Open School Doors Project

Mary-Rose Puttick, a PhD student and Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant  for CSPACE, discusses the Open School Doors project. This initiative aims to reduce disparities in learning outcomes for migrant children, and offers support to help these young people succeed in challenging circumstances. 

Project aim

The 2-year (2017-19) Erasmus-funded Open School Doors project spans 5 EU contexts (UK, Germany, Greece, Austria and Trans-European) with the overall aim of reducing disparities in learning outcomes for migrant children, particularly those from refugee, asylum seeker, and Eastern-European Roma backgrounds who have settled in the UK or another EU country in the last 10 years. The focus on new migrants supports the project in addressing the transient population which is increasingly characteristic of EU schools. Open School Doors seeks to inspire and motivate teachers and school managers in cooperating with new migrant parents as well as creating constructive and sustainable partnerships.

Open School Doors Logo

A training framework is currently being developed by the UK team here at BCU to train teachers and head teachers. The framework launches an innovative participatory-action based approach using online tools to address diverse aspects of what we have termed ‘school-languaging’ in a sensitive, positive, and goal-oriented way, including: features of cultural diversity; teacher reflections on their own positionality in the communication process including challenging their own racialized positions as well as pre-conceptions and stereotypes; exploring digital communication / social networking tools to engage with migrant parents; devising action-plans to stimulate parents’ motivation based on localised school contexts; and exploring postcolonial theorist Bhabha’s (1994) notion of ‘third-spaces’, in the case of this project as a neutral space of communication between school and parents.

Data collection

Our UK data collection so far has included focus groups with teaching and management staff at six primary and secondary schools across Birmingham and one focus group with migrant parents.  These six schools are all ‘Schools of Sanctuary’ which is part of the national City of Sanctuary movement and Barbara Forbes from Birmingham Schools of Sanctuary is assisting the BCU team on the project to identify schools which are already taking active steps to make their schools places of sanctuary and welcome for all children and parents. Our data analysis from the six schools, alongside that from the other EU countries, will be used to inform the training framework which will then be rolled out to 50 schools across the 5 project partners.

UK research findings

Our initial research findings indicate what we refer to as a ‘crisis in teacher education’ with teachers coming to the limits of their expertise in teaching children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) and in their communication with EAL parents, many of whom are unfamiliar with the principles of the UK education system and have had little experience themselves of formal education. Teachers report feeling unequipped to deal with trauma and high levels of transiency whilst they continue to face pressures of national assessment and lack of external funding and support.

Parent motivations and interactions work well where focus is placed on building transferable capitals of parents as well as where parents have developed self-help groups.  Some of the parents I interviewed have been asylum seekers for several years, still waiting for a decision regarding their residency status, they described their life as like an ‘open prison’ due to the fact they are unable to access paid employment and have restricted access to educational provision in adult, further and higher education contexts. In this regard parents at one school said the community provision the school had provided for parents gave them a purpose in their lives as they were able to use their skills to support other newly arrived parents. One successful project this school has established is a cooking-based social enterprise called ‘Flavours of Winson Green’. This social enterprise is now in high demand with the parents who run it travelling all over the UK to facilitate cooking experience evenings.

Open School Doors - cooking 1 Open School Doors - cooking 2

BCU hosts EU partners’ visit.

Earlier this month BCU hosted the second meeting of the Open School Doors team, involving an evening in which we got to experience the ‘Flavours of Winson Green’. This was a great success as we were taught how to cook two dishes, a Somalian curry and a Pakistani curry, and then enjoyed the food together and heard the migration stories of the women who run the social enterprise.

Overall it was a very memorable experience and the staff from one of the other primary schools who joined us for the evening have since decided that they will work in partnership with the migrant parents in their school to set up a similar enterprise.

As part of the next stage of Open School Doors we will share further inspiring examples such as the ‘Flavours’ project from primary and secondary across the UK and other EU countries with the aim of encouraging schools to become places of welcome, inclusion, and hospitality where schools work in collaboration with migrant parents and the local community.

The making of a good Muslim Brit

Imran Mogra, Senior Lecturer in Religious Education and Professional Studies at Birmingham City University, explores some of the key findings from a recent review into existing research on societal perceptions from Muslim families.  

The Aziz Foundation, Barrow Cadbury Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Unbound Philanthropy commissioned Ipsos MORI to review existing research on Muslims. This is a useful piece of research, not least in consolidating existing knowledge and challenging some preconceived notions about Muslims, but also as it assists in identifying the nature and areas for future research. The datasets used in this study were taken from 2010-2016 and the commercial/media surveys from 2015- Dec 2016. This post presents a summary of the key findings from this research.

Population

According to the Ipsos MORI review, the British public hugely overestimates the number of Muslims, leading some to predict that their population will triple. The public thinks that around one in six Britons are Muslim, rather than the correct figure of fewer than one in twenty.

