The Betty’s Challenge

This is a critical time for Y11 GCSE students all over the country as final tweaks are made to compositions and final performance recordings. However it is essential for students to be ‘on it’ from day 1, so that their ‘final tweaks’ help them to reach their farthest point possible. Therefore I have “The Betty’s Challenge”.

For those of you reading in other parts of the world, Betty’s is our Yorkshire Traditional Tea Room, this year celebrating its 100th year. It’s a bit more expensive than most, but a high quality experience and well worth the queue around the building to get in. I don’t have any commercial affiliation with Betty’s, but I have been fortunate to have visited on several celebratory occasions in the past.

The Betty’s Challenge is simple. All students have to do is pass. That is, they are in this together and all have to pass (100% A*/C, or nowadays 100% 9-5). If they can achieve this they will enjoy Afternoon Tea all together on me. The last time it happened, this cost me over £400!

Our GCSE music course is open to all students – musicians and non-musicians. There is no selective entry exam to come to our 11-16 state school and no entry requirement to enter the GCSE course. As a result every class is mixed ability. To be ‘successful’, students must be independent in their learning and must build strong trusting relationships with other students (as well as with their music teacher). Those relationships are built on the knowledge of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and awareness of moments when encouragement is required. Students must strive to understand concepts together, without leaving anyone behind. When they start to produce exam work, they cannot help each other. However a strong culture of proactive invention and creativity continues to be inspirational, even if not directly used in the production of exam work.

The grades, although important for the students’ career progression, are quite incidental and ultimately a bonus. What I really hope to inspire is a love of collaborative learning in music. If this ultimate production environment is created, students develop great confidence in how they learn in all subjects. The music they develop is of a very high standard and I only very rarely have to consider ‘behaviour management’. Students are challenged to make the most of every opportunity they have together.

Enjoy some of their amazing compositions here.

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