18th February 2020

GUEST BLOG: Emma Cypher-Neal on Options Evenings

Emma Cypher-Neal is Head of Music at Melksham Oak Community School, and one of our Secondary Music Champions. We asked Emma to write a blog on a topic of her choosing:

Write a blog” they said, “About what?” I said, “Anything you like” they said, so here goes………

Options Evening is coming…………………………

We all know that this time of year is the most stressful, sorry no that’s Christmas, actually no the coursework exam season – well let’s face it – we’re music teachers so all the time! Being realistic though, February is the time we all suddenly find ourselves in direct competition with those lovely colleagues we sit, chat and drink coffee with, the friends we rely on when we are in HoDs meetings that help us through tough tasks of curriculum mapping and understanding the three I’s. We suddenly start to ear wig on their ideas for options evenings, and make sure Music is definitely going to get the biggest uptake EVER this year! But then reality kicks in………….

What if numbers are low and the head says you can’t run the course? Or you have been informed that the option blocks students can choose from now include that pesky EBACC and all your talented students want to take 5 humanities, triple science AND learn both Russian and Spanish! What happens to our role models, our concerts, our community reputation? “It’s okay music teacher”, the parents say, “They will still have piano lessons at school!” (and then go and bank the points for Grade VI and higher with UCAS entry later on – making us feel just a little used and abused!) And then it would escalate, the number one thing a head wants from music is the accolade of fabulous performances, but because students aren’t studying for a music qualification, standards start to slip, extracurricular attendance plummets and before we know it the music balloon has totally deflated!

So why don’t we flip that coin totally and really nail options evening. Let’s go all singing and all dancing (sorry Performing Arts and Drama but this is war!), get the students in to perform and talk to the parents and potential recruits, let’s have those ‘everything is so wonderful in the music department’ smiles on our faces and get the most interest we have ever had! DO IT! It may be worth investing in some freebies too, hand out some funky music stationary from the pound shop or little bags of sweets. They’ll remember you for this!

You come away from the evening having made a secret note of all the pupils who have come to see you and you KNOW FOR SURE that you are going to have enough for two classes! Its never been this good, all the hard work, the promotion and taster lessons you have given, it’s all suddenly paying off. You feel on cloud nine and can’t wait to have your next Line Management meeting and be praised for your outstanding work.

The next two weeks pass and the deadline for handing in the option forms loom. You keep on having those little conversations with the students you know have shown an interest in your wonderful subject, “Yes Miss, Yes Sir we have definitely put music down”. It is, and pardon the terrible pun, music to your ears. You have done it. 2020 is the year of the rise of the Music Department and it simply has to be one of your proudest moments!

That is until you receive your class list and sadly it is a class LIST, with no ‘s’ on the end. One class. Singular. With 28 pupils. A class that is simply impossible to teach because you haven’t got the resources. Where did all those other students go? Oh yes, when they said they had put music down on their form, they failed to mention it was their sixth choice.

Maybe next year? Free music pencil and a bag of Haribo’s anyone?

If you need support with options evening at your school try using our downloadable Why Music resources.