The public’s views about Muslims are mixed and their understanding of Islam is limited. Younger people, however, tend to be better informed and more positive in their attitudes, and knowing someone who is Muslim also makes a positive difference. This demonstrates the need for continued interaction in all sections of society, especially through education and youth channels. Significantly, a third of Muslims are below the age of 15, and half are under 25 years old. This raises implications for society in general and the Muslim communities in particular in ensuring that they have high aspiration and high aspirations for all young people.

Education

Education is important to Muslims. They are much more likely to feel that their level of education is part of their self-identity than are most Britons: 55% of Muslims say their education is important to their sense of who they are, compared to 35% of Christians.

The Ipsos MORI review found that Muslim parents have higher educational aspirations for their children than other parents— slightly higher for Muslim girls than for Muslim boys, but in both cases much higher than the national average. 70% of parents with a Muslim daughter said it was ‘very likely’ that she would go to university, and 64% said the same about their Muslim sons, compared to 43% for non-Muslim girls and 34% for non-Muslim boys. This appears insightful especially in relation to the oft purported stereotype of Muslim attitudes towards female education. Though encouraging, it would be interesting to learn about their career destinations.

Identity and belonging

Most Muslims in Britain live in ethnically-mixed areas. Younger Muslims and graduates are also more likely to have diverse friendship groups than older Muslims and non-graduates. Muslims have a strong sense of belonging to Britain and of feeling part of British society. Most Muslims in Britain consider themselves to be “British”, rather than “English”, “Scottish”, “Welsh” or “Northern Irish”, and most feel that this is their only national identity. A majority thinks that more interaction should take place between different religious and ethnic groups. 45% of under 24s said at least half of their friends are from outside their ethnic group.

Religion

Religion plays an important part in the lives and identity of most Muslims, particularly those who are UK graduates. Interestingly, a strong sense of religious identity sits alongside a strong sense of British identity. Muslims are more likely than the British public as a whole to say that their national identity is important to their sense of who they are (55% of Muslims say this, compared to 44% of all adults).

The vast majority (94%) of Muslims feel able to practice their religion freely in Britain, and most believe that Islam is compatible with the British way of life. Five in six Muslims (83%) agree that “it is possible to fully belong to Britain and maintain a separate cultural or religious identity”; and two-thirds (66%) of Britons regardless of religion agree within them.

The report found that more than half pray at least five times a day or engage in worship of some kind. To meet their spiritual and religious need mosques are needed, which goes someway to explain the estimated 1,500 mosques in Britain.

Politics

In terms of political engagement, the majority (64%) of Muslims say that they are satisfied with the way that democracy works in this country, a higher than the satisfaction levels  with the democratic process across the British public as a whole, and more likely to express trust in democratic institutions. Moreover, Muslims are more likely than the rest of the public to believe that being active in politics can bring benefits, although many feel they have little influence over the decisions that affect them.

Community engagement and charitable

Giving is regarded as highly important in Islam. Most British Muslims donate to charity. Three-quarters (72%) say they have given in the last year, with older Muslims, graduates and those living outside London donating more than younger Muslims, non-graduates and Londoners.

Prejudice

Some Muslims feel that there is prejudice and mistrust against them. The majority take the opposite view; and seven in ten (70%) Muslims feel they are treated fairly by the government. Nevertheless, prejudice against Muslims is felt to be increasing, particularly by Muslim graduates and young Muslims, and a significant minority believes Muslims do not get the same life opportunities as others. One in four (27%) Muslims say they have experienced discrimination; this rises to one in three (34%) for graduates and Muslims aged 18-24.

Employment

More than 7% of Muslims are unemployed, compared with 4% of the UK population as a whole. The hostile climate is holding back some Muslims in work places and several barriers have been identified including impact of the rise in Islamophobia as evident in the House of Common Report. These reveal that there is some reluctance to hire Muslim women as they prioritise family commitments and caring duties. Statistics need to reflect this more and, perhaps link it to a wider social attitude regarding the choices and preferences of some. The age demographic of Muslim women with young families, religio-culutral values and affordable childcare or gender discrimination are additional factors.

Social attitudes

Muslims tend to have more conservative attitudes. Close to half of Muslim men and a third of Muslim women agree that “Wives should always obey their husbands”. Most Muslims participate in traditional British cultural practices, even those with explicitly Christian origins. At Christmas, three-quarters (73%) send cards and three in five give presents, and many also send Mother’s Day or Father’s Day cards, and wear a poppy on Remembrance Day. But most do not put up a Christmas tree. I wonder which headline will feature in the newspaper, the former potentially reinforces stereotypes, and the latter reflects contemporary multi-faith Britain. The tendency it seems is to highlight controversial elements which aid in polarising the community and underplay the positive aspect of the community. Indeed, this highlights a broader issue relating to the representation of Muslims in mainstream media, a point to which I return later in this piece.

Terrorism

Across numerous surveys, only a tiny percentage of Muslims have expressed support or sympathy for terrorism. The reports notes that a recent 2016 survey found that on any act relating to violence, there were notably higher levels of condemnation among Muslim communities than for the population as a whole. Indeed, if anything, sympathy for terrorist violence in the general population (4%) was higher than among Muslims (2%). The vast majority (94%) of Muslims say they would report activities supporting violent extremism to the police, only a minority (16%) say they have come across such activities and these were mainly on internet sites.

