For this month’s great road trip of the world, I’d like to nominate Swindon to Devizes via 49 bus (top deck). Crossing the high plateau of the Wiltshire Downs in harsh sunlight was like visiting the extreme plains of Spain. Added to the beauty of shapely hills ringing the view was the strange sensation of driving right through the middle of the stones at Avebury (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) followed by a wonderful overview of Silbury Hill. Devizes must have been a rich place, with several hundred listed buildings in its central area, and can’t now be blamed for having its rail link closed in 1966.
I was visiting Music into the 21st Century, a day attended mostly by secondary school teachers and presented by Wiltshire Music Connect, which is the county’s lively music hub. It was a pleasure for one afternoon to leave aside the usual gloomy narrative about school music teaching and listen to some really cheerful and enthused speakers. James Manwaring (music director of Windsor Learning Partnership) spoke about his methods of engaging large numbers of KS3 students across the school population in his town, and getting them to play and sing music together as soon as possible, overlooking the fact that they may still be beginners. The key is to involve these teenagers in live music situations, and it works, making music look like a desirable, must-do subject.
A great coup for the day was a discussion between the music subject advisors from three of the main English exam boards. Hearing these communicative and chatty people speak with great concern and interest about their work made me realise that my previous impression of exam boards must have come from Hard Times by Charles Dickens. All three advisors stressed their willingness to engage with teachers, often via their twitter platforms. I left Devizes grateful to have had my perceptions brought smartly up to date; meanwhile enjoying the return trip past all the fabulous ancient monuments from the opposite direction, so often a good way to travel.