The principles underlying these contentions are brought to light in Chubb and Moe's defence of choice as a supposed guaranty of such 'freedom':
Choice is a self-contained reform with its own rational and justification. It
has the capacity all by itself to bring about the kind of transformation that,
for years, reformers have been seeking to engineer in myriad other ways.
Indeed, if choice is to work to greatest advantage it must be adopted without
these other reforms, since the latter are predicated on democratic control
and are implemented by bureaucratic means. (Chubb and Moe, 1990: 217)
But this is a freedom very far removed from post-war conceptions of the term that relied on notions of citizenship rights, a freedom 'from', rather than a freedom 'to' equity; in being nothing other than a freedom to exercise control over one's own conduct with the removal of interpersonal constraints, it is, quite simply, a 'freedom to choose'.
Since Friedman's stated objective is the achievement of some appreciable measure of societal economic coordination and stability, the two ways he has cited of realising this objective, viz (a) the market (which he equates with the 'domain of voluntary cooperation'), and (b) government, (which he equates with the 'domain of coercion' [Friedman, 1962]) involves a deceptive manoeuvre: by bracketing markets to the rather broader and less detailed category of 'voluntary cooperation of individuals', he commits a serious category-error in overlooking the extent to which market relations constitute highly specific modes of 'cooperation' that involve exchange, customarily with the appending of a pricing mechanism. His postulation that an essential comparability exists between the two is unconvincing, for markets always rest upon non-market relations and operate within fields of social power with the result that whatever enters the market transaction is required to don the mantle of commodity form and thus to undergo a transformation which involves the dispossession of any attendant, unwanted or inconveniently complex specificity (Connell, 1993). Indeed, at a cultural level, commodities represent the values of their manufacturers, the thing for sale an embodiment not only of the generalised values of capitalism, but also of what manufacturers want in the world and how they wish to live with others. (Schor, 2000). Conformity becomes rated more highly than complexity, with such social power, cultural as well as economic, having to be deployed to sustain the commodity form that is now embedded in the goods or services.
In turning from these general observations to the more particular area of how the processes of marketing might work their way down into schools and exert their effects on teachers, and more particularly music teachers, the question becomes one of ascertaining the responses of teachers themselves towards the marketing ideology institutionally enveloping them. At the most basic level, would teachers be generally affirmative, or more resentful of its encroachments on their professional lives? Or would their responses reflect a more equivocal position, giving answers that were more nuanced?
Oplatka's work (2006) reveals that while most of the teachers interviewed in his study had expressed a generalised attitudinal negativity towards the marketing concept, believing it to be synonymous with 'selling' - 'creating a facade, and immorality' - and marginalising its contribution towards promoting their school's competitive advantage, they had asserted that although teachers should not themselves be part of the marketing process, they should nevertheless 'increase the school's image and its number of intake students by teaching effectively or by presenting their own subject teaching in the open house, on "parents' evenings" and on related [quasi-public] events'. Conspicuous among the various comments made by Oplatka's interviewees is a viewpoint from a music specialist:
For me, marketing is almost synonymous with advocating my subject area...I
personally find it quite degrading, my job as a music educator now is more
about being a marketer, most days, than as an educator or as a
musician...my marketing job [is] to convince the students coming in that
they would like to take music as one of their subjects, because we are what
people call one of the "optional" subjects, so you have to have your course
subject, and then you get to pick three more. So my job as a marketer was
to say "it's better to choose mine", right...we went out to the junior high
school and we brought the jazz band along, because it was stirring and it
was loud and peppy. We brought school pencils and made stickers in bright
neon colors...If I see the stickers now I just cringe.
Since the tasks of art, music and drama teachers tend to involve their work, and that of their pupils, being presented to the world 'outside' the school (Plummeridge, 1991), and because of the way materials are used by students for the purposes of open display, the activities of performing music, or exhibiting works of art, position teachers of arts subjects in an especially vulnerable position vis-a-vis the ideology of the marketing imperative.
A wider question refers to whether the state-endorsed and state-pursued business model/definition of marketing in the ascendant is ultimately compatible with the values of teaching and education, and hence its appropriateness for adoption in education institutions even within a competitive environment. How the long-term consequences of the market agenda, particularly the market in social and cultural capital, pan out, remains to be seen. Writing at the time of the Conservative administration in 1991, Miriam David had suggested then that the effects of the reforms in schooling and education would be likely to widen social differences between schools and therefore social inequalities, with a 'patchwork' of educational institutions in Britain brought about by the obsession with individuality, competitiveness and consumerism (David, 1991: 107). Since the commodification of advantage itself relies heavily on the institutionalisation of the curriculum within which such advantages are defined, it is, perhaps, not surprising that the promotion of marketised educational forms have been accompanied not only by a simultaneous narrowing of the curriculum but by having work itself redefined and reformulated.
It would be seductive to portray what has happened to teachers' work and to music education as being merely the outcome of worldwide governmental machinations manoeuvring the repositioning of teachers to accommodate to a new global order. That would be too simplistic an interpretation. Nevertheless, and as I aim to show in the second chapter, a new set of global conditions do appear to have reached down directly into schools, continually informing what transpires in these institutions, revamping the 'image' of education in ways that are both identifiable and very specific. Changes wrought by structural adjustment and which are felt at the national and local level permeate directly into schools, but this remodelling has not emerged out of the heartland of education, let alone from strictly pedagogical or curriculum matters. Rather, they are focussed on transforming schools through the systematic repudiation of one their long-standing roles - the betterment of society and the promotion of an educated citizenry - into rendering these institutions places whose ideologies and discourses confer new kinds of 'selfhoods' on the various social actors working within them. However, whilst conceding that these identities may not in themselves be necessarily or essentially anti-democratic or anti-educational, there exists a reductionist 'feel' about their qualities over the way in which students have becoming recast as 'customers', their teachers reconfigured as 'producers', and the educational transaction generated between the two reconstructed as (merely) a matter of 'outcomes'. (Smyth and Shacklock, 1998)
Although these changes have been in place for the best part of two decades now, the question remains: how are teachers, more specifically, music teachers 'speaking' them, and by what means are they subjugating these hegemonic discourses whilst also reconstructing, in their own terms and in the face of the managerialist ideological onslaught, whatever counter-hegemonic discourses might be available to them? How do dominant discourses arrive at their ascendancy in fields such as teaching?
In an attempt to find answers to these questions the belief is that unless one looks at the 'economic tectonic plates' (Thurow, 1996) that are remodelling the economic environment, any underlying significance that these political and economic movements might hold for education, for schooling, could be lost.
Accordingly, in contextualising these changes, the issue of 'globalisation' thus becomes unavoidable.
CHAPTER TWO: CONTEXTUALISING RECONTEXTUALISATION: THE FRAUGHT CONCEPT OF GLOBALISATION
Schools around the world have been co-opted into the global experiment of economic reform and economic rationalism. The shrinking of the 'imaginative space' (Zaida, 1996) accompanying this pursuit of the 'ruthless economy' (Head, 1996) has resulted in the project of school teaching having undergone a drastic redrawing of its boundaries through education restructuring with profound consequences for the work that teachers do on a daily basis in the classroom (Smith, 2005).
Writing about globalisation introduces several difficulties because definitions are often so much at odds with each other that anything resembling a shared understanding of the term is elusive; lacking is a unitary, isomorphic 'reality'. Nevertheless, two identifiable movements appear to be at work - homogenisation and differentiation: macro-processes inexorably playing out their tensions and contrarieties against shifting backcloths of resistance. Moreover, as Dale (1999: 15) has pointed out, the effects of globalisation on education have been largely indirect and thus far, have been more likely the outcome of the particular standpoint taken up by a nation state in response to globalising trends rather than having been causally actuated by globalisation in any straightforward way. A further duality can be discerned: a complex interaction between localism and globalism, within which at least four 'globalisations' can be identified: the economic, the political, the social and the cultural, all of them overlapping, if not necessarily inevitable.
As much a political term as simply a technical description, the 'fact' of changing global realities means that the responses that individual states make to them centre on nations making themselves more competitive, a factor which has any number of key consequences for education policy as well as for individuals. One principal characteristic of the competitive state is that it prioritises the economic dimensions of its activities above all others. Being as much about power as they are about prioritising the economic or changing technologies (Spratt, 1995:2) these same 'facts' mean that technological change and internationalising capital are transforming economic and social relations as well as people's capacities to decide not merely the course of their career trajectories but their very identities as human beings (Giddens, 1991; Hall, 1992; Bauman, 2007).
For teachers these processes of 'modernisation' carry several implications: traditional structures, such as positions of responsibility and duration of service forfeit the centrality they once held as distinctive markers with teachers having to make career decisions that are much more located on individual grounds. In deciding as to whether to cross the performance threshold, they encounter risks as they elect or not to embark on further training or engage in advanced and more demanding contracts.
Additional questions appear relating to the kinds of professional identities and citizenships ensuing as a consequence of such risk-exposure and fragmentation (Hodkinson and Hodkinson, 2002), as well as to the kinds of nation-state emerging from these movements. There are questions over the way educational institutions perceive their roles within the mounting conflicts generated by such problems, but they are all the harder to answer since such conflicts are played out within schooling's unstable objectives and changing agendas in terms of curriculum content and focus. (Henry et al, 1999).
The instability hinted at here is risk-laden; it is an insecurity having risks to both health and the environment (e.g. Beck, 1992), and evoking fears leading to an increasing range of attributes and situations being depicted by politicians and state agencies as
'risky'; images of people emerge as being, or perceiving themselves as being 'victims' of risk as a consequence of personal inadequacy or 'fate' (Ecclestone and Field, 2003:272). Widely apprehended as ever-present and threatening, these 'risks' may be held by many to stand in direct relation to the seemingly anarchic, haphazard fashion by which some kind of thoroughgoing 'global society' appears to be evolving:
Capitalism is co-extensive with its own inside such that it has
now become both a field of immanence and exteriority. There is no
escape. There is only fear...the objective condition of subjectivity in the era
of late capitalism. It means something more than a fear of downward mobility
but rather the constitution of the self within a market culture and market
morality. (Massumi, 1993)
We are the first generation to live in a global society, whose contours
we can as yet only dimly see. It is shaking up our existing way of life,
no matter where we happen to be....It is not settled or secure, but
fraught with anxieties, as well as scarred by deep divisions. Many of
us feel in the grip of forces over which we have no control. (Giddens, 2002)
Thus, since globalisation is neither an amorphous nor an homogenous entity (Taylor et al, 1997), approaching it calls for caution (Ball 1998), for to acknowledge its scale and anatomical complexity demands recognising that a contradictory 'new politics' is operative at economic, political and cultural levels, a politics possessing the features of 'global integration' as well as a countervailing tidal force of 'national fragmentation'. Yet whilst it is the case that the globalisation thesis runs the risk of being overused as an 'all-purpose' explanatory factor serving to account for the disarming changes people notice in their daily lives, there is some agreement that, however it is defined and understood, this 'fraught concept' (Barnett, 2000: 174) involves diminishing the capacity for autonomous state intervention, a feature brought about and accelerated by privatisation, deregulation and contraction. Cerny's description captures an important aspect of its political essence:
as a political phenomenon globalisation basically means that the shaping of
the playing field of politics is increasingly determined not within insulated
units, i.e. relatively autonomous and hierarchically organised structures
called states; rather it derives from a complex congeries of multilevel games
played on multilayered institutional playing fields, above and across, as well
as within, states. (Cerny, 1997:253)
Aspects and implications for work
The marketisation of the educational commodity constitutes merely one feature engendered by the myriad globalising effects increasingly exerted on schooling. It reflects the extent to which fundamental movements towards more interdependent, local, national and transnational economies and societies have brought about radical alterations to the parameters within which nation states have to operate. Equally conspicuous has been the expansion of international trade, investment, production, the financial flows of which have resulted in the growing significance of trading blocs and trade agreements with capital's duly acquired mobility offering enhanced roles for international finance institutions and transnational corporations. (Wiseman, 1995:5) Such an intensification of worldwide social relations tends to link distant localities in such that local happenings acquire a vulnerable perviousness to events occurring many miles away and vice versa, the dialectics of these operations borne out by the fact that any local happening may move in an obverse direction from the very distanciated relationships shaping them. The factory, therefore, loses its identity as an economic unity, and instead becomes merely one component of multiple integrated production processes spanning several continents; indeed, the sites of production have themselves ceased to be the principal centres of policy formation and the enactment of decisions (Giddens, 1987: 277), a localised transformation that, as Giddens emphasises elsewhere (1990: 64), forms just as much a part of the designation of globalisation as the lateral extension, both spatially and temporally, of social connections. Thus:
Whoever studies cities today, in any part of the world, is aware that
what happens in a local neighbourhood is likely to be influenced by
factors - such as world money and commodity markets - operating
at an indefinite distance away from that neighbourhood itself. (Giddens, 1990: 64)
The anatomy of globalisation appears to reside as much in a breakdown, as in a replacement/reconstruction, the collapse being that of a broadly-based set of social regulatory discourses superseded by a marketised, deregulated, governing-at-a-distance discourse more determinedly wedded to modes of individualised choice, autonomy and responsibility. For education, the dominance of instrumentalism has constituted one of the more prominent features of the global policy environment as the very focus of education is deflected away from social concerns over equity and social justice through the process of commodification: education thus dons the mantle of a 'service', emphasising 'skills for employment'. Muetzelfeldt's account captures something of the perverse and contradictory dynamics characterising these currents:
On the one hand, market-like rationality and its instrumental
approach to people and to social life has become more global,
providing the dominant discourse and organising the dominant public
practices of ever larger areas of life across more and more and more
of the world. On the other hand, the capacity of this rationality to
provide political as well as social meaning and identity...has been
hollowed out. We are left with an overarching shell of abstract
instrumentalism within which public identity, social institutions and
everyday practices are increasingly drained of normative and
communal content. (Muetzelfeldt, 1995:44)
Although Marshall McLuhan's aphorism that 'a new (media-led) global village' would be inaugurated tends now to be viewed as somewhat overdrawn, nevertheless, as geography becomes less of a barrier, the instantaneity of digitalised communication networks, in possessing the capacity to cross space and time, facilitate the acquisition of information both from and about the 'others', separated from us in time and space.
This instantaneity carries significant implications for culture and the expressive arts: music too becomes objectified and commodified (and thus bereft of the human actions and contexts central to its meaning. [Small, 1996, 1998; Flores, 2000: 24]). Digitalisation has helped to redefine knowledge and services as 'goods' to be traded globally via telecommunications (Friedman, 2005: 109; Gordon, 2005: 31; Prestowitz, 2005: 79-105). Moreover, the adeptness with which international capital can be instantly relocated so as to maximise the advantages of local circumstances heightens the degree to which both governments and corporations encounter singular levels of economic and sometimes volatile political unpredictability. At the cultural level many other factors leading to the promotion of some kind of 'global/globalised culture' can be identified: the cultivation of cosmopolitan 'life-styles' and the concomitant emergence of global patterns of consumption and consumerism; the decline in the sovereignty of the nation-state; the spread of world tourism, the surfacing of a new consciousness of the world as a single place, a perception of 'the world' as a whole becoming a continuously constructed environment involving 'the play of social processes in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which people are becoming increasingly aware that they are receding'. (Waters, 1995) Being aware of these realities constitutes as much an aspect of globalisation as the facts concerning globalisation's transnational processes and communicative flows (Henry and Taylor, 1997:47). But, as Cerny's observation makes clear, the processes of 'globalisation' 'work' on multidimensional levels; awareness of its dynamics is not restricted to any single domain, least of all to the social and cultural areas of life. Neither should the assumption be made that the impact of its institutional force within particular national and state policies say, on schooling and education, carries equivalent weight uniformly across other communities even though it does appear to create broadly similar patterns of challenge for states in the ways they shape their possible responses to these dynamics. (Dale, 1999:2).
However, very specifically, it is workforces that have faced this accelerating restructuration of the world, Through the dissolution of Fordist modes of work organisation and their replacement with 'post-Fordist' modes reinforced through hierarchical management régimes (Murray, 1989), labour has experienced very particular kinds of rationalising, Taylorist, processes of reformulation and re-organisation. Two significant aspects highlighting the susceptibility of workers to this tendency have been emphasised by Braverman (1974) who identifies these as being (i) scientific management and (ii) the scientific-technical revolution, both features emerging with the expansion of monopoly capitalism within the trajectory of capitalist development. Taylorism or scientific management was, in his view, a reaction to the operation of the rules governing the circulation and accumulation of capital: the law of value. As the outcome of capitalist dynamics, scientific management involved the operation of two power-related movements, the source of which lay deep within capital's ultimate anathematisation of skill (Harvey, 1999: 109), namely, the striving to gain complete control over conception whilst concomitantly reducing all workers' jobs to pure execution. Thus, for capital accumulation to proceed unchallenged, all restrictions to this process required removal, including workers' skills, particularly those existing in the form of craft knowledge since their 'scarcity', whether real or imagined, through either monopolisation or closure, risked pushing up wages and inhibiting capitalist social relations of domination and subordination to enter the production process. With the decline of craft, the worker would sink to the level of undifferentiated labour power, adaptable to a large range of simple tasks, while, as science grew, such knowledge would be concentrated into the hands of management. (1974:121) Thus, whilst a skilled and relatively well-rewarded core of largely white male workers emerges as an organising principle, this nucleus is surrounded by a technically separate subordinate periphery of low-paid, less secure and often black or working-class white female workers or youngsters. As an outcome of the dynamic of capitalism, scientific management strives to reduce all workers' jobs to pure execution while management asserts its complete control over execution.
This largely Marxist account has its focus very much on issues of control over production, the socio-technical system under capitalism seen as standing for a 'dehumanised prison of labour' with the deskilling of work held to be an integral part of the organisational reality of the West. (Burrell and Morgan, 1979) Without a radical restructuring of the social relationships and the productive system, revolutions in the productive forces cannot be finalised, history deriving the force of its impelling power from the tensions between these two as well as from the ongoing struggle waged to overcome their inherent contradictions.
But Braverman's work has its critics. The implied assumption he makes that that an underlying similarity exists, for example, in the way work undergoes degradation across advanced capitalist economies may not necessarily be the case. As Harvey (1999) argues, human agency is afforded a somewhat restricted position in Braverman's thesis since workers within the labour process are treated 'as objects'; they [are ignored] 'as real human beings endowed with a consciousness and will....prepared, when necessary, to wage perpetual class war against a capital in order to protect their rights within production' (1999:111).
Another proviso should be stated. Power and control are not necessarily identical; to differentiate between them may prove more helpful when examining the various aspects of the labour of the classroom teacher. Restricting the discussion to a focus on production alone may overlook the complexity of all the various aspects of teachers' classroom work. Although empirically embedded in each other, the two modalities of power and control operate, as Bernstein argues (1996: 5), at different analytical levels and therefore require distinguishing from each other. Whilst control 'carries the boundary relations of power socialising individuals into these relationships', the focus of power, on the other hand, in producing punctuations in social space, is always operative on the relations between categories. 'Control,' Bernstein writes, 'establishes legitimate communications, and power establishes relations between categories. Thus power constructs relations between, and control [constructs] relations within given forms of interaction' (ibidem: 5)
Thus, to adopt Braverman's theoretical frame when examining the various facets of teachers' labour may not be sufficient. Susan Robertson, in arguing that the questions over teachers and their social class have too frequently been unproblematically assumed or ignored, (2000), points out that Braverman's work omits references to the politics of exchange, the critical factor that ought to be taken more into account when discussing issues concerning social class formation and class interests. To ignore the ways in which teachers, as political actors and subjects, themselves engage in both struggle and compromise over the social organisation, social use and social recognition of the value of their labour is to sidestep examining the complexities involved in the formation of teachers' social class. (p.290). Accordingly, whilst the social relations of production should certainly be considered in any analysis of the labour of teachers, this factor needs to be drawn together (her emphasis) with the politics of exchange. (1992). Accordingly, in citing property assets (reserves and resources which can be stored and passed on in the form of investments, property or capital) as well as organisational assets (those benefits that are more organisationally specific and which relate to the significance of power relations of domination and subordination within organisations as a major axis of social class formation) as two of the most potent form of class resources, she explores how property assets would work for teachers, and suggests that, either individually or collectively, teachers may well be able to negotiate economic resources in the form of wages or tax concessions, or, through private tutoring create the conditions for receiving an additional income which would enable the retention and accumulation of surplus cash in the form of capital such as property.
Pointing out that teachers work within particular, and different, sets of conditions, Robertson acknowledges that whereas primary school teachers have historically worked in flatter, more 'cottage-like', organisational structures than those existing for secondary teachers, the structures for the latter group had, historically, already begun to adopt by the beginning of the twentieth century a more hierarchical, managerialist subject/department based approach, thus creating the conditions for a particular group of secondary school teachers to exert management control over the work of their colleagues. Consequently, any assessment of the power and control over the terms and conditions under which different kinds teachers labour, and which would therefore form the basis of a differential exchange value, should accord a place not only for organisational assets, but also for cultural and social capital, formed, as Bourdieu has argued, through horizontal and vertical networks of 'more or less institutionalised relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition'. (Bourdieu, 1986:248). By doing so a more finely-tuned approach to the assessment itself is promoted.
Nevertheless Braverman's reading of Marx's analysis of labour and social class, provides the foundations of an approach for how one might think about labour and social class. Within organisations and social life, and serving as a basis for planning and judgement, technical rationality has become ubiquitous. (Habermas, 1972) Routinised and repetitive work operations do appear to have resulted in labour having undergone a thoroughgoing process of deskilling, with rationalistic processes treating them as 'variables to be manipulated along with materials, time and space to ensure predictable products and profits from material, ideational or social manufacturing'. (Shannon, 2001) In drawing attention to these processes, Aronowitz starkly highlights the qualitative nature behind many of the tasks carried out by this latter group, noting the inescapable tendencies towards narrowness and devalorisation widely operating in disparate occupational levels:
The working class has been deskilled, at the mercy of capital, and
reduced in its functions to an aspect of capital. The reduction of human
faculties to a single dimension, that of performing the same detailed
operation over and over again is not confined to the factory. The same
rationalisation of tasks divested of their creative and autonomous function
has permeated the office, the professions, the service industries. (Aronowitz, 1992)
As shared tradition and established wisdom become replaced by calls for 'flexibility' there is, as Funnell expresses it:
...a culling of 'dead wood'...a loss of corporate memory and a demoralisation
of staff as performance is judged more on economic efficiencies and less on
professional expertise. As the steering capacity of the State tends more
towards its economic system, mass loyalty towards existing moral cultures
breaks down. (Funnell, 1995)
Concomitant with the decrease in control over capital is the intensification over the control of individuals. 'Flexibility' ultimately constitutes a severe obstacle to the development of long-term identities and relationships, constantly interfering with the ability of people to sustain continuous life-long narratives. In idealising the entrepreneurial individual who is comfortable with not knowing what is coming next, the new order offers little, economically and socially, in the way of a narrative; rather than abolishing the rules of the past, it substitutes new controls over the worker. (Sennett, 1998; Rifkin, 1995) In a transformation that signals a profound rupture with previous times, labour power is pushed ever more towards immateriality as a consequence of the new informational structure of labour. (Brown, et al, 2002)
These observations can offer levers into an exploration of the weight and character of these processes of displacement on the fashioning of state education policy and the effect they have on teachers' work. Speaking of the reform agenda in education, Ball states that it would be erroneous to view the reform process as merely a strategy of deregulation: far from abandoning its control, the State has created new forms of control, but in ways suggesting a 'centralised decentralisation' or 'controlled de-control' (Du Gay, 1996), a feature of which has been a new (state) constructed representation of teachers as 'enterprising subjects' (Rose, 1989), as 'neo-liberal professionals', individuals who 'add value' to themselves and others, and living 'in an existence of calculation' whilst constantly striving for excellence. (Ball, 2003: 217)
The policy adopted by 'New Labour' governments towards the profession has been affected by Fullan's maxim concerning the significance of both pressure and support, (Barber, 2000) - what some observers have summarised as the 'carrot and semtex' approach. Within this systematic structural readjustment certain quite specific devalorising processes are identifiable: an increasing routinisation of work (Larson, 1980; Connell, 1989; 1995; Ball, 1993a) underpinned by technicist, mechanistic assumptions, (Casey and Apple, 1989; Mahony and Hextall, 1993a) that present themselves as 'value free' (Inglis, 1989:45), as well as the injection of market-mechanisms: 'competitive tendering, performance-related and profit-related pay' into public services (Gray, 1999). Such devalorisation has altered the woof and warp of classrooms transactions as teachers become ever more interpellated by the discourses and practice of managerialism (Aspland and Brown, 1993; Hatcher, 1994; Esland et al, 1999), their roles and identities recast in terms of the 'technician-professional' ideological construct as they perform to externally-sourced directives. For behind the myth of 'modern' management lies the architecture of hierarchical management adopting practices and processes highly redolent of traditional, authoritarian, Taylorist regimes. (Murray, 1989) 'The contractual core of Taylorism,' Murray writes, '[is] higher wages in return for managerial control of production'.
Particular instrumentalised forms of human agency colonise the work of teachers and constitute external controls on what is done in and out of their classrooms (Apple, 1986). Operating at a number of levels and different dimensions of power, they include (i) heightened modes of accountability and surveillance of outcomes (Power, 1997; Ball, 1997); (ii) a noticeable intensification of workload (Tomaney, 1990; Mac an Ghaill, 1992; Bowe et al, 1992; Campbell and Neill, 1994; Brimblecombe et al 1995; Connell, 1995; Roberston, 1996; Troman 1997; Scheib, 2003), involving more of the teacher's time devoted to the task of teaching, together with an extension of the duties associated with administration and a reduction in the time given over to collegial relations (Merson, 2001); and (iii) a concomitant dependency on competency and performance measures (Strathern, 2000) whereby 'teaching quality has come to be defined in terms of technical competencies' (Troman, 1996). This extract from the DfEE's documentary directive, Teachers Meeting the Challenge of Change, (1998a) reveals the competitive individualistic thrust behind the assumptions made about what motivates teachers:
The tradition to which adherence remains powerful is to treat all teachers as
if their performance was similar, even though teachers themselves know this
is not the case. The effects have been to limit incentives for teachers to
improve their performance and to make teaching much less attractive to
talented and ambitious people than it should be. (DfEEa: 32)
The educational exchange becomes constricted as schools are coerced into presenting themselves as annexes to industry and commerce as well as individual teachers compelled to compete with each other for the rewards of such compliance. Within the paradigm of the 'market', and linked to initiatives connecting inspection, target-setting, league tables and performance management, schools are to serve the needs of corporate capital in a new 'information age' of global production (Bridges and McLaughlin, 1994; Bridges and Husbands, 1996) involving teachers' work bending to a range of constraining forces that include: (i) the intrusion of external agencies requiring that schools operate in the 'national interest', a claim invariably couched in the economic imperative of heightened international competitiveness; (ii): a relocation of the locus of control that has the underlying effect of conveying the message to teachers that they are professionally untrustworthy, but which is a recentralisation of power contextually couched is such a manner as to appear that teachers are been accorded greater autonomy, control over their work and increased scope for decision-making - re-regulation here meaning being 'steered at a distance'; (iii): the economic crisis of the state in reducing the funding available to schools in contexts in which schools are exhorted to 'do more with less'; and (iv): the expectation that the world of private enterprise should provide both impetus and inspiration for a change in how schools operate and require institutions to compete against one another for pupils and resources. (Smyth and Shacklock, 1998: 22-23) As an inhabitant of the paradigm of pedagogical technician, the teacher is reconstructed as 'deliverer' and tester of knowledge and learning. How might the teachers I interviewed reflect this repositioning?
If this 'increased scope for decision-making' amounts to the construction of a 'new', state-legitimated professionalism then defining it calls for caution. Professionalism is an ambivalent and heterogenenous ideology (Hatcher, 1994: 55) and can profoundly influence how an individual comes to perceive the viability or stability of career path progression. Yet such is the compelling force historically of this widely contested notion that it has been perceived to be the central analytical issue at stake in the way teachers as an occupational group developed in the last century (Barber, 1992). Acquiring something of the features of a fixed currency the concept sought articulation not only in the way the state historically endeavoured to control and dominate teachers, but also, by involvement in collective associations, through teachers' attempts to defend their independence and status against such encroachments and threats to their autonomy. (Lawn, 1987)
The contradictions within the new (state-) legitimated professionalism are no less complex than those within previous constructions of the concept. For whilst the teacher's day-to-day work and activities are brought beneath the political sway and colonised by policy makers and leaders of industry in an attempt to create and establish a compliant profession (Beck, 2008a), the countervailing movement towards 'self-determination' finds expression in the notion that teachers and schools should assume greater control over their own 'destiny' - deciding on local priorities, exercising enhanced self-management, releasing themselves from bureaucratic organisational forms and turning schools into leaner organisations, the rhetoric of individualisation and devolution of responsibility apparently able to coexist, if somewhat uneasily, within the macro-agenda of globalisation's framework of recentralisation. This new (state-) legitimated professional[ised] identity for teachers is heavily constituted by managerialist discourses at both collective and individual levels (Sachs, 2001:156), and involves an implicit understanding between state agencies and organised teachers, namely the imperative that teachers will accept their legitimate realm, their sphere of 'proper' activity, as within the classroom and the school system. On their acquiescing to this ethic, the state, for its part, will grant them a measure of trust and autonomy, as well as professional salaries, occupational security and professional respect and dignity. Providing a compelling ideological surety to the state that the 'teachers of the people' can, within the existing social order, be counted on to be dependable and staunch professionals, this ethic, over time, has consequences that acquire for teachers an increasing strength and significance. (Grace, 1987) In both their classroom practice and their structural and social relations, this occupational group undergoes a systematic de-politicisation through ideological assimilation, as well as through its incorporation into the existing order, a coalescence arising not as a result of conscious state intention but from a conjunction of assorted forces. As part of the response to this ethic, teachers, as an occupational grouping, become removed from making any explicit alliances with party or class organisations and construct a position of neutrality within the political and social structure. Thus, what sets out as a restriction imposed on party or class politics develops into an inhibition of the political per se (ibid: 222); seen from the perspectives of the state, the intention has been the 'domestication' of teachers, the construct of legitimated professionalism operating in such a way as to render this occupational group less potentially intimidating. Thus:
The occupational group has come to an understanding with the state in
education. The ethic of legitimated teacher professionalism entails the
distancing of all other groups. This is the deep structural weakness of the
position [...] the combination of occupational de-politicisation and
occupational incorporation provides the state with massive advantages in
any ensuing struggle. Teacher-state relations in Britain have now reached
that juncture. (Grace, 1987: 222)
Besides intensifying competitiveness between individuals, whether of teachers or students, the individualism drives directly to the heart of collective models of organising and protecting teachers, their rewards, rights and conditions of service, and their careers, as well as weakening the notion of the school as a collective project . It also enfeebles any foundation for pluralism in schools with departments becoming diluted so that they cease to provide any obvious base for association. (Hextall and Mahony, 1999; Merson, 2001)
An anaesthetising lexicon of the market together with the accompanying tenets of managerialism constitutes endeavours at political reassurance within an era characterised by high levels of unpredictability, uncertainty and instability: measurement of 'outcomes'; 'total quality management'; 'curriculum audits'; 'mission statements'; 'quality assurance'; 'leaner organisations'; 'student profiles' and 'records of achievement'; 'international best practice'; 'key competencies'; 'performance appraisal'; 'performance indicators'; 'school charters'; 'benchmarks'; these and many other 'educational' policy initiatives, in representing technocratic responses to complex social and educational situations, are aimed not at the resolution of complexity, but rather at assuaging a doubting public that they are being well served by a political apparatus that is well in control of unstable circumstances. Thus, by proclaiming its worthiness as a commodity, the educational enterprise is presented as something no different from any other commodity since it is opened up to be 'measured and calibrated according to quality standards; packaged and delivered to targeted audiences as well as haggled over in the artificially constructed user-pays marketplace of education'. (Smyth and Shacklock, 1987: 23)
There are many ways of representing the work of teaching and any conceptual limitations to ways of constructing teaching are likely to promote conservative accounts of what 'counts' as desirably skilful classroom work. One of the arguments I have been trying to advance is (i) that the reconstruction of the work of teachers has resulted in a hegemonic view of it that sees it largely as a set of technical activities whereby teachers possessing appropriate competencies are able to perform the tasks required of them so as to render both teaching and learning more productive and more efficient, and (ii) that such a reconstitution has implied a drastic revision in how teacher professionalism is conceptualised. In having moved away from embodying a cluster of values sustaining schooling and education in the post-Second World War period to the espousal of a set of ideologies, policies, practices and discourses shaped, if not actively determined by managerialist, marketised, contractualist and consumerist values and beliefs, this very different version of teaching, with its implications for the stability of career paths, has called into question, if not actively denied, long-standing, conceptions of the teacher's work that once viewed it more in terms of bricolage or craft (Smyth and Shacklock, 1998), or as embodying moral, intellectual or political activities that had benefited from being ethically grounded within a 'heritage of schooling' (ibidem:200), and bounded by concepts of 'professional autonomy' that had little to do with markets, consumers and commodities.
Having operated as a key organising principle that once defined their lives and work, professional autonomy has been called into question over the way the voices of teachers have either not been heard or been largely absent concerning the manner by which their work and careers have faced the kind of structural readjustment produced by deliberate policy-driven reforms. In seeming to offer a clear reality to teachers by virtue of the relative freedom which they once experienced in school and classroom autonomy this sense of work-place self-government and stable career path progression, which lasted from the 1950s to the early 1970s, had been legitimated as much by the educational settlement of the 1930s as by the social democratic consensus present in the two decades following the war, and offered teachers in state schools in Britain the opportunity of interpreting it as a substantiation of their standing and status as professionals of expertise and integrity. (Grace, 1985) With respect to curriculum selection and to pedagogic methods, this de-centralised autonomy had been taken to be a distinctive feature of British democracy with school, teachers in those times having felt themselves to be free from the influence of both the central and local state in education as well as from the influence of parents and employers.
In attempting to discover how these reformulations of work patterns might affect music teachers, heads of departments as well as their assistants, peripatetic and otherwise, several questions are raised: in what ways dissimilar from their colleagues working in other curriculum areas have music educators experienced these changes? What are the implications for their careers? And in the light of alterations to the funding of music provision away from local authorities and towards school governing bodies, how have the career paths of peripatetic music service teachers been affected by crucial structural changes wrought by the Local Management of Schools system (LMS)?
It is only fairly recently that these kinds of areas have begun to figure in the critical literature specifically related to music education and schooling/structural reform. Amongst this growing corpus, two studies by Baker (2005a; 2005b) may be highlighted here since both focus on the hitherto neglected area of how peripatetic music teachers, those instrumentalist and vocal teachers working for the music service, come to experience serious career restrictions brought about by the structural changes referred to above.
Baker voices concern over the way the gradual delegation of local authority budgets to schools in the 1990s, together with heightened consumer choice of school have not only placed music services under serious financial pressure but in so doing have conspired to undermine the commitment, sense of well-being and orientation towards the workplace felt by these teachers. (2005a:264, 273):
There is no steadily incremental career structure along which individuals might progress. A solution does not reside solely in pecuniary rewards. Employers must ensure that employees are progressing along a continuum and not just experiencing a psychological 'brick wall' in the middle. (Baker, 2005a:271)
This work appears to vindicate the proposition that music educators have not been immune from the effects of the new political and economic dispensation. In relation to their biographies, individuals can experience 'landmark events', 'critical incidents' or 'phases' that threaten to challenge a sense of 'professional self' and the manner by which self-understandings have been constructed. Referring to studies on biography by Kelchtermans, (1993) and Sikes et al, (2001) that highlight, define, explore these concepts, Baker's observations and caveats appear timely:
...after 36 years of age, the peripatetic teachers entered a 'critical phase' wherein they reached, or at least perceived, an apex of energy and aspiration. The episode also concerned understanding and coping with occupational limitations, a diminished locus of control vis-a-vis career, and an eventual redefinition of self-identity. In some cases, the passage marked a time of personal strife or crisis. (Baker, 2005b:142)
The peripatetic teacher is not alone in experiencing career path qualms; Drummond, (2001) has documented the extent to which school music teachers may also confront parallel concerns with the opportunities for promotion available to them held to be restricted on account of the relatively low prestige of the subject area. Lack of status and opportunities for career advancement have been recognised by teachers as causes of stress (Travers and Cooper, 1996). Crucially, in both the studies by Baker and Drummond, interviewee participants were disclosing negative perceptions of their career with the music service that otherwise would have remained concealed from their employers. Baker's interviewees were all between 36 and 42 years of age, but even though they were offering indications of a 'buoyant self' at that life-stage in pinpointing a high point of enthusiasm and energy and/or professional ambition (2005b: 147), they were nonetheless also testifying to an awareness of 'apexes, plateaus and crises' in their perceptions of their careers as peripatetic teachers. Quoted below, three of Baker's respondents voice their disquiet over some of the less attractive aspects - repetitiveness, lack of variety and the threat of impending ennui - of their posts in the music service:
I think monotony can be a problem and especially with the exam syllabus for my instrument. We've had the same pieces for some time and they are getting very boring to teach. (Emma)
I wanted to do something different at that point [i.e. the respondent's thirties]...whizzing around to a dozen different schools a week does become a relentless process. I had begun to feel that 'Oh, here we go. I'm in another rut. It was a relentless treadmill...' (Douglas)
The instrumental teaching job can get monotonous; it gets boring...it's just too much of the same all the time. (John) [all three quoted in Baker, 2005b: 145-146]
These studies proved useful as projects seemingly pioneering a neglected area in as much as the interviewee respondents in both them had all been active and practising teachers of a subject area habitually receiving rather less than its fair share of attention within critical studies exploring teachers' work, schooling and education reform. In preparing the way for my own empirical work with music teachers they had offered something of a model.
CHAPTER THREE: THE WORKING LIVES OF MUSIC TEACHERS
It was in the context of raising the areas referred to in the first two chapters that the work of interviewing the six music teachers who had demonstrated that they were available for such conversations began in March, 2009. I wanted to know what it 'felt' like to be teaching in their particular school, how they operated within the conditions and constraints of external factors and to identify some of the issues that would raise, to relate these to my understandings the critical literature and to consider the impact that 'globalisation', school-based managerialism, bureaucracy, and the prescribed curriculum were having on their daily work in and out of the classroom. The size of these areas was daunting; I would unlikely to be able do justice to them within the scope of these interviews. What eventually transpired after the interviewing stage was an emerging concentration and focus on three related areas:
(i) The impact on their lives of national initiatives.
(ii) Accountability, work intensification and the presence of managerialism
(iii) The question of music as a national curriculum subject
The make-up of the group was far from homogenous; the six teachers had had different lengths of time in service, were teaching in different phases of schooling, some primary, some secondary, and they differed markedly from each other in how they approached the questions put to them. The interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed, the methodology governing how they were conducted described in a methodological appendix placed after the list of literature references, whilst Chapter Four focuses on an interpretation of the interviewees' replies.
All the names of the respondents are pseudonyms. Given below are brief introductions to the interviewees. What then follows is a selective narrative of the responses on the basis of each respondent.
Briony was an experienced primary school teacher with a responsibility for coordinating the music in her school. She had taught in other primary schools but had been in her present post for almost two decades. The school, which was predominantly middle class and having been opened in the 1960s, now had more children having Free School Meals with an increasing number of pupils living in conditions close to poverty, although, as she pointed out, 'this might not be recognised as such'. She believed the area was reluctant to admit that the social environment was changing, even though the last five years appeared to have accentuated this trend.
The sole respondent in the group of six not currently teaching, Jasper was currently working for a national charity, but could draw extensively on his experiences as a teacher working in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His testimony showed he was aware of the current climate in education and schooling and was therefore valuable in providing comparisons between the present and the past. His work in primary schools had included music teaching besides responsibility for teaching other subjects.
This respondent had been working in her secondary school for eight years but had spent two years before occupying this post teaching music at a school in Milton Keynes. Some of her testimony involved making comparisons between her present experiences of teaching music and those relating to her previous school. Georgina was a Head of Department with a team of three, including one part-timer, who assisted her in organising and managing the music. Georgina's interview lasted considerably longer than those of the other five, partly because of the fine detail in her answers that she was able to offer, and partly because her department was a large one and in describing it as many aspects of it as possible should, she believed, be covered.
Close parallels existed between the testimonies of Georgina and Jasmine, similarities which I hope to show later on. However, unlike Georgina, Jasmine had taught for a shorter period spent with no great length of time in any one setting: part-time in both an upper school (two years) and a middle school (one year, eighteen months) during her doctoral studentship. Much of her work had been with Year Nine classes. Jasmine was taught and trained to teach within the era of the national curriculum's inception and through its formularies. Completion of her thesis led to further research in music education.
Kurt was new to classroom teaching, having recently completed his postgraduate certificate in education and was now working towards acquiring status as a newly qualified teacher. Like Jasmine's experiences, those of Kurt's had only recently been acquired from working in secondary schools, and he too was trained within the regimen of the national curriculum. However unlike Jasmine he was teaching music on a daily basis.
In common with Briony, Florence's experience of teaching was drawn from working at the primary phase of schooling. Her accounts were strongly autobiographical in the way they related to her memories of musical involvement as a pupil in her own primary school. She had also run the music department of a primary school for about a year but was not responsible for classroom music teaching, her remit being the coordinating and managing of the school's instrumental programme. Florence is an experienced string player, actively involved in performing and teaching instrumental work to pupils.
National Initiatives: sources of assistance or anxiety?
The single unambiguous finding from the interviews was that teaching is not what it used to be. Whilst there was the ever-present temptation to view the past through nostalgic lens, it was necessary to acquire reliable information from working teachers so as to highlight exactly what has changed, and if possible to explain why, both for better and for the worse. Thus the starting point for the interviews was enquiring into the extent to which national initiatives were impacting on their working lives; throughout a mixed picture emerged, sometimes ambiguous and calling for further development. Interviewees had been asked about the factors they believed made their working lives enjoyable and fulfilling, as well as those which they held to be burdensome and time-consuming. Here, noticeable similarities, in both instances, emerged between their replies: in respect of the negative aspect, the demands of discharging the obligations of bureaucracy was a highly conspicuous factor; perceived as threatening, it blighted their lives as music teachers. Often the demands made on them by these requirements were seen as pointless. Here is a sample of some of the replies:
- the paper work; there are more things that I could be doing which would be
more valuable in the classroom than doing things in triplicate and duplicate
and then putting them on the computer system [...] We have to give plans to
the Head at the beginning of each week outlining what we are supposed to be
teaching. It doesn't allow for much flexibility. The plan is mandatory. (Briony)
RFS: How useful do you feel In-Service Training Days to be?
Briony: Very varied. Some give you a wish to put it into operation, to
implement it, but then you start to drown in other areas, in paper work, and
lack of time means you can't think it through properly.
Jasper had taught music and other subjects in the primary phase in the late 1970s and early 1980s and drew on his memories of those times:
Jasper: One of the joys of teaching is that it is a creative thing. You always had
structure, courses and plans. It wasn't a free-for-all before the National
Curriculum. But how you approached it all was up to the individual. If things
were starting to go wrong that would be picked up quickly, but you still
approached it in a singular way which today with the National Curriculum you
are unable to do so because of the ticking of boxes at the end of every lesson.
You have to fill in so much stuff which is nothing to do with teaching music.
That's how big the change.
Georgina was firm in the belief that the day-to-day activities of teaching music had become now entangled by bureaucratic demands:
RFS: What do you least enjoy in your job?
Georgina: The paper work. I struggle to see the validity pf some of the things I
am asked to do...I'm just rewording other documents that I did before. So, I
might be asked to produce a curriculum revue plan which I do, then I'm asked
to do a governors' report the same information in a different format, which to
me, because we are so busy, seems to me to be a waste of time.
RFS: What do you least enjoy doing in your job?
Florence: The admin. I've been fortunate, I haven't had to do that much.
RFS: Could you comment on the balancing of classroom teaching with extra-
Florence: Personally, I don't think there should be a distinction. If you weren't
worried about curriculum and ticking boxes and everything else...y'know music
is something there, within our lives...
For Kurt attending to paper-work had become a chore, the execution of which extended well beyond the school gates as well as the school day:
RFS: Is much of your time taken up with paper-work?
Kurt: Oh God, yes. Usually all of Sunday I sit in a cafe and do all my lesson
plans and of course when you're doing lesson plans you've got to find
resources as well, so I end up looking for the resources as well. It takes
pretty much the whole day...when I'm not doing my NQT year when I've got
far more lessons to teach I imagine my Saturdays will go as well.
RFS: How long would it take you on a Sunday to feel at the end of it, 'well,
I've got the week ahead wrapped up'?
Kurt: (laughs) I never really think of it that way. I think, 'well, I've done all
the lesson planning, I've ticked those boxes...when it come to sorting out in
your head how you're going to teach them, that really comes the day before,
or on the day.
Jasmine offered a contrasting perspective. In describing herself as entirely 'post-National Curriculum', she gave an apologia for the duties associated with written tasks. Jasmine had been a pupil at school when the National Curriculum first appeared, and when asked to describe the ways in which her own school teachers had responded to the appearance of the documentation, she referred to what she held to be the 'largely engendered fear' on the part of teachers of its associated paper work:
Jasmine: I honestly think that there was that paper-work fear that was
instilled then...if you go away and play with it and become used to it,
then, actually, it's just paper-work...there are relatively few things you must do.
It's not like some of the curriculum subjects where you've got defined texts,
you know they say, 'look at this, look at that', but ultimately within that you've
got a huge amount of freedom [...] There is this notion that you can measure
only what is measurable.
Accountability and Managerialism
Allied to the issue of 'paper-work' is the inherently connected area of teacher accountability, a factor which Jasmine held to be essential and requiring the teacher to accept bureaucratic and managerial structure, something 'to be used and abused' as the teacher saw fit.
RFS: So you have to manage the managers?
Jasmine: Course you do! Yeah.
RFS: Do you think everyone can do that?
Jasmine: No. It's down to the individual.
RFS: But you think you can?
Jasmine: If need be. It's about knowing the rules. Life is about rules, knowing when you can stretch them...
An equally benign view of management structures had appeared in Georgina's interview. Her belief that strong school management was 'essential and ultimately helpful to teachers' led her into comparing the structures she had experienced in her previous school at Milton Keynes with those at her present school:
Georgina: If I turn round to my management and say so and so in Year Nine is causing me a problem, they will come down on him. That's a management issue. In Milton Keynes that wouldn't have happened. You'd write a report on it and it would never be dealt with.
RFS: So is it your belief that good management creates good schools?
Georgina: Yeah! Definitely, and that's good management, good teaching, good mentoring and making the staff feel valued in what they do...and using school sanctions and policies that are in place. You have to follow them. If people are messing around in your lessons you must follow those procedures otherwise you'll end up with a class you won't like.
Georgina's interview shared many common features with Jasmine's. What nuanced differences that did exist between them seemed more to do with the respective length of time each had spent in schools. Yet even though Jasmine believed that music teachers could not be 'made' in the sense of having readily to conform to certain key stipulations that might be stated about their work (and which could be transcribed to paper in some kind of check-list), she was equally ready to accept that those aspects open to the possibility of measurement and to assessment, whether in relation to student performance in examinations or to the teacher's own classroom effectiveness, played a crucial part in the whole picture and should not be discounted.
RFS: So you would say that public examinations are reliable?
Jasmine: They are not unreliable. I think you have to measure something. I
think in music to measure their ability to perform and compose and listen in a
musical fashion - I think the basics are there.
RFS: You are not unsympathetic to quantificatory data?
Jasmine: I am not unsympathetic as long as it's seen as part of the
picture and that sometimes the unmeasurable is what counts. The world
cannot run on unmeasurable things.
In addition to the demands of dealing with paper-work, another area cited by many of the interviewees was the question of time, or rather the lack of it - one aspect of work intensification.
In their report on the issues surrounding secondary school teachers' working lives, MacBeath, (2004: 20) have referred to a set of systemic factors that teachers face in their daily lives which, when taken together, reduce a school staff's ability to manage poor pupil behaviour:
...the most serious [of these] is lack of time; lack of time to plan adequately,
to tailor work, to follow up on behavioural issues, to find appropriate support
to deal with learning and behavioural difficulties, or deal with students on an
individual basis. (MacBeath et al, 2004: 20)
A secondary teacher's day is difficult to represent in terms of a mean because there is so much variation dependent on the role and status of the teacher, length of service, type and location of school. Despite having different histories, career trajectories and variations in length of service and type of school, at least four out of the six interviewees in my group referred to their experience of having inadequate time for many of the tasks they saw as necessary for the discharge of their professional duties.
Elliott (2001) has stated that the performative culture within which teachers' work has been recast is one having a scant tolerance of time; people within the organisation have to be kept in a continuous state of activation, a factor which implies changes being made to the way in which the teacher's 'professional self' is conceptualised in order that the 'auditable, competitive and ever active performer' (Strathern, 2000) can be produced.
Four out of the six participants reported the experience of working within unreasonable time constraints. In answer to a question on how 'useful' she felt training days (In-Service Training for Teachers) to be, Briony complained within the first minute about the inadequate amount of time allotted to teachers enabling them to reflect upon and implement the outcomes of these days spent out of the classroom:
Briony: ...lack of time means you can't think it through properly.
RFS: So is it left hanging in the air?
When the discussion moved to the subject of the 'Literacy Hour', the issue re-appeared, but with the additional indication that it is not only teachers who experience the possibly damaging effects of unreasonable time-constraints.
Briony: The time was the biggest issue, because children don't work to a clock. But also the way it was conceived...it was the prescriptive way it was given to us. The timing was probably the biggest issue. [...] The children had no time to consolidate what they were learning because they had to move on.
Lack of time figured strongly in her reply to a question focussing on music as a subject within the national curriculum:
Briony: I think as music coordinator [music] is vital, but bringing it into the curriculum is quite challenging - for me to find the time to bring it in. Music will be the one subject that'll quietly get lost in a day.
RFS: Is it not timetabled though as a discrete subject?
Briony: Technically, yes
RFS: So why should it get lost if it's there in black and white?
Briony: Because if maths or science over-run, that's what the time will be given to. There are no markers to ends and beginnings of lessons, not in the primary sector.
Briony's perception of the limited time available for teaching music also featured in a reply she gave to a question on the ways she had adopted to prepare for music lessons on a day-to-day basis:
Briony: There is a lack of time to get the equipment ready. [...]
RFS: What would be some of the problems of classroom music today?
Briony: Finding the time to fit it in, without it being the poor end of the stick, along with everything else that has to be fitted into a very short day with very tired children at the end of it.
Music, too, can suffer from lack of time: Jasper believed that in comparison with the days before the advent of the national curriculum and school 'reforms', music was now being given far less time within the primary school day:
Jasper: Whereas in the past music was encouraged to be integrated with other subjects so that you had it used in overlapping ways - the use of language, dance and such like - that is not encouraged so much within the national curriculum. They don't like overlapping topics in the national curriculum.
RFS: So music has become less frequent, as a practice?
Jasper: Yes, and as a result, the status of music is lower than it was.
This view was shared by Florence, a teacher with considerable experience of having coordinated music at the primary level and now teaching freelance:
RFS: What are some of the problems teachers, whether in the primary or secondary sector, are likely to face today in teaching music?
Florence: Fighting for the time in the curriculum; fighting for it...to be taken seriously to be seen as being central. The time for all the coordination, not just the time in the classroom, the contact time with the kids: placing kids with instruments, liasing with parents, making sure you understand what's going on with that child in the classroom with the peri - that's not teaching contact time, and you can't do it if you don't have the time or the premises within the school day to do it.
Certain vital tasks which she saw as being central to the role of a primary music coordinator were being placed under severe pressure and marginalised by imposed time constraints. One of these was the absolute necessity to consult a pupil's parents over the issue of the most appropriate choice of musical instrument for their child. Lack of time meant that this key consultative process might be squeezed out of the daily schedules with damaging consequences for equality of opportunity and outcome for children having difficulties with learning:
Florence: ...picking up those kids who are at a disadvantage takes care, it takes time and flexibility as well... those are the things that are most under pressure. Unless you take the time to find out what the problems is, you can't...those children are going to fall through the holes. They're the ones, and you can't go into the home to give them more support. As a teacher that's not your role, but you should be given the time and resources to make the curriculum work for that child, and it might mean picking up on their particular abilities until they're generally more confident, or giving them extra time or something.
Amongst the group, Florence was the sole interviewee who articulated the existence of a link between the fact and impact of unreasonable time constraints felt on a daily basis by primary and secondary teachers and the far wider and deeper issue of social and educational inequality:
RFS: Would you agree or not that there is a pattern of growing inequality?
Florence: I am sure there is. [...] I'm sure that most teachers work their utmost against it, but I do think that all these SATS (Standard Assessment Tasks) and everything else, the idea that the school will make the biggest difference to their own league table position by concentrating on the children who fall just underneath the 'C' grade; by concentrating on those two or three children, you know, get them up to 'C', then the whole picture changes for the school. It has to be to the detriment of both the lowest achievers and the highest achievers.
Florence believed that the pressure placed upon schools and pupils by the 'A-to-C' economy (Gillborn and Youdell, 2006: 779) to achieve the first three grades in the General Certificate of Secondary Education held damaging consequences for those pupils perceived to be just below the grade 'C' achievement threshold: 'like medics in a crisis, teachers are increasingly seeking to identify those individuals who will benefit most from access to limited resources' (ibidem).
RFS: So are you saying that so much of the time is maximised in getting them above the threshold, but to the ultimate disadvantage of those below them and who are equally deserving?
Florence: Yes. To get hold of those problems and sort them out you have to have time and care.
But there were other specific areas that I wanted to direct my interviewees towards. What were their orientations towards music as a 'discrete' subject within the national curriculum? By comparing their responses with each other as well as to the critical literature, I hoped it might be possible to discover patterns in their replies.
Music in the national curriculum
In 1992 the teaching of music became a statutory requirement as part of the national curriculum. My respondents, I believed, would be well-placed to give first-hand testimonies into the nature of their relationship to the requirements of curriculum documentation and relate something of how its prescriptions were shaping everyday classroom practice. Did they feel confident over their ability to follow all the requirements of the documentation? What understandings or 'images' of 'professionalism' (Hatcher, 1994: 55-56) might appear in the answers they would give?
With the single exception of Jasper, all the interviewees were either having current experience of 'living with' the prescriptions at either the primary or secondary phase of schooling, (and in Jasmine's case, in both phases), or had had contact with its formularies at some point in their former schools. Even though Jasper had not had personal first-hand experience of teaching after the Education Reform Act of 1988, his replies were nevertheless very useful, for he could offer illustrations from his memories on the area of primary school music in that decade before the legislation was passed. He believed that a distinct teacher 'professionalism' operated in those pre-ERA years, one that had been articulated in the relative autonomy teachers had been afforded, an autonomy which contrasted favourably with what he termed the more 'mechanistic' teaching régime that was underscored by present curriculum ordinances and legislative frameworks. His conclusion had been stark: the inclusion of music as a separate subject within the curriculum had become a threat to its very status.
The stances adopted by the others turned out to be mixed. Jasmine and Georgina did not perceive the curriculum as being a matter of simply applying prescriptive formulae; rather they expressed mostly affirmative views towards curriculum content, the process of change, assessment, accountability and curriculum control, and were conspicuous in diverging markedly from much of the critical literature on these areas. Whereas these two interviewees had clearly adopted positive outlooks towards the national curriculum, (or, more accurately, in Jasmine's case, more of a 'realist', quasi- or semi-neutral stance towards it), the four other respondents articulated more critical perspectives of varying intensity. Georgina's attitude was the most approbatory: the documentation was there as a 'resource', a 'convenience', a helpful point of departure rather than arrival, especially for the newly qualified teacher:
It gives blocks on which to work at Key Stage 3 [...] It's vague enough to be able to [let you] do what you want to do with it. [...] You take from it what you need...it could be many things.
RFS: Could you teach without the national curriculum?
RFS: So wherein lies its value?
Georgina: It's a very good gauge for new teachers. When you're starting out it provides a really excellent framework. It's very useful when you're teacher training. It gives you ideas...you don't know what changes there are in the school system.
Georgina stated that by taking the specific levels of achievement laid down by the national curriculum and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), her department then converted these levels into an assessment scheme showing topic-based achievement on which her pupils were assessed and which employed words taken directly from the established attainment levels:
...the students can set their own targets as well, we say, 'These are your targets. Choose which is appropriate to you'. They love the sense of achievement and the sense of assessment, and yet they're assessing themselves as well.
Any effective transaction with music with pupils lay, for Jasmine, with the 'strength of the practitioner'. Even though the document, as she put it, 'will be on the window-sill of every school', the crucial factor was the music educator's ability over deciding what to select from the text on the basis of suitability and relevance for any specific pupil group. The similarities between Jasmine and Georgina were very prominent:
Jasmine: I am of the national curriculum. I am firmly lodged in it. You can't take it out of me. I've been taught to teach in it.
Jasmine believed that the documentation had been initially [mis]constructed by teachers as 'prescriptive': 'you could almost see the cogs moving', she stated about her own teachers' handling of it, adding that the notion that it might constitute something open to the possibility of being 'played with' had been overlooked by teachers in the early days of its reception:
I think the more enlightened realised it wasn't a straitjacket ... it was a framework you could use to climb to higher levels. I had musical models that could teach me to teach in a very musical way and taught me to be a snake-charmer and which also taught me to tick the boxes of what was required for the national curriculum.
[...] you do have freedom with the national curriculum.
This viewpoint resonated with Georgina's but was diametrically opposite to Jasper's; both Jasmine and Georgina were expressing positive convictions over the value of having music as a 'foundation' subject, Jasmine believing that the subject could have escaped inclusion in favour of Drama. But its presence within the legislative framework guaranteed that at long last its inherent worth had been recognised, its presence safeguarded. Nevertheless, Jasmine qualified her stance by admitting that for those teachers who encouraged a radical creativity in their pupils by embracing an activist approach to music teaching in class throughout the 1980s, - 'those,' as she put it, 'with fire in their bellies' - the appearance of a prescribed curriculum 'suddenly coming down on them' must have seemed disheartening, almost a rebuke.
Whilst the fact of music's inclusion as a mandatory curriculum subject had been similarly welcomed by Briony, she detailed her several misgivings over some of the commercially produced 'teacher-proof' packaged curriculum materials now available. The classroom use of these artefacts could produce disastrous consequences. The quote below is long, but it is included here because the answers and assumptions offered cover a wide landscape:
RFS: What has been your experience of music in the national curriculum?
Briony: It's still a poor subject... some children desperately need music lessons because they don't get it outside school anymore. They never see live performances unless it's on television. It's finding the time to bring it in. [...]
RFS: How comprehensive do you feel is the national curriculum's understanding and handling of music?
Briony: No: it came very close to being lost completely. Fortunately, there are enough diehards in the profession who do see its purpose and function. The government seems to have woken up recently but they're not putting the finance in to back it up.
RFS: Do you feel the national curriculum in music is a suitable basis for all schools, all classes, all pupils?
Briony: The schemes have taken it on. Schools buy in a scheme. A lot of teachers now feel confident to do more because it [the 'scheme'] doesn't offer enough for the children...any teacher can teach it just by reading the book. The outcome is not necessarily musical because the staff don't understand what they're supposed to be teaching. It can be a complete switch-off for any child who is so bored because of what they're having to listen to or do that they don't want to do it anymore, but it [the 'scheme'] does give some children an opening into music.
RFS: Where do you see the value of music?
Briony: It has a vital role because children no longer have the access to it that they did in the past. They don't sing at home, very few parents play instruments. Their parents have very little understanding of it. They [i.e.their children] have no real input from humans and to be able to access it through the classroom, through choirs, teaching, is vital.
Briony's observation on her pupils' 'lack of musical experiences' outside school contrasted sharply with Georgina's antithetical viewpoint. For Georgina, the challenge for music education and for her pupils lay not in musical deprivation but in the width and range of what existed outside the classroom. The contrast between these two teacher interpretations of life beyond the school gates could not be greater. Compare this quotation with the one before:
Georgina: ...students have access to music we didn't before. Now you can go and access anything from across the world, there's so much more diversity. Access is everywhere. That's change, and when you say to the student, 'When was the last time you saw live music?' there was a time when they'd go, 'I saw it in an opera Miss'. Now students say, 'there's Music on the Green', there's so much more access, and that impacts on what happens in the classroom.