Public views

There is a mixed picture on how the public as a whole views Muslims – some measures find a broadly positive or neutral view, others a more negative impression – but younger people are consistently more positive. Most (57%) of the British public do not feel that they have much knowledge or understanding of Islam, and surveys confirm that misconceptions are often widespread.

Victim of crime

Muslims are much more worried about being a victim of crime than average. In 2010-11, Muslims were twice as likely as adults in England and Wales as a whole to be very worried about becoming a victim of crime: 15% were very worried, and 33% fairly worried; for all adults the figures were 8% and 27% respectively.

A NUS survey has found third of Muslim students have experienced abuse or crime at their place of study in the UK, with most victims believing it was motivated by Islamophobia. The community is concerned about physical attacks targeted towards them due their skin religion, colour and ethnic origin.

The role that the media have played in perpetuating stereotypes which do little to dispel potential Muslim hate cannot be understated and is worthy of a much more detailed comment than I can give here. In my view, a more principled position on the reporting and depiction of Muslims needs to be taken, and a wider conversation needs to be started on this issue, including that of a definitive definition of Islamophobia.

The Muslim community should continue to strive in nurturing their youth to be good Muslims. The findings suggest a good Muslim is a Good Brit!

Imran Mogra

Promoting children’s well-being, right to make choices and engage in playful activities in restricted environments through music and singing

Dr. Carolyn Blackburn, Senior Research Fellow at CSPACE, is currently leading a project funded by Froebel Trust (January 2017 – May 2018) to look at the Singing Medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. In this post, she shares some updates from her findings:

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Arts, Health and Wellbeing and Fancourt (2017) highlight a wide range of possible ways in which the arts can support health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and societies in the context of contemporary models of health.  This includes helping with specific identified conditions as well as promoting well-being, healthy behaviours and social engagement.  Included in the broad definition of arts are signing and musical activities as well as performing arts such dance, drama, juggling and visual art such as painting and drawing.  Associated with the concept of social prescribing (which seeks to address health and wellbeing from a holistic perspective using a range of non-clinical interventions), participatory arts projects are growing in number in the UK (APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing 2017).

More and more people now appreciate that arts and culture can play a valuable part in helping tackle some of the most challenging social and health conditions. Active participation in the visual and performing arts, music and dance can help people facing a lonely old age, depression or mental illness; it can help maintain levels of independence and curiosity and, let’s not forget, it can bring great joy and so improve the quality of life for those engaged“. (Lord Bichard of Nailsworth, 2016 cited in APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, 2017b: 47)

In relation to the benefits of participating in music and singing in health settings, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (2017) revealed that:

Participatory arts in children’s hospitals provide a pleasurable diversion from the anxiety of treatment and the boredom of long waiting times.”

In terms of children’s rights to engage in playful activities and make choices, the United Conventions on the Rights of the Child Article 31 states that Every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities and Article 12 states that every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously. This right applies at all times, for example during immigration proceedings, housing decisions or the child’s day-to-day home life.

Given the evidence reported above, I have been working on a timely project which focuses one aspect of music and singing in healthcare settings; the benefits of musical games for children with a range of conditions at a Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH) in terms of their right to makes choices, engage in playful activities and their overall wellbeing with Ex Cathedra’s Singing Medicine service.

The project has been running since January 2017, and data collection involves interviews with parents and health professionals as well as non-participant researcher observations of singing medicine sessions carried out by myself.

Themes that arose from interviews included:

  • The important characteristics of the Singing Medicine Vocal Tutors;
  • Contribution to children’s emotions;
  • Contribution to child/family experiences of hospital;
  • Contribution to children’s development and learning (including neurodevelopment);
  • Spiritual and moral dimensions;
  • Contribution to medical care (including contribution to the wellbeing of health professionals);
  • Contextual aspects of the service; and
  • Contribution to family life, patterns and structures.
Participants commented that:
“Enables children to take a positive memory away from hospital, rather than remembering only that they had blood samples taken, they might also remember the pleasant experience from the Singing Medicine people”
“Some of the children have unpleasant, intrusive and painful medical interventions for example haemodialysis – the Singing Medicine programme is something they choose rather than something they have to do or have to have done to them”

The potential contribution to children’s neurodevelopment is an important finding since it was mentioned by participants that neurodevelopment is an aspect of healthcare provision often omitted due to the understandable need to focus on acute care and patient survival and recovery.

From observations there was evidence of:

  • Choices for children;
  • Following children’s lead;
  • Facilitating medical care;
  • Building memorable moments for families; and
  • Focussing on children’s holistic development.

These findings demonstrate the benefit of participating in the service for children, their family members and health professionals supporting them. The findings can be considered in light of significant evidence from the APPGAHW on the benefits of the arts more broadly and singing and music specifically in health settings, and also in light of the United Conventions on the Rights of the Child.

