New article in Times Educational Supplement on abuse in musical education – and public debate on October 19th, Barbican Centre

In May of this year (2013), the Times Educational Supplement printed an article by me on how the danger of abuse is especially acute within musical education – (Ian Pace, ‘The culture of music education lends itself to abuse’, TES, May 8, 2013, which can be read online here. In September, a response was printed by Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas (Claire Fox, ‘The line between good teaching and abuse’, TES, September 6, 2013, which can be read here). I believed this article to minimise and make light of the issue, and in particular Fox to be unwilling to consider what might be particular to music education that appears to have facilitated a very large amount of alleged abuse. My response has now been printed on their website – Ian Pace, ‘No music or art form is more important than the right of children to life safe from abuse’, TES, October 3, 2013, and can be read here.

As part of the Battle of Ideas event at the Barbican Centre, hosted by the Institute of Ideas, there will be a debate on Saturday October 19th, 1:30 pm – 3 pm, entitled ‘One to one tuition in the dock? The crisis in music schools’. Further details can be found here. Amongst the panellists are Frank Furedi (whose website is here), whose controversial writings have been very critical of responses to the Jimmy Savile affair and the subsequent Operation Yewtree. I feