Music Must-Have No.2

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James Manwaring

James Manwaring is Director of Music for Windsor Learning Partnership, a Multi-Academy Trust in Windsor, Berkshire. He oversees music for the 4 schools in the trust and has been working in music education for 16 years. James has been nominated for a National Music Education...
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Do you have a healthy musical relationship with your Senior Leadership Team?

In my first blog, Hit The Right Note, I outlined my top ten ‘must-haves’ for a creative and dynamic music department.

My second ‘must-have’ was:

Have a good, positive relationship with Senior Leadership Team (SLT) – let them know what you can do for them and always position yourself to say yes. Don’t just moan, be the positive creative life-force of the school.

In this blog I am going to be unpacking what I mean by this and giving examples of my own experiences with SLT.

Positive SLT Vibes

I want to look at this from a couple of different angles and I am going to start by considering music teachers.

I wonder if you are one of those teachers who is always moaning at SLT about budgets, cuts and other issues in music. I wonder if you are one of those music teachers who just goes on and on about the national problems facing music and the way the EBacc has affected your classes.

Now don’t get me wrong, these are all massive issues for us, but I want to propose that we need to change the narrative.

Instead of moaning at SLT and demanding of them, I want you to think about what you offer them and how you can really work with them for the good of your department and the school.

Music teachers should be the creative, passionate life blood of the school. Music teachers should be inpsiring young people to learn instruments and sing. Music teachers should be accountable not only for what goes on in the classroom but also outside of the classroom.

It is therefore my belief that music teachers need to nurture positive relationships with SLT by working with them to help market the school.

Music teachers can easily double as marketing experts if they put on top quality concerts that attract a crowd. Music Teachers can make their SLT happy by ensuring that all major school events have music, live music. A band, choir or orchestra at a school prize evening will instantly raise the bar and make the event really special. The key to this is that you have to position yourself to SAY YES! What I mean by this is you need to have a varied and present Extra Curricular programme in order to have repertoire at any point during the year. It is no good wanting SLT to give you more funding or support your subject if you are not giving something back. So make sure that you have regular rehearsals and make sure when they ask you to do something you say yes.

Even better, next time you see a school event coming up, tell SLT that you would like to offer a performance item – I am sure they won’t say no. Over time the value of music in the school will rise and students will get the experience of feeling that they are contributing to the wider life of the school.

This will lead to students wanting to get involved in the extra stuff because they too want to perform and give something back to the school. Music departments should be part of the marketing strategy of a school and I guarantee when SLT see this they will start to listen to what you have to say. Be the positive creative life-force of the school. Don’t just moan, do something about it and then offer solutions!

Musical Driver

SLT should be encouraging music in their schools and ensuring that it is supported. Why? Well, because music can change a school. I have alluded to this above, but SLT need to see the true benefits of a healthy music department. Not only is it a creative strand that should be present in every school, but a music department can really drive the school forward.

Take Christmas for example – in my school we have a massive carol service attended by the whole school and lots of parents. The church gets so packed that this year we put on an additional service. This is not only an amazing event but it shows the school off. If you don’t have music in your school then you can’t take advantage of opportunities like this.

So SLT, take my 10 must haves and see if you feel your school has a healthy music department. If not, then sit down with your music staff and talk to them about what you want to see for the school. Making music part of your strategy not only boosts the school but it makes the teacher feel like the long extra hours of rehearsal are worth it.

I love it that I can contribute not only the musical development of the students but also to the development of the school. I am just one part of that and sport is also a massive driving force for the school. But in my setting we are known for our music, sport and arts and I think that is really exciting.

So from now on lets cultivate positive relationships with SLT and SLT please realise the potential of your music department. Working together will only bring about positive results for your school. So, book a meeting music teachers, unless SLT get their first!


One thought on “Music Must-Have No.2

  1. I wish it was that simple! I’ve worked with a very supportive SLT and a unsupportive destructive SLT. It really depends if you re willing to give up your personal life.

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