Myself and several of the Vocal Tutors from Ex Cathedra presented a workshop at the Annual Health Research Conference at BCU ‘Creative Caring’ in January of this year. The session was well received by colleagues in Health and suggestion was made to embedded the research findings within many of programmes in Nursing. The project’s approach to research with the Vocal Tutors (rather than no them) was commented.

In February, I will also presenting at the BECERA annual conference ‘Creativity and Critical Thinking in the Early Years’.

This project will finish in May 2018. A final project report will become available later in the Spring.

There is a current petition for ‘Singing on Prescription’ to be adopted by the NHS. please sign if you have time.

References:

  • APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (2017a) Policy Briefing   Arts Engagement and Wellbeing July 2017 [Online http://www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk/appg-inquiry/ accessed 11.12.17]
  • All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (2017b) Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing [Online http://www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk/ accessed 12.12.17]
  • Fancourt, D. (2017) Arts in Health, Designing and Researching Interventions. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Carolyn

Carolyn has worked in childcare and education for nearly 20 years mainly in primary education and early years.  She has established a reputation for supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities. She led a number of national and international projects investigating children, family and education. Her recent work include include a project about young children’s musical interactions called Communicative Musicality and an international project that seeks to explore relationship-based early intervention services for young children with complex needs in collaboration with the world-leading Champion Centre.

Carolyn is particularly interested in interdisciplinary research and the ways in which researchers from diverse disciplines can seek a shared understanding of child and family work so that a richer, more diverse research culture can be envisioned. Carolyn believes that when professionals work together and communicate well with each other children and families benefit.

Following Carolyn’s work on ResearchGate.

Exploring pedagogies for professional learning across international contexts

In November 2017, a team of academics from Faculty of HELS attended and contributed  at an international conference hosted by Nguyen Tat Thanh University in Vietnam. This conference is part of the VietUKHE project, funded by the British Council, to explore and share pedagogies for professional learning and employability development.

Two senior lecturers from Child Nursing, Nathalie Turville and Ilana Pressick, presented their work at the conference. Here, they share a summery of their experience of the day.  

Vietnam knowledge exchange conference 2018 - group photo

What an experience and privilege it was to attend the international conference in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The conference was the culmination of two collaborative projects, part-funded by the British Council, carried out over a two-year period between Birmingham City University, Nguyen Tat Thanh University, VNU University of Education, Hanoi and HCMC University of Pedagogy. The focus of the projects was to increase the employability skills of students who are undertaking vocational courses through the use of student-centred approaches to learning. Of particular interest to us was the introduction of a tool to facilitate personal and professional development through reflection.  Vietnam knowledge exchange conference 2018 - 2

The conference began with a summary of the projects and an evaluation of the outcomes. The reflective practice project clearly demonstrated the novelty and challenge of introducing reflection in to vocational practice where it is not usual to actively question and explore practice in depth. Our Vietnamese colleagues encouraged students to identify problems, write them down and then the teacher would solve the problems for the students or with the students, an indication of reflection being a new concept. In the UK, especially in nursing, reflection has become part of our daily routine and lives. The magic of reflection lies in the process of identifying learning from experience that can be applied in other situations and this contributes to personal and professional growth. As nurse academics, we use reflection to empower our students. It was evident that our colleagues were beginning to engage with reflection and in time they will appreciate the powerful and transformative nature of reflective practice.

Following the project updates in the morning, the afternoon was kicked off in style by the keynote speaker, our very own Dr Matt O’Leary. Matt, demonstrating sartorial elegance in his trade-mark flowery shirts, had us laughing, listening and engaging in his lecture titled: Learning about vocational learning and teaching through collaborative observation. He discussed his current project, looking at how a collaborative approach between academics and students to teaching observation can enhance their understanding of the teaching and learning experience.

Vietnam knowledge exchange conference 2018 - 7

Vietnam knowledge exchange conference 2018 - 6

The buzzing atmosphere continued with inspiring presentations of pedagogical boundaries being broken in order to improve the students’ learning experiences. There was the common desire to enhance teaching and learning and a recognition of shared issues and challenges even down to the every-day level with classroom management and student resilience. These commonalities provided us with a shared frame of reference from which to discuss and share experiences.  Vietnam knowledge exchange conference 2018 - 5

Overall this was a great opportunity to collaborate with university colleagues from similar subject areas and develop an insight into the similarities and differences across programmes, institutions and countries.Vietnam knowledge exchange conference 2018 - 4

Nathalie & Ilana

 

Nathalie Turville is a Senior Lecturer within the Department for Children and Young People’s Health at Birmingham City University. Nathalie qualified as a Children’s Nurse in 1991 and specialised in neonatal cardiology and surgery. She joined the university in 2001 and has taught on and coordinated a number of modules across pre and post-registration nursing. She remains committed to the importance of education informing practice to promote the best care for the child and family. She is currently Co-Chair of the Faculty Academic Ethics Committee. She is also studying for a professional Doctorate in Education.

