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Interview: Marie Jones of OCR

An interview with Marie Jones of OCR - teacher and musician

Back in May, MufuChat focused on the new specifications and asked which exam board music teachers would choose.  Very early on in the chat, it became apparent that many teachers place value on a lot more than the specification when it comes to choosing an exam board.  It’s a very fair point and it got me thinking about the wider service that each board provides.

To help music teachers make their decision, I approached representatives from the four boards offering GCSE Music and AS/A-Level Music to answer a few key questions about the service they offer as well as their thoughts about the new specification.  I’m expecting that the most interesting responses will come from the question “If Ofqual wasn’t a factor, what would you change about your draft specifications?”, which gives the subject advisors an opportunity to show us their values for music education.

I’m pleased to say that three of the exam boards have responded to say that they will be involved in the interview series.  Those boards are:

  • OCR
  • Eduqas
  • Edexcel
I will keep chasing AQA to see if we can get them involved in this series of posts!  
To keep things fair, each board representative has been asked the same questions, which can be found here.  

OCR: Marie Jones

The first person to email all of her answers to me was Marie Jones of OCR, meaning that her answers go live today.  Wearing a Musical Futures hat (unfortunately, not literally), I recently spent a couple of days with Marie at the OCR Expos recently and you can read about that experience by clicking here.  My ‘first reaction’ to the GCSE specification can be found here and the A-Level one is here.  
Marie’s answers to the questions are below:

How does your board support teachers when it comes to selecting the right qualification for their centre?  

“Specification documents and sample assessment materials are available to download from the website. There are also examples of the resources that will be added once the new specs for 2016 are accredited and final. I’m available to answer queries through the email address and will make phone calls as needed.  We’ve also been running a range of free Expo events to introduce the new specifications, but if you’ve missed attending one of these, all our CPD events specific to the new music qualifications will be free to centres for the next academic year.”

If a music teacher submitted a question to your board, how long would (s)he have to wait for an answer?  

“Queries are acknowledged straight away and our Customer Contact Centre will liaise with the Subject Specialist to provide an answer within 48 hours. In many cases the CCC will be able to provide the answer immediately if the centre phones us, as they work closely with the subject specialists to be up to date with FAQs and to understand key features of our live qualifications – specialist queries will be forwarded to Marie for a more detailed response.”

To what extent does your music subject advisor engage with teachers on social media, including:

1.  Twitter 

@OCR_PerformArts is jointly run by myself (Marie Jones) and the Drama specialist.”

2.  Facebook groups 

“I am a member of a few music groups on Facebook in a mainly personal capacity as a music teacher and will engage with board specific queries when appropriate.”

3.  Music Mark’s Peer to Peer Network 

“Again I am a member on a personal level but will engage with board specific queries when appropriate.

“There is also the OCR Community page which I check regularly and will post updates, etc. The Community is an opportunity for OCR music teachers to network and share ideas and resources.”

For centres struggling to deliver strong results in music, what can your board do to help them?  

“I am available to deliver centre support visits and phone call/email support. There are CPD events available to book onto as well through the CPD Hub.  Also the CPD Hub contains free and downloadable documents and materials from previous CPD Events which include exemplars and PowerPoints. Again, there is the option of phoning or emailing me for an in depth support chat.  We are happy to arrange local events for centres to meet with one another and share ideas and solve problems together.  If centres would like to host this sort of event I’d love to hear from them!”

What do you see as the key strengths of your current draft specifications for music? 

  • “The vision for OCR music was to be musical, practical, flexible, accessible, and integrated, with clear progression between the stages.
  • We have designed our new draft specifications to cater well to all abilities and tastes, to provide courses that can be personalised to the students. I always chose the OCR GCSE as a teacher/HoD for this very reason. It is equally able to be personalised for lower and higher ability, which I feel is very important. It also allows for very practical, musical, noisy music lessons! This is a strength we have built on for all three of our new draft specifications.
  • We have an emphasis on integration in all three qualifications. The assessments for performance, composition and listening/appraising have to be made separately but the specifications clearly encourage integration during the teaching and learning process.
  • We have designed the new specifications to have a clear progression from each stage to the next. The new Areas of Study are the main way in which we have achieved this.
  • The option to specialise in performance or composition at A level is an opportunity we did not want to miss when the Assessment objectives were made final and the range (25-35%) for performance and composition were offered. This is a strength and a USP among the three English boards. Students will be able to opt for Option A (35% composition and 25% performance) or Option B (35% performance and 25% composition)
  • Technology has clearly been included as an option at all three levels as well. It was felt to be very important in order to be fully accessible and appeal to a wide range of musicians.”

If Ofqual wasn’t a factor, what would you change about your draft specifications? 

“The opportunity for more practical work in the assessment.  Music is a practical subject and as such we should be freer to design qualifications that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills in a practical mode, as well as a theoretical mode.

“As exam boards we are required to assess the performance, composition and appraisal sections separately – I believe Music is a “whole” thing and should be taught as such –  not only for  progress and understanding but also for engagement and enjoyment. We aren’t able to assess the process of composition and performance under the new requirements, for some very good reasons, but I think process is something that is paramount to the teaching and learning of music and, therefore, we need specifications and qualifications that enable and empower teachers to teach “musically”. This should mean the output or final product that is being assessed is successful for the students. (As I said on my #MLRSelfie – Accidental Learning!)”

Is there anything else that you want music teachers know about how you support them?  

“We have worked hard to ensure that our new specifications for Music at GCSE, AS and A level encourage and foster practical integrated learning. The resources that will be made available take a totally new stance when compared with our current offer.  We’re focussed much more on supporting you in your (new) linear journey, rather than just on how the assessment works and will include Delivery Guides, Lesson Elements, Topic Exploration Packs, Transition Guides and Co-Teachability Guides.”