Georgina and Jasmine apart, the other interviewees gave mixed, sometimes ambivalent, responses; in Kurt's case, a tempered disparagement towards the documentation was mixed with conditional approval of it. At the beginning of his career, Kurt had already noticed a disjunction between the demands of the Office for Standards in Education and the national curriculum's orders for music. Moreover, both he and Florence shared the belief that the documentation appeared to occupy an unsatisfactory 'middle way', being 'vague, but at the same time limiting': it 'had to evolve' (Kurt); it was 'completely open to interpretation' (Florence). But to Georgina such a want of specificity had constituted one of its strengths: 'you take from it what you need', whilst, likewise, for Jasmine the use of the documentation did not necessarily imply that the music teacher was compelled to view the ordinances as a prescriptive straitjacket. These two extracts from the interviews held with Kurt and Florence bring out the nuances between them:
RFS: What has been your experience of music in the national curriculum?
Kurt: ...what OFSTED [Office for Standards in Education] are looking for and what the national curriculum says it's looking for and requires, kind of don't relate. [...] If OFSTED were to come into that lesson and just watch a performance, they'd probably mark that as just a 'satisfactory' lesson because there's no proof of progression, it's just they're watching something. [...] What the national curriculum is looking for is not necessarily what OFSTED are looking for. [...] It doesn't leave space for thinking outside the box and approach something in a new way. OFSTED wouldn't look kindly on that and we'd be thought of as doing bad practice.
Florence was puzzled not only by the point and purpose of the document: 'I'm not sure who it's directed at exactly', but by the curriculum's 'undemanding' requirements, which, to a primary classroom teacher 'must seem pretty meaningless'. In being both 'unspecific' yet also 'restrictive', the wording came over as a flawed compromise between being both over-specific and insufficiently specific, and therefore completely open to [mis]interpretation by the non-specialist primary teacher.
Florence:...their point to me was that they didn't know what it was trying to get at, so what do they teach the children, other than 'to sing a song' - 'the pupils should be able to memorise a short song'..., but it doesn't talk about intonation, about how you teach singing, anything like that. It just says, 'you should be able to memorise a short song'. I'm not sure what that really means. [...] The point for the children is that there is sufficient time and resources within the curriculum to undertake music. And by resources I mean not only space, instruments, but people - highly trained people.
Florence described her own school days and intense involvement with practical music making at her primary school in the 1980s and contrasted them with her perceptions of what pupils were experiencing now. The 'immense freedom' given to her own teachers had given her the opportunity eventually to become a professional musician, but she was now only too well aware of a shift away from trust in the professionals towards an essentially monitoring régime:
- I don't think I'd have the opportunity to become a musician had I not gone to an extremely musical primary school...and the teachers within that school had, what would now be considered immense freedom in what they were doing...the vast projects we did with huge concerts, and if the sun was shining we'd go out, play cricket, we'd put on plays...we composed the music for them, we sang all the time, we played chamber music and we pursued our interests in the broadest possible way. I don't think that's the norm now. There's now much more emphasis on 'you must be doing your maths, you must be doing this bit, that bit'.
I don't think we had any awareness of that...
CHAPTER FOUR: INTERPRETATION OF THE FINDINGS
The paucity of material in the published literature dealing with music teachers' experiences of schooling reform was a factor I could not but be aware of; the area seemed un[der]developed and was overlooked in the research literature, and the only certain conclusion I could draw was that whatever judgements might be suggested by any analytical overview of what I had heard, transcribed and tape-recorded, they could, at best, be no more than tentative. Of critical literature on educational reform there was no shortage; much of it I had in mind when trying to interpret and understand the results on the simple basis of whether or not participants were reflecting affirmative or critical stances towards education reform in general. But applying even this beguilingly simple category proved to be problematical, for whilst it would be one thing for a respondent to express aversion towards discharging the obligations of 'paper work', it was quite another to assume that the expression of any antipathy to it reflected a much wider hostility towards the bureaucratisation of teaching in general, still less towards the macro-social, political and economic processes in operation that were fuelling the 'drive to efficiency' embodied by burgeoning bureaucratisation. Moreover, few hostile attitudes towards the testing of students were encountered, Briony expressing the strongest reaction towards national tests: 'public exams hinder the children's education. They are useful only to the government'. Testing, whether statutory or not, did have its advocates amongst at least three of my respondents. Other equivocations might appear; a critical disposition towards one aspect of a larger question could be enclosed within an affirmative framework, and vice versa. However, with curriculum issues occupying a substantial part of each interview, five respondents were able to draw on their past or present experience of engagement and working with the orders for music. Here was a touchstone useful for estimating the degree to which participants were revealing compliance towards the way in which their teaching roles and those of others had undergone substantial reordering through the reforming project of the national curriculum.
The curriculum legislation has been in place for some two decades,
a span of time that some readers might see as weakening the case for using this area as a more general benchmark for estimating the strength of teacher acquiescence or resistance to more general aspects of teaching reform. I did not see it this way. All six were, or had been, music teachers; the experience of music remained the central component, not merely of their professional lives, but of their whole life. That stated, my reasoning ran along these lines: how could individuals displaying such commitment to this art form and to the job of engaging children with it, be unaware of, (or unconcerned) with the way in which control of the curriculum, had shifted, albeit virtually two decades ago, to central government? At some point in the subject's past a strategic viewpoint must have been operationally taken towards this shift. Failing that, in possibly not wishing to be treated as a largely passive recipient of change or innovation planned on his/her behalf by others, (Kelly, 1990: 105) interviewees might have adopted a policy of 'negotiation' towards the text, adapting its ordinances to the contexts of their own teaching and the norms of their own group. On the basis of this premise, then, would I find 'negotiators' or 'critics' and with what implications for understandings of 'teacher professionalism'? What follows is an interpretation of each interviewee's account, not only of their stance towards national curriculum music but also (if they had surfaced in any particular interview) to the other related issues of management, work intensification and accountability.
What were the interviewees telling me?
A strong sense of history emerged from the teachers in my group, most of whom had lived through series of changes, sometimes, particularly in Briony's case, seeing them come back full circle. The additional workload brought about by national initiatives was having an impact on at least three of my respondents, whilst ambivalences expressed over the reforms of the past two decades from other interviewees centred on the constant revision and upgrading of schemes of work, the lack of consolidation and the accompanying paperwork.
Whilst the misgivings expressed over excessive paperwork and restricted time were not confined to Briony's testimony, they were most strenuously expressed by this respondent. The issue of 'professionalism' surfaced several times in her account and was related to a notion of teacher flexibility: the 'Literacy Hour', a key national initiative that had initially, on its introduction, disrupted established routines in her school, had shown an increase in flexibility and freedom, a factor which Briony believed reflected a trend towards a recognition on the part of national government of teachers' professionalism. Teaching, Briony believed, was becoming 'less grim' and 'more pleasurable', the theme of a 'new' professionalism at work, returning and being developed amongst teachers resonating throughout her interview. However, this optimistic outlook seemed at odds with the attitude she had shown towards her school's use of 'pre-packaged' curriculum materials, for although she was aware of their weaknesses, especially when used in the classroom by inexperienced teachers, lacking in her testimony was any criticism of the principle itself of perpetuating such a practice.
Jasper, the only ex-teacher among in the group of six, also revealed a strong sense of history, and in common with the last respondent, he too voiced critical perspectives towards the area of music in the national curriculum. But whereas Briony had welcomed the presence of the subject within the legal ordinances, Jasper believed that the inclusion of music as a prescribed subject lowered its status and led to a diminution of musical understanding and participation in the primary school: 'There's less music than before'. Believing that in pre-national curriculum times encouragement was given to the integration of music with other subjects, the very subject-centredness of the current regime inhibited such overlapping; by turning music, as a curriculum subject, into a discrete area with strong boundary limits of time (the timetable) and space (structural restrictions), the status of music had been jeopardised by constrictions on available time, by 'box-ticking' and an emphasis on a more 'rigid and mechanistic' framework. Believing that 'science and mathematics' had 'squeezed music out', he raised the question as to whether music should be an isolated area of the curriculum or integrated with other curriculum areas. In the end, he believed, it should be both.
Of all the respondents, Georgina was conspicuous in offering the most affirmative perspectives towards both national initiatives and the place of music in the curriculum. Apart from expressing some puzzlement and misgivings over some aspects of the paperwork she was expected to attend to, her account, the longest of the six interviews, indicated that a new 'value-added' entrepreneurially- based professionalism appears to be at work amongst the profession. Georgina expressed positive attitudes towards teacher-training days in her school, towards teacher accountability, and towards the practice shown by her headteacher of monitoring staff to ensure that students obtain the examination grade that they are predicted to attain. Georgina was an experienced examination moderator as well as a dynamic and self-assured head of a busy and active music department. However, when pressed, she admitted the presence of more 'hoops' for the music teacher to negotiate than before and she was prepared to criticise one examination board for what she held to be its inaccessibility and 'poor ability to communicate effectively' with heads of music departments. As for music as a curriculum subject, she believed national curriculum music represented 'the beginnings' and was valuable in so far as it offered scope for a wide range of possible interpretations. Music, she believed, was for all pupils, and she contrasted the way in which her department had carried this precept through the school and throughout her incumbency against the relatively more élitist situation she had encountered when she arrived at the school eight years before. Her attitude to the fact and presence of school-based management was equally positive: 'good management creates good schools', as was the stance she took to the 'window dressing' opportunities that practical musical making and performing offered to the school in a competitive world: clearly, here was a music teacher who believed wholeheartedly in the practice of school promotion in a competitive environment, where attracting new pupils to the school was a prime concern with the object of weaning their parents away from considering the merits of the nearby independent school. Music had a key role to play within such an agenda.
In common with Georgina, Jasmine voiced mostly affirmative views towards national initiatives. Although no longer teaching in schools, her testimony offered a vivid account of her previous work in them, detailing, for example, her involvement with developing her pupils' understanding of, and participation in the processes of the music of John Cage. Brought up entirely within the era of the national curriculum, Jasmine created the initial impression of someone who had never existed 'outside the box', so to speak: her whole life as a professional musician and music educator had been formed from within the world of the prescribed formulary. Indeed, she had known nothing else. In a view that resonated with that of Georgina's, she held national curriculum music to be, at best, only 'partial', that what remains accessible to measurement 'is only that which is measurable'. How can the emotional embodiment of musicality, she asked rhetorically (and realistically), be transcribed on to a piece of paper? Equally realistic was her belief that the appearance of prescribed curriculum documentation 'must have seemed not only a justification of "caution" in the practices of some music teachers, but interpreted (wrongly, she believed) as a disheartening rebuke to those teachers who were already well advanced along the road of creative and radical music education. With the 'best teachers willing to go to the edge of chaos', the 'comfort' offered by the pages of curriculum documentation, all neatly bound with a ring-file, might merely produce pupil passivity. Always the strength came from the practitioner, someone who had to know the documentation well enough to be able to 'use and abuse it'. Paperwork had engendered a 'fear' of it amongst teachers. Equally so, school-based management was something that had to be managed. In these and in other respects, Jasmine's testimony resonated very strongly with that of Georgina's. Here too was some indication of a new 'revised' teacher entrepreneurial-based professionalism at work.
Kurt, now facing his first year as a Newly Qualified Teacher, offered a testimony that was both immediate and critical and began with strong indications that he was forming a resigned, almost ironic detachment from what the bureaucratic obligations of his present post at a secondary school expected him to do. His attitude to national initiatives in school was neither affirmative nor strongly critical - though criticisms were offered of certain aspects of the contemporary situation in schooling, and in a complete reversal of what both Georgina and Jasmine had stated about it, the curriculum failed to promote 'thinking outside the box' - 'it's vague, but at the same time limiting', yet the understanding it showed over music was 'pretty good', even though the notion of pupil 'enjoyment' of music was conspicuously absent from the formularies. In common with both Briony and Georgina, he perceived paperwork to be tedious in the way it deflected his time away from teaching, and, in his case, encroached on his life outside the school, especially at weekends. And just as Jasmine had acknowledged the difficulties of quantifying the 'good music teacher', so Kurt conceded that a factor such as 'pupil enjoyment' remained equally elusive to measurement. Those responsible for maintaining and monitoring the life of the national curriculum as a presence within schools had to adopt a developmental view of it: it needed to evolve, teachers had to be engaged and consulted about it. What could not be measured, he believed, were those things that he excelled in doing. As with Briony, Georgina and Jasmine, here, too, was a teacher committed absolutely to helping young people engage with music.