Ilana Pressick is a Senior Lecturer within the Department of Children and Young People’s Health at Birmingham City University. Ilana has worked in different intensive care settings since qualifying in 2009 and completed numerous post graduate nursing qualifications. She joined the university in 2016 and teaches on undergraduate and postgraduate courses in nursing. Currently she is involved in a research project exploring the effects of taking academia into clinical practice areas as well as a HEFCE funded research project on classroom observation.

Ilana’s teaching and learning interest align with her believes that the infant, child, young person and their families should always be at the heart of the high quality care we provide. Ilana believes that one way of helping our nurses, of today and of the future, achieve this goal is to ensure that every learning experience is one that is not only thought-provoking, but also is fun and engaging.

Follow Ilana Pressick on Twitter @i1an0

 

A ‘future perfect’ for the University

Dr Fadia Dakka, a postdoctoral researcher in CSPACE, reflects on her experience at the 2017 Society for Research into Higher Education Annual Conference, and challenges our perceptions of how we think about ‘university futures’. 

The dust may have well settled on last December’s Society for Research into Higher Education’s Annual Conference (SRHE2017), yet some of its most inspiring messages still resonate in a polyphony of intellectual voices at their finest. As it should be.

Professor Susan Wright (Educational Anthropology) inaugurated the conference proceedings with a thought provoking keynote that effectively set the tone of the event: ‘knowledge ecology or economy’? – she asked, urgently calling for new ways of ‘imaginizing’ and organising the university. After reviewing some thirty years of unyielding critique of neoliberal higher education between England and Denmark, while unwittingly offering the audience a much revered glance at one’s lifetime intellectual and professional endeavour, she articulated her compelling call to arms: time is ripe for action. And for a substantial shift to occur in the way we presently think about university futures, we need to start from the semantic and semiotic aspects of it. Wright suggested a change in root metaphors, calling biology and anthropology to the university’s rescue. Let us imagine waking up from a fever dream to discover (with much relief!) that neoliberalism, academic capitalism, and the knowledge economy had never risen to become the culturally hegemonic, all-encompassing narratives and sole horizons for thinking and action that we have painfully grown accustomed to. Instead, we live in an interactive knowledge ecology, characterised by a ‘sympoiesis of holobionts’: a collective organisation populated by assemblages of diverse species, forming harmonious ecologic units. Let us linger on the metaphor… and shape the contours of the new ontological and epistemological premises of the university as a ‘holobiont’. Sue Wright sees it as a ‘space for dissension’, that progresses through a ‘generous willingness to disagree’ and through ‘thinking with care’. A space, place and time to ‘lead an examined life with troubling questions’.

I left the plenary enthused, intellectually challenged and positively ‘troubled’, trying to connect what I had just heard with a deliberately provoking revival of Wittgenstein’s famous quote: the limits of my language are the limits of my world.

As the conference progressed, aided by glamorous evening drinks and – proportionally to the amount drunk –  what one believed were the absolutely brilliant accompanying conversations with random delegates, I felt that I had sufficiently rehearsed my upcoming presentation on the rhythms of emancipatory higher education.  While reflecting on the ways in which time, space and affect interweave to continually create and recreate the modalities and materialities of our existence within the university, Penny Burke’s paper (Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education, Newcastle, Australia)  – ‘Investment in Time & Space in HE’ – shed light on another crucial yet under-researched point:  time & space (rhythms) in academia are increasingly and worryingly individualised, decontextualized and disembodied. This means that those who do not conform to hegemonic values and practices of space & time are constructed as problematic and lacking capabilities. In other words, not only are these timescapes far from being neutral – indeed they are  multiple, embodied, gendered and racialized; but spaces too (architecture and technology as cases in point),  structure the student and teacher’s experience by making certain forms of practice possible while excluding others. Burke’s stringent critique enlightened me on the necessity of making the politics of rhythms in academia both explicit and radical, by pointing toward a new conceptualisation of time-space in relation to equity and belonging.

As the conference finally drew to a close, my reflections on the past-future-present of the university seemed to come full circle, too, while I was silently engaging with Sue Wright’s ultimate provocation: “There’s no such thing as the individual. Humans are more bacteria than they are human genes.” This should be a starting point for thinking the future University as a sympoiesis (co-creation):  the university of the commons.

Alongside this powerful vision for a re-energized and democratized Anthropocene, I begin to wonder whether the journey toward ‘the centre of the maze’, for a hypothetical university of the future, should not simply be an inward gaze: the aesthetic of absence that historically characterized the myth of the ‘ivory tower’ could be recovered as a space of separation and incubation. As Masschlein and Simons (2017) remind us, the Greek philosophical and historical conceptualization of schole can be simultaneously defined as study, free time, rest, delay, discussion, lecture, or school building. In creating a suspension from the dominant (time-space) economies that have produced it, the university can and should reclaim the freedom to ‘suspend’ hegemonic time-space and allow becoming. In connecting past and future to our everyday, I therefore suggest a new ‘tense’ for higher education: the future perfect.

