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Choose a teacher

Checklist for parents and teachers

Before deciding upon instrumental or vocal teaching for your school or your child, you should be satisfied with the teacher’s answers to some key questions.

Quality of teaching

When and how is the teacher observed teaching by senior specialists? How is the quality of teaching assessed and shared with the teacher and standards improved?

A peripatetic teacher should feel part of a team; well-supported and advised. Regular monitoring visits also help to improve standards of teaching. A teacher who works independently may not have access to these kinds of support. If the provider is not a member of the FMS, ask what sort of support the teachers have and how they monitor and improve on the quality of their teaching.

FMS members provide regular ongoing quality assurance supervision and support for their teachers. Experienced professionals observe the teachers while they are teaching. The results of these observations are shared and discussed with the teachers. In-service training for teachers is based on the evidence gained through these visits. Teachers should provide a yearly, in-depth, written Pupil Progress Report for all pupils as well as the opportunity to discuss progress in person.

Selection and qualifications

Does the provider audition its teachers – or, if the provider is a private teacher, has a recognised senior specialist heard that teacher play?

To teach an instrument you have to be able to play it competently. If the teacher is only a grade or two ahead of the pupil, this may result in the pupil not learning to play the instrument correctly and giving up in frustration. It is important that an organisation auditions and interviews its teachers. Private teachers working in schools should be auditioned by a qualified specialist able to judge instrumental / vocal competence.

FMS members audition their teachers as well as interviewing them. They are normally auditioned by a senior specialist of the instrument or subject they wish to teach.

Professional development

How much skill sharing is conducted with other teachers? How up-to-date are their teaching methods?

Teachers employed by FMS members form part of a network of over 10,000 teachers. Each service arranges for teachers to meet regularly to share ideas and learn from each other. They are given in-service training by visiting specialists of national repute in their field.

FMS members helped to formulate the curriculum document, A Common Approach. This is an instrumental / vocal curriculum that forms the basis of a scheme of work. Produced by the Federation of Music Services, the National Association of Music Educators, the Music Education Council and the Royal College of Music, it has now been endorsed by the Government Advisory Committee on Culture and Creativity in Education and is rapidly becoming the standard curriculum document for music services.

FMS members regularly train their teachers using widely-respected practitioners. This keeps them involved with national and international developments in music education.

Wider musical opportunities to encourage progress

Does the provider offer children musical activities over and above the weekly lesson so that they can use their increasing skills as much as possible?

To make instrumental / vocal tuition truly effective, children ideally need more than a weekly lesson to maintain their enthusiasm and to develop their skills. They need to perform with others in orchestras, bands, choirs and other ensembles.

FMS members offer a range of activities which create a ladder of opportunity for all pupils. These normally include music centres, county or borough ensembles and residential courses.

Commercial interests

Are there any commercial interests associated, such as the provider selling instruments in addition to tuition?

Most FMS members provide the opportunity for pupils to hire an instrument before deciding whether to purchase. Many LEAs now run an Assisted Purchase Scheme enabling music service pupils with the opportunity to purchase an instrument with the benefit of VAT relief. Always seek advice from your school or LEA before starting the purchase process.

Mixed instrument groups

Does the provider teach mixed instrumental groups?

If you are offered group-teaching where children play a mixture of different instrumental families all taught by one teacher, remember that the teacher is not likely to be a specialist in all of them. If this is the case, some children in the group will be learning from an expert and some will not.

FMS members tend not to teach mixed instrumental groups with only a single teacher. Members do sometimes offer team-teaching of large, mixed instrumental groups involving two expert teachers working together.

Child protection

Does the provider have Child Protection guidelines for its teachers? Does the lone private teacher know about child protection? Are they police checked?

This is a vitally important area for consideration where close proximity between teachers and pupils is involved, sometimes in one-to-one situations.

FMS members work in accordance with the Child Protection Policy of their LEA and all teachers are cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau as part of the appointment procedure. In addition, all staff should receive training in Child Protection awareness.

Membership of FMS

If the provider is an organisation, is it a member of the Federation of Music Services (FMS)?

FMS demands high standards in terms of the professionalism and ethics of its 147 member music services nation-wide. It is regarded by the government and the music profession as the national voice of music services, with the greatest concentration of knowledge and expertise in this field of education. Through its large membership it represents the interests of 500,000 pupils and 10,000 teachers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Cost and flexibility of the service

  • What will be the cost of the lesson? Are there instrument costs?
  • How many will be in the teaching group?
  • How many lessons will be delivered per term or year?
  • Where will the lessons be held?
  • Is there a scheme for remission of fees?
  • What other opportunities will be available in the future?

These are obvious questions for your potential provider and the answers will vary according to where you live and who will provide the service.

Whilst schools and parents are generally free to make their choice of music tuition provider, the FMS would strongly urge you to question any potential provider along the lines suggested above.