The most critical viewpoints towards national initiatives were advanced by Florence, another respondent who held that much of the paperwork tasks teachers are confronted with are time-consuming and unnecessary. Florence believed that whilst music should always be a presence in the lives of primary school pupils, the nature and material content of the prescriptions in force over almost the last two decades in the ordinances appeared, both to herself and her colleagues, neither relevant nor sensible: the wording, in seeming to inhabit an uncomfortable 'middle road', was 'meaningless', 'open to interpretation' and insufficiently specific. Why was it, she asked, so unspecific? Was it to promote a diversity of teacher approach to teaching music, or were there other reasons? Furthermore, the ordinances ignored two of the most fundamental aspects of school music education, (i) the issue of material, instrumental and financial resources, and (ii) the question of adequate space in the school being available for pupil activity in music. There was a narrowing of horizons, of freedom, both for the teacher and the pupil and, in common with Kurt, Florence had noticed the conspicuous absence of the word 'enjoyment' in the formularies. Even though 'pupil enjoyment' in music might still be a valued quality in the education transaction, believed in privately and unofficially by the teacher, such a concept was nowhere to be found in the relevant pages, nor was it, she believed at the fore 'of what people are concerned with now'. As to who 'owned' the curriculum, i.e. the question of 'who it was for', this remained a matter about which she was unsure. Trusting the professionals had given way to 'watching their every move', a displacement which had had the effect of devaluing teachers in the parental collective estimation. Under these circumstances, who would want to enter the profession? Moreover, the severe restrictions over the time given to music meant not only the increased likelihood that music would not be taken seriously, but, more particularly, would impede one of the important factor in encouraging primary pupils to engage with it: the requirement that the music teacher consult with the parents over the suitability of specific musical instruments for their children to learn: 'liasing with parents is vital' she emphasised, 'you need time to ascertain what the problems are, otherwise the already disadvantaged will fall through the holes'. Depriving teachers of their professionalism, she believed, gave parents the impression that whatever they asked for on behalf of their children, they could have. 'It doesn't work like that', she concluded, 'and it creates problems for the children'.
Research into the attitudes of working music teachers, whether peripatetic or classroom based, towards the expectations now demanded of them is still in its early stages, and future enquiry should undertake a far more broad-based investigation eliciting the responses of a far greater number of respondents than the six who comprised the group with whom I worked. Such a project would address several related questions such as issues of professional identity amongst both classroom and peripatetic school staff and the way by which music teachers of whatever kind come to construct their 'sense of self' around their work.(Britzman, 1992; Baker,2005b) Another might explore the tensions surrounding issues of professionality as they apply to musicians working in schools and to investigate the extent to which music, as a subject area, works to restrict opportunities for career promotion (Drummond, 2001:11). Furthermore, with official discourses persistently calling for 'improved standards of achievement and quality of education through regular independent inspection, public reporting and informed advice' (Ofsted, 1995), how are teachers negotiating the consequences resulting from the adjustments made to the practice of education so that it corresponds more closely to the needs and preferences of the economic system, and with what cost to themselves are these negotiations conducted? Are teachers, as Menter et al (1997: 115) have suggested, living out the imposed restructuring of their work in terms of 'fractured and fragmented identities'? Or do they have multi-facetted, rather than fragmented, selves enabling them to demonstrate specific and general skills at developing strategies to match and to apply to particular situations?
In encouraging the recognition that all human beings are complex and active readers of their cultures, a poststructuralist view of identity might enable us to better appreciate and understand the many dilemmas which teachers, as well as their pupils, boys and girls, face at school. This dissertation represents a preliminary glimpse into these matters.
In this section I want to offer an account of the methods and procedures used to interview the six music teachers who participated in the project and to report on the findings.
Four out of the six teachers who were eventually interviewed were based in my immediate locality and with only one exception - an ex-primary teacher who had taught music in the primary phase in the early and mid-1980s - were currently working in schools, mostly in the secondary sector.
The sampling process had begun in February, 2009 with the sending out of seventeen letters to heads of music departments and other music teachers working in schools, the letters of invitation offering information on the project and explaining that its purpose was driven by a desire to obtain knowledge and understanding over how music teachers might describe, perceive and understand their roles as both musicians and educators working in schools at the present time. In describing the sampling process as a combination of both 'haphazard' and 'convenience' elements, the decision made as to who would be initially targeted had been arrived at by a random selection of mostly secondary heads of departments, as well as some primary teachers with responsibilities for coordinating music in their schools, and all working within a radius of eighteen miles from my house. With only two exceptions the sampling unit consisted of individuals who were unknown to me, as indeed were their schools. In about half of the sampling unit the names of these music teachers had appeared on their respective school's website. Although I had no clear, stated, well-defined rationale for basing my sample on this particular number, my expectation was that this number, selected as much for practical reasons as for any other, would go some way towards ensuring that the types of schools in which the group of music teachers were operating would show some variety and variation and, I hoped, possibly reflect something of the proportional mix in the population as a whole, thus enabling me to make generalisations, albeit tentatively, on the basis of the results.
In the end, the final size of the unit amounted to six; my conclusion had been that, amongst other reasons some unknown others surmised at, work pressures were preventing the majority of those individuals who had received my letters from taking part in the project. The small size of the final unit of interviewees whom I had at my disposal prompted inescapable reflections over interviewee representativeness, for any statements I might make about music teachers' work and their perceptions of it merely on the basis of six teachers would have to be, at best, cautious. Nevertheless, I was prepared to undertake the project in the attempt to scrutinise an area that I felt was receiving less than adequate attention in the published literature. I wanted to enter and explore the nature of these six individuals' experiences in and out of the classroom, to get a flavour of their professional lives as musicians and educators and to search for possible answers to questions such as:
1. What were some of the tasks they found 'enjoyable' What did they find onerous and why, and how might the execution of 'enjoyable' and 'onerous' tasks be related?
2. What was their experience of music as a curriculum subject within the national curriculum, and what stances did they adopt to curriculum documentation?
3. What was their experience of classroom inspections of their work with pupils and of their dealings with OFSTED inspectors?
4. What perceptions did they hold over the attitudes of their headteachers towards music, and the attitudes of parents?
5. How might interviewees view extra-curricular music activities within the life of the school and in relation towards the whole school curriculum?
My belief was that by posing questions pitched at the everyday patterns of their working lives it might be possible to glean some insight, however limited, into the wider areas dealt with by the critical literature I had read on schooling reform and the reconstruction of teaching. I hope that such questions as the ones I had planned to ask would bring to the surface something of the attitudes, perceptions, reflections and understandings the respondents might have towards a range of different areas affecting their work and would, I hoped, touch on insights into some of the issues raised in the first two chapters. There were three closely interrelated areas none of which appeared to be grounded in certainty: (1) I could not predict as to whether the questions put to the participants would necessarily perform in the way that I was hoping of them; (2) I was also unsure as to how any connections, if such were to emerge, might be forged between (i) my interviewees' responses and (ii) the themes I wanted to explore. The sole certainty appeared to be that the existence of such links might be hard to substantiate, that they might appear ultimately inconclusive or unacceptably attenuated - at the least, far from obvious. I believed that making them would not be a straightforward exercise. A third dilemma resided in the interpretation of individual interviewee orientations towards some of the critical perspectives that the literature on schooling reform and the reconstruction of teachers' work was advancing. More precisely, I was unsure as to the stances individual interviewees might take, not specifically so much towards the themes, debates and critical perspectives advanced by this literature but, to be more accurate, towards my own interpretation of this literature and the personal understandings I had come to form from familiarising myself with it. I surmised that at the simplest level, in the event of identifiable interviewee orientations rising to the surface, such standpoints could be open to interpretation as being either affirmative towards the literature (or rather to my own interpretations and personally held understandings of it) - and hence towards the existing social, economic and political dispensation and their position as teacher operatives within it - or, conversely, more critical of these factors: viewpoints might well appear neither complementing nor harmonising with the analytical understandings on schooling reform and the reconstitution of teachers' work that the critical literature on these areas was advancing. But there was a third possibility, one that existed beyond mere corroboration or denial - that of ambiguity; respondents might express perspectives that simultaneously confirmed and denied the critical literature.
The themes I wanted to surface in the interviews included the changing nature of teacher professionalism and professionality; the reality of teachers now operating in schools affected by globalising movements; questions relating to the tensions between teacher, professional autonomy on the one hand, and on the other, the fact that the subject area of music had become embedded within a regime of curriculum prescriptiveness, a regime that could be viewed, on the face of it, as constituting substantive challenges towards certain traditional understandings of both musicianship and teacher professionality.
The questions were therefore worded in an intentionally ambivalent way, designed to minimise the prompting of answers or any rhetorical implications. If a particular issue was raised, then the prominence it had assumed in the interview had occurred without either consultation or elicitation, the matter then taken to be significant as a reflection of the respondent's viewpoints or concerns. Even though the lived experiences of every participant would require interpretation (and thus call for some overt detachment between myself and what perspectives might be aired), I knew that I would feel implicated in whatever the interviewees might say; my own experiences might well be mirrored in some of their responses. As Lucy Green has said, teachers' impressions come from historically informed, collective and powerful perspectives on their work as well as on music, and it can never be a matter of whether or not people produce 'right' or 'wrong' answers to questions. (Green, 1997:149). In attempting to address these questions my focus would therefore have to be concentrated on the responses given to my questions by the six interviewees who had assented to participating in the project.
The interviews took place between March and May 2009 and were conducted in a variety of locations: in the office of a departmental Head of a Music at her school, in my house, in an interviewee's sitting room at her own house, and two in the Institute of Education, University of London. One interview, that with the ex-primary school teacher took place in the office of a national charity organisation, that being his current place of work. The fact that respondents were individually interviewed appeared to hold two practical advantages: (i) of promoting ease of rapport as well as the opportunity of my re-emphasising to them the assurance of their absolute anonymity and the confidentiality that would be afforded to their responses, and (ii) the enabling of the flexible exploration of each question or issue in as much depth or superficiality as either of us might wish.
All six interviews were tape-recorded. Four out of the six participants were currently working in schools, one of them a primary teacher of long-standing experience, whilst the other two in the group of six were no longer working as teachers in schools of whatever kind. These two comprised a respondent who had taught in the primary phase in the mid- and late eighties, the other a former doctoral student who had been teaching in the secondary phase in the early 1990s. Despite the small size of the group that had become available to me, a group with whom I would have to work, these six very different people might well be able to present a considerable range and diversity of viewpoints in their responses to questions on their working lives. My expectation was that whatever might be their immediate circumstances, all six participants would be able to draw on a rich vein of experience, either as a result of their present circumstances as employees of schools or pieced together from whatever personal memories they had formed autobiographically from their past careers spent working in the classroom. The two subjects now no longer teaching in schools would, I believed, be able offer valuable insights not only into a period of education history that existed just before the appearance of the national curriculum but also perspectives relating to their own memories of the early life of this legislative framework and how it was implemented in the classroom. Thus, the perspectives drawn on the past and present lives of six, if not more, teachers working in schools were to be represented in the interviews.
Although only two of the interviewees were already known to me, the atmosphere generated by all six interactions remained as they had begun: affable, animated and purposeful, with each interview carried forward by its own internal dynamic and a noticeable sense of momentum. The interviews proved to be enjoyable experiences for my participants, all of whom had welcomed an opportunity, infrequently encountered, to 'state their case' within the structured and measured framework that was afforded them.