Dr Fadia Dakka is a post-doc researcher at CSPACE. Her research interests interface between political/economic/ cultural transformations of the contemporary university, university futures and the rhythms of emancipatory (higher) education.  

Musicology and Music Education: Fault lines?

In this post, Adam Whittaker reflects on two talks that he gave at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. He explores the intersections of two areas rarely considered in the same breath, and draws attention to the ways in which they can speak to each other. 

In early October, I was fortunate enough to be invited to present at the first public research seminar at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. In a break from the usual format of 60 minutes plus discussion, I was asked to present two shorter papers drawing on my work in historical musicology and music education. This was an interesting opportunity to highlight the ways in which these two disciplines, traditionally separated along methodological and cultural lines (and REF units!), could interface with each other. The event was well attended and the discussion was certainly lively!

Most music education research in recent times has, quite understandably, been focused on performance and composition. Aspects of contextual study, arguably the seeds of historical musicology in the curriculum, have received much less attention. In my first presentation, I shared some of my developing work on set works in A-level music examinations, problematizing the relative similarity with examinations from the 1950s. I argued that the continued dominance of classical music within A-level music has a potentially damaging effect upon the relevance and inclusivity of this qualification, building on Robert Legg’s 2012 work in this area.

In highlighting the points of similarity, and a few small points of divergence, it is clear that female composers are still significantly underrepresented in this area of study, being confined to a marginalised status that misrepresents their presence in world leading music festivals. Following this line of inquiry, it became clear that significant areas of our diverse musical culture had been reduced to a relatively fusty selection of set works that differ little from those set by examiners working in the 1950s. What are the implications of this lack of change? How can we possibly expect students to see A-level music study as relating to their own musical experiences when it barely resembles the experiences of the concert-going public? I concluded that such a narrow definition of set work study is sabotaging the ability of the classical music sector to attract students from outside of the socio-economic groups associated with white, middle-class privilege. Such an intentional provocation sparked a lively discussion, leading to a detailed and constructive email exchange with an audience member that went on for many days after the talk.

Johannes Tinctoris - Frontispiece to Valencia 835.

Immediately following this talk, and donning my historical musicologist hat, I moved to my second presentation, reprising and developing some of my research on the musical examples of Johannes Tinctoris: see Whittaker (2017) and image (above). Tinctoris is the best-known music theorist of the fifteenth-century, occupying an almost unrivalled status in modern scholarship as a leader in his field. His nine notational treatises contain over 600 musical examples, exceeding the standard practices of the time. He was also the royal music teacher at the court of Naples in the 1470s, and was clearly a widely-respected musical authority, with other writers continuing to reference his theories decades after his death. His texts are important witnesses to the musical practices of the fifteenth-century, and offer a unique insight into the pedagogical logics which underpinned the way that music was theorised and, by implication, taught to aspiring musicians. They, in turn, offer some examples of pieces that musicians should study in order to understand good compositional style and technique.

For example, Tinctoris extolls the virtue of some of compositional masters of his own age, praising the skills of composers such as Guillaume Du Fay, Antoine Busnoys, and Johannes Ockeghem. Not afraid to pick a fight, however, Tinctoris also heavily criticises these same composers for practices that he deemed to be transgressions of theoretical propriety. He doesn’t mince his words either, describing some of these errors as ‘intolerable’ and ‘inexcusable’. All this, however, is in the spirit of musical appraisal, offering detailed insights into the practices displayed by composers across an age.

It is this theme which unites the two papers, exploring the pedagogical logics which underpin our approaches to the study of music, whether based on repertoire studies in the set work model, or to think deeply about the heritage of musical pedagogies. I hope to continue to draw together my musicological and music education research to bring fresh perspectives to music education, construed in its broadest sense, both in terms of setting, historical period, and age range. Such complementary perspectives can indeed speak to each other in interesting ways!

References (if applicable):

Legg, R. (2012). Bach, Beethoven, Bourdieu: ‘cultural capital’ and the scholastic canon in England’s A-level examinations. The Curriculum Journal, 23(2), 157-172

Whittaker, A. (2017). Signposting Mutation in some Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-Century Music Theory Treatises. Plainsong & Medieval Music, 26(1), 37-61.

Short bio: Adam Whittaker is a research assistant working across the music education research projects in CSPACE. His work has been published in leading journals and he has co-authored a number of national evaluation reports, including two commissioned by Arts Council England and Music Mark. He also cofounded the Representations of Early Music in Stage and Screen Study Group, which is soon to have its first book published by Routledge in early 2018. Alongside his scholarly work, he is also active as a musician and is currently musical director of the Stafford Orchestra.

