“Children living in rural areas currently miss out when it comes to music education. The use of digital technology could put an end to that inequality and it’s our collective responsibility to ensure it happens.”
That’s according to Heidi Johnson, Director of NYMAZ, the youth music development charity that’s behind a new report which makes the case for using internet technology to deliver aspects of music education in schools.
Following a trial in primary schools across North Yorkshire, the Connect: Resound pilot project has identified a high-quality, online method of delivering instrumental tuition to children living in rurally isolated areas, whilst also enabling significant cost savings for the local Music Education Hubs:
Johnson continues: “It’s an incredible step forward for music education. Music teachers in rural areas could spend far less time on the road between schools and more time teaching, meaning that more children would be able to receive lessons – in particular those in very small or very rural schools who currently miss out – as well as having access to a greater choice of instruments.
“Put simply, 79.5% of parents and carers of those children involved in the pilot would not have tried to find instrumental lessons for their children had this opportunity not been available.”
Set up to respond directly to a recommendation made in Darren Henley’s 2011 Review of Music Education in England that future research should ‘…examine how technology could enable better teaching of music (particularly in rural areas)’, the Connect: Resound project demonstrates how Music Education Hubs could overcome the high transport costs and logistical challenges of reaching children in isolated regions.
The trial took place in North Yorkshire where, due to the rural nature of the county, peripatetic teachers spend much time travelling between schools. The report highlights that if travel were removed, the cost saving would be the equivalent to an additional 4.2 full time members of staff.
During the pilot, the North Yorkshire County Council Music Service’s team of peripatetic teachers explored ways of teaching online from a base set up with the appropriate technology, thus removing travel time from the equation. The project concluded that if Music Education Hubs across the country were set up with specialist facilities, they would have the potential to reach a greater number of pupils and widen access to music education for all, as envisaged in the National Plan for Music Education.
The pilot explored low-cost methods of providing remote instrumental tuition based around the Roland VR-3EX video and audio mixer and streamer, along with three cameras (to allow pupils and teachers to see different views, including close-ups) microphones, and Skype. The equipment provided a balance between quality of sound and image, and value for money.
The online lessons were hugely popular, with 70.1% of pupils saying they enjoyed them ‘very much’ and 74.1% wishing to continue to learn their instruments ‘very much’ or ‘quite a lot’. It was noted that 79.5% of parents/carers would not have tried to find instrumental lessons for their children had this opportunity not been available.
Johnson is now urging Music Education Hubs working in rural areas to explore the rolling out of the Connect: Resound project. A full downloadable toolkit of resources is available at www.nymaz.org.uk/connectresound