Although I had prepared a list of 39 questions to ask, I knew in advance that it might be neither feasible not possible to adhere in a rigid manner to this particular format since special points raised by particular interviewees at any point might warrant further development and therefore extended time for exploring them. Although aware that the issue of interviewee comparability might be invoked by the adoption of this rather freer approach to the interview format, I was prepared to take this risk in the expectation that minor variations in the wording and in the list of questions directed to respondents would not impose restrictions on my interviewees' emerging perspectives since the aim was to ensure that the areas of enquiry I was hoping to probe would eventually be covered by the totality of their responses. Rather than ensure that every question would be asked, and in the order it had been listed, I came to view the question list as providing a supporting framework, a check list, present on paper if the flow became impeded for any reason, but also serving as an aide-mémoire reminding me to cover the area of enquiry that formed the structural basis of each interview. During the replies I recorded the replies of each participant into a book, a process that I found aided concentration and enabled me, at this preliminary stage, not only to process more precisely at the time what each interviewee was saying but also to seek from them further clarification over their answers whenever I felt that to be necessary. At the end of the interview I thanked the interviewees, asking them as to whether, by way of return, they had any question that they would like to ask me. The process of transcribing each interview after each session had the advantage of aiding preparation for the next interview. Several weeks later I wrote a second set of written transcripts from the tape recordings.
The overriding purpose of holding these interviews was to acquire some insight into the interviewees' own professional understandings, their own internal, or possibly collective conceptions of what 'being a teacher' - and in this case, a music teacher - had come to mean for them, and in particular as to whether, even if only in sparse outline, it would be possible to discern the emergence of a new mode of professionality motivating them in their daily work and operating, however covertly, in their self-understandings. If it was the case that, for example, that the work of teachers had indeed become reconfigured, even colonised by the culture of competitive performativity, a culture which, in involving targets, incentives and a thoroughgoing re-regulation of their work in the classroom, had come to affect the very acts and activities of teaching as well as the constitutent subjectivities of the teachers themselves, then what indications of the presence of this culture might be disclosed in their responses to my questions? If within this new 'regulative ensemble' (Aglietta, 1979: 101) in which teachers have come to be represented and encouraged to think about themselves as individuals who, in the quest for increased productivity, are constantly adding value to themselves, are exhorted to live an existence of calculation in their striving for excellence as 'enterprising subjects' and even viewing their lives as 'an enterprise of the self' (Rose, 1989), then what evidence might be found about this ensemble of regulation in my interviewees' responses? How would such evidence appear and to what extent would it be visible or recognisable not only to me but to them? How might I able to square, if it was feasible to do so, what they would say with what the critical literature had stated concerning schooling and educational change?
Although I wanted to conceive each interview as being essentially a conversational partnership, an essentially unique event, the consistent aim was to arrive at a more focussed, more in-depth and more detailed outcome than that more likely to be gained through the medium of ordinary conversation. I was seeking particular information and in doing so was responsible for guiding the discussion, leading it through stages, asking focused questions and trying to encourage the interviewee to answer in depth and at length. I was aware too that since in qualitative interviewing one person does most of the questioning and the other does most of the answering, the interviews would, by definition, be a less 'balanced' interaction than the patterns of ordinary conversation and might involve a certain degree of unpredictability over exactly which issues raised by any individual interviewee would acquire a heightened degree of prominence or emphasis. Whilst this unpredictability was always present there were, nevertheless, certain themes appearing to be common to several of the interviewees and which were aired in their responses; one of these themes was to appear at the beginning of several of the interviews. The necessity of obtaining responses that had depth remained a consistent overall aspiration. The interviewees knew of my familiarity with their world and hence recognised that to offer superficial answers to the questions put to them would not help the project.
The interviews were tape recorded with the initial transcripts written into a book at the time of each interview. Each taped interview was replayed several times with the purpose of transcribing the six conversations into a complete verbatim account so as to begin the tasks of classifying, comparing, weighing and combining the material. The focus was on combing for thematic patterns disclosed by the responses my interviewees had offered. Very early on in the post-interview stage it had become clear that these tasks would involve interpretation; they were not mere clerical exercises. Through learning how to negotiate the variances between two modes, those of oral speech and written text, particular concerns were to surface. Six conversational interactions had evolved between two physically present persons, one of whom had been their co-producer and co-author. The totality of the discourse required transformation into a fixed form whereby although the content would be rendered abstract and amenable to analysis, the transcriptional act would try to respect a sense of the essential incompleteness of six conversations within which multiple meanings were being continuously unfolded. Certain aspects of these inter-subjective enterprises would be inaccessible to the out-of-context reader of the transcript: voice tone, the pace of the temporal unfolding, non-verbal communication and general physical expression would remain impenetrable. Moreover, this abstraction process appeared very early on in the project's life: at the time of each interview, with abstraction already happening by the fact of having each interview recorded. Immediately subtracted from the totality of each live interaction were the postures and gestures of the participants. As Steinar Kvale and Svend Brinkmann (2009:178) have written (in Interviews: learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing. Sage): '...transcripts are impoverished, decontextualised renderings of live interview conversations'; they are translations from an oral language to a written language, for what is said in the hermeneutical tradition of translators pertains likewise to the transcriber: traduire traittori: the translator is a traitor. However, the discourses were not mere collections of statements. There seemed to me no alternative viewpoint that could be taken towards these displacement exercises; for the purposes of analysis and interpretation, the interviewees' spoken texts had to be translated from one mode to another via the aural recordings. Awareness of the special qualities of these different language games triggered private speculations over the seemingly paradoxical nature of such an enterprise. On the one hand, no reasonably reliable interview analysis could occur until the interviews had been converted in their entirety to written transcriptions, yet on the other, by having six live interactions displaced to six written texts the selfsame interviews would be lending themselves to processes that were not merely exercises in mediation, however accurate their eventual transcription to the written format, but also subject to a transposition that would 'disembody' them, crucially depriving them from their totality certain closely related, key features.
These quandaries apart, it became necessary order to develop a sound sense of what the material was saying; only by making extensive and continuous immersions into it would it be possible to condense and interpret its meanings. May, 2009. But the analysis had already begun very early on in the project's history, long before the final transcripts were written; it had started during the examination of the first few interviews carried out to ensure the project was making sense and that the outcomes were focussing on matters important to my conversational partners. As each interview was completed I re-surveyed its landscape, scrutinising its substance to gauge not only what had been learnt from it but what it was that remained to be learnt. Besides the recordings, I had three sets of written transcriptions, a notebook that carried written records of significant elements of each interview and a set of summaries of each interview made after writing the second transcript. I began the process of fragmenting the interview texts into several interlaced data units.
One preliminary task had involved opening a file containing personal memoranda on each interview. Included amongst its contents were some memorable quotes my participants had made, fragments that could facilitate the quest for the presence of thematic relationships used for the final analysis. I was investigating how teachers were attempting to manage the management of their performance, and the kinds of attitudes they were bringing to the 'ethos' and rationalist ideology of school-based managerialism. At least two prominent responses had seemed to provide answers to this problematic:
RFS: So is it your belief that good management creates good schools?
Georgina: Yeah! Definitely! And that's good management, good mentoring,
good staff and making sure that staff feel valued in what they do.
...one cannot reasonably conclude...that 'good' management and teaching are
responsible for school 'success'. In fact, [the evidence]...would appear to
suggest that the opposite is true: that school 'success' contributes to 'good'
management, and school 'failure' contributes to less 'effective' management
and teaching. (Gewirtz, 2002: 113-114)
The juxtaposition here is deliberate. To be sure, Gewirtz is not suggesting that 'good management' (my quotes), nor, for that matter, the nature of the school's catchment area, are of no consequence in the effects produced by these factors either on the quality of schools or the teaching carried out in them. Rather more is she suggesting it to be the case that the various components that are habitually viewed as contributing to 'effective schools' (my quotes) exist in a highly complex, closely interlinked way, and that both parties, managers and teachers, within the institution are not immune from the influences of the socio-economic and discursive environments within which they and their work are positioned:
In short, 'internal', school-based determinants of 'success', do not operate
independently of 'external' context-based determinants - and any analysis of
'effective' schooling that does not recognise this must be regarded as deeply
flawed. (Gewirtz, 2002:114)
Earlier in this chapter I referred to the multiplicity of meanings that can be posed to a text in analysis, with the possibility of different questions leading to different answers. No only throughout the duration of each of my interviews, but long before, when preparing the interview protocol itself, I was aware of the likelihood of my own presuppositions entering into the interviews via the selected questions I was intending to pose, questions which might well run the risk of codetermining the subsequent analysis. Several other anxieties were surfacing but invoking no clear answers. Was the purpose of text interpretation to be about uncovering the interviewee's intended meaning? Or should the aim be rather more to analyse the meaning the text was having for me? Which should be interpreted, the 'letter' of the text, or its 'spirit'? Should the analysis include wider frames of understanding than that of the subjects themselves, and adopt a critical slant towards what was said, focussing not merely on the statement's content but also on the person making it? Should the interviewees' responses be analysed on a manifest level, or should the purpose be to delve more into whatever latent meanings they might enclose, meanings of which the subjects might not be aware? Throughout the project's duration, the main preoccupation had been how to eschew the peril of tendentiously heeding only a particular kind of evidence, namely that which appeared to underprop certain convictions formed from my understandings gleaned from the critical literature; to overlook any counterevidence and therefore merely to reproduce and elucidate statements justifying my own perspectives would have signalled a distinctly biased subjectivity on my part and it was one I was concerned to expel.
The data coding that followed centred on the search and the eventual isolation from the text of particular themes and issues that I was looking for and which I trusted would appear in the interviews. Whilst some of these thematic references had surfaced as a response to questions deliberately targeted at invoking them, others had come to the fore less directly, the participant either referring to them en passant, or alluding to them more obliquely, perhaps within responses offered to questions directed at other areas. Within the coding process was a dynamic of which, at the time, I was only partially aware whereby the very selection of specific themes I was making was not remaining unaffected by the contents of each interview, nor indeed by the interviews as a whole. A subtle process appeared to be in motion, one involving a measure of accommodation and fine adjustment on my part to what had finally become material now recorded on tape and transcribed into a text, yet whether this (sub) process, if such it was, constituted something of a compromise I was not sure. The act of repeatedly reading through the transcripts and listening to the tapes was having the unexpected effect of fine tuning what it was I was looking for and thus what would constitute the final list of themes meriting isolation and coding. At any rate, it was becoming clear that any decision made as to what to code would eventually shape what conclusions might be drawn from undertaking the analysis.
The transcripts were coded therefore on the basis of the data the participants had provided. If, for example, a label for 'stress', was discovered lacking, then it would not be possible to develop themes based on stress. One text was found especially helpful at this stage: in offering a critical account of secondary school teachers' current working lives, the document, A Life in Secondary Teaching: finding time for learning (MacBeath et al, April 2004) was found particularly useful during the coding process since this study offered very focussed descriptions of key aspects of the working day of teachers, and suggesting possible themes I could isolate when working with my own transcriptions. Whilst not wishing to use this text as the sole source for coding categories, (since to have done so might have seriously deflected attention away from the original insights provided by my own interviewees), the study was useful nevertheless in having some correspondence to my own enquiries. Having coded the interviews by marking each data unit with the chosen labels, (some drawn from, or suggested by the above document, others emerging from the interviews themselves) the material was then grouped by assembling the data units bearing the same title into a single file, the process enabling me not only to view how the concept had been seen overall but to search for nuances in the way the concept had been used by participants.
My interviewees' narratives had been examined in detail and literature used to gain ideas on what themes and concepts to code together with definitions worked out before physical coding occurred, the belief being that coding, recognising concepts and themes, and the development of theory constituted parts of one integrated process. An attempt had been made to combine two separate coding processes: the list of concepts and themes to be applied to the interviews was combined with the more exacting task of trying to code each passage of every interview. The adoption of what seemed to be a somewhat hybrid coding model, occupying a mid-way position between the responsive interviewing formal coding schema model and the grounded theory model, led to the final formulation of a cluster of four themes:
1. Time: implications of a perceived lack of time, e.g. for planning, tailoring work, implementing training recommendations, for dealing with both students and parents on an individual basis - and even for music.
2. Professionality: emerging understandings of notions of 'teacher professionalism'.
3. Discharging bureaucratic obligations: 'doing the paper work', whatever form that might take, and its impact on teaching and on teacher time within the working day.
4. The National Curriculum in Music: interviewees' understandings of, and responses to enquiries into individual and collective experiences of its documentary ordinances and interpretations of its overall philosophy.
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