Academic social media: @DrAdamWhittaker

Whole Class Ensemble Teaching report

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The CSPACE music education research team has recently completed a nationally significant report commissioned by MusicMark, the membership organisation that represents music education hubs in England, and funded by Arts Council England. The report, authored by Professor Martin Fautley, Dr Victoria Kinsella, and Dr Adam Whittaker, offers one of the most comprehensive studies to date of the provision of Whole Class Ensemble Teaching (WCET). WCET, also known as ‘Wider Opportunities’ or ‘First Access’, sees children learn a musical instrument in a large group setting, usually with the rest of their school class and most often in KS2. The report, based upon a nationwide survey and in-depth interviews with more than 20 music education hub leaders, was launched on Friday 24th November at the annual MusicMark conference. The report, executive summary, and key messages documents can be accessed here.

Parenting in the digital age – what age should children have a smartphone?

In this second post of the series on ‘Parenting in the digital age’, Dr. Jane O’Connor continues  to explore the relationship between children’s rights and digital technology.  

Young people and mobile phones

I recently had the following conversation with my soon to be 7 year old son that I think will sound familiar to many parents with children of a similar age:
‘Mum can I have a smartphone for my birthday?’
‘No’
‘Why not?’
‘Because you’re too young.’
‘When can I have one?’
‘When you’re older,’
‘How old?’
‘Oh I don’t know, twelve, maybe ten.’
‘That’s ages away.’
‘Well you are not allowed to have one until you are ten…it’s the law.’

It isn’t the law of course, but I’m beginning to wish it was.

Limiting our children’s access to digital technology is beginning to feel more and more akin to King Canute trying desperately to hold back the waves, and the ubiquitous presence of smartphones in ever younger hands makes it increasingly difficult to justify resisting the trend. On average, children are getting their first smartphones around age 10, according to the research firm Influence Central, down from age 12 in 2012. According to a recent survey of parents by Internet Matters the vast majority of children aged 8 to 11 in Britain now own a smartphone, with Newcastle and Nottingham having the very highest rates of ownership in this age group at 90.5% and 90% respectively. Many schools now ban smartphones from lessons and playgrounds, but the issue is still a pertinent one for parents to navigate, weighing up the pros and cons of the peace of mind of being able to be in constant contact with their children, with the attention grabbing and potentially disturbing diversions of the phone. The following quote from the US based Common Sense media website summarises why the decision to give your child a phone is not to be taken lightly and deserves careful thought:

when you hand your children cell phones, you’re giving them powerful communication and media-production tools. They can create text, images, and videos that can be widely distributed and uploaded to websites instantly. Parents really need to consider whether their kids are ready to use their phones responsibly and respectfully’.

Perhaps it is not about the age of the child after all, but about the kind of child they are and how they want to use their phone? I know my son just wants to play games on it, and so feel no compunction about delaying the acquisition of yet another screen based distraction, but clearly ownership is becoming the norm for children not much older than he is now. As well as protecting children, as parents we also surely have a responsibility to try and ensure that our children are not left out and are socially included. Furthermore, is it not hypocritical in the extreme for adults to use smartphones for ever increasing amounts of time and reasons and yet not want children to emulate that behaviour?

The historian and mythographer Marina Warner takes a broader view of the futility of trying to keep childhood and adulthood separate by restricting children’s access to the adult world. In her essay ‘Little angels little devils: keeping childhood innocent’ she argues that:

Children aren’t separate from adults…they can’t live innocent lives on behalf of adults…Children are our copy in little…in affluent cities of the West, they’ll wail for expensive trainers with the right label like their friends.'(1994: p48)

And today, clearly, they’ll wail for their own smartphones.

This desire to hold on to childhood innocence seems to be at the heart of parental concerns around children owing smartphones, but is that innocence, as Warner claims, simply a myth?

Young person and mobile phone

Related links and publications
https://www.commonsensemedia.org
http://influence-central.com/
https://www.internetmatters.org/
Warner, M (1994) Managing monsters – The Reith Lectures. London: Vintage.

Jane O’Connor

Dr Jane O’Connor is a Reader in Childhood Studies at Birmingham City University and is currently leading ‘Technobabies’, an international research project exploring parents’ perspectives on the use of touchscreen digital devices by 0-3 year olds. Jane started her professional life as a primary school teacher and moved into research due to her interests in constructions of childhood and children’s relationship with the media. Jane’s research interests include children and technology and children and celebrity.

“All equal, all different”: Contemporary research and practice in anti-bullying: 15th November 2017, Birmingham City University

On 15th November, educators, academics, researchers and campaigners gathered at  Birmingham City University to share latest research on school bullying and explore practices to tackle this important issue. Dr. Elizabeth Nassem, a CSPACE researcher and one of the event organisers, gives a report of the day.

The anti-bullying conference was a collaborative venture with Birmingham City University (BCU) and the Bullying Reduction Action Group (BRAG) which was supported by Birmingham City Council. Many participating schools and research from across the region were involved. The event was a great success as professionals worked together to share and enhance good practice. It focused on not just dealing with bullying between pupils but also involved discussions of bullying between staff and pupils and reflection on how school systems and societal inequalities contribute to school bullying and can be tackled. It has led to a growing community of professionals who are now working more collaboratively to resolve bullying. This enhanced community will be built upon through the continued partnership work with BCU and BRAG.

Anti-bullying conference at BCU in 2017
Anti-bullying conference at BCU in 2017

Baroness Sal Brinton chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Bullying gave a warm welcome and was impressed by the high number of participants (over 100) and high level of engagement from schools and researchers. She explained how it is often that those perceived as different will be bullied and that this is unacceptable and how we can work together as a community to tackle bullying and discrimination such as towards traveller children and individuals who have disabilities.

Professor Peter Smith a world-leading expert on school bullying from Goldsmiths University provided the keynote on what works in tackling bullying. He has noticed a reduction in reports of bullying as research has increased. He discussed the effectiveness of strategies such as restorative justice, KiVa and the Support Group method. He also explained how a social-ecological approach could enhance understanding. Professor Smith highlighted the importance of working with the whole school community such as bus drivers and support staff who also have are instrumental in sending out messages of what behaviours are acceptable, for example, in areas which are often unsupervised by teachers. He discussed evidence that anti-bullying interventions are cost-effective for schools.

Dr Elizabeth Nassem, Centre for Studies of Culture and Practice in Education, BCU discussed the pupil-led anti-bullying strategies she has been implementing. She has used techniques such as role-play, group discussion and critical reflection to support pupils to improve their strategies for responding to bullying. She also provided details of the ‘mentoring for bullies’ intervention she is implementing to explore why ‘bullies’ behave the way they do and help them develop more respectful ways of interacting with others. Dr Nassem explained how schools can ensure there is a process in place to support staff that might feel they are being bullied by staff and/or pupils. She also discussed how children did not perceive themselves as ‘bullies’ and tended to focus on their own feelings of victimisation. She highlighted how children are rejecting the label of ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ and the importance of having a more embracing definition of school bullying.

Dr Neil Duncan is a retired expert on bullying from University of Wolverhampton and provided a controversial but well received presentation on how schools in England generate bullying cultures. He argues that children in secondary school have such lack of control that they cannot even go to the toilet when they need to. He stated that tackling bullying and anti-bullying week has become an institution and remains a problem; now we have an additional problem of cyber-bullying. Dr Duncan increased awareness of how bullying is not just an issues concerning a small number of pupils and highlighted the role of the school environment in bullying. He emphasised the importance of speaking to pupils with respect when reprimanding them.

Julie Smith from Kidscape talked about the free training they provide in Birmingham to support schools, children and families such as their assertiveness training from children who are victimised which has successfully reduced bullying for a high number of participants. Julie was pleased with the increased awareness and uptake of Kidscape’s excellent provision. In addition sessions were provided on compassion in education and the right of individuals to feel safe. Participants in the conference commented on how they had learnt how to provide a scheme of work and practical ideas on how to educate about trans/bi/LGBT bullying. The presentation by PC Simon Bolwell on sexting was well attended and participants commented on how they had learnt how to deal with young people sending child produced sexual images. They had also learnt about the support for schools when working on the compliance side of sexting.

Some schools are looking to implement the ‘No Outsiders’ method of Andrew Moffatt, MBE. Amanda Daniels launched the transgender toolkit and encouraged schools to engage with it providing advice on how to avoid prejudice-based language. Online systems for reporting bullying were also provided by Tell-Chris and Toot-toot. BCU showed it had a leading role in supporting schools through its research provision. Professor Kevin Mattinson who is the Head of Education and Associate Dean announced how he wants to build on this great success and enhance partnerships and collaboration to schools.

Further information on the excellent feedback and photos are on my twitter @bulliedvoices.

Elizabeth Nassem

Elizabeth is a researcher in the Centre for the Study of Practice and Culture in Education. She has a Doctorate in Education which she examined where bullying exists in children’s everyday experiences of school.   Her current work involves developing evidence-based pupil-led anti-bullying initiatives. She provides professional development to schools about school bullying and what to do about it.

Democracy through Drama- A successful Erasmus+ Project Launch!

Chris Bolton introduces a new Erasmus+ research project he is leading on Democracy through Drama. 

Chris Bolton Drama Project team

The project Demo-Dram: Young Civic Thinking and its priorities were identified as a result of recent and current social and political conflicts related to issues, such as immigration and threats in democracies around the world that pose concerns about racism and threaten the peace process in Europe. The project was inspired by a pilot study that myself and colleagues from the Education department of Birmingham City University conducted with teachers and pupils in secondary schools, which revealed that teachers believed that their curricula focuses on targets and assessment, there is no space for debate on social issues and there is social prejudice, xenophobia and imposition from the media that affect young people’s views and their decisions. You can read Chris’s full blog here.

Bio: Christopher Bolton is a Senior Lecturer in Drama Education at BCU. Before this role he worked in a secondary school as a Drama Advanced Skills Teacher. He has a keen interest in how drama can create spaces for dialogic learning by working with reasoned imagination and the impact of the education systems on the nature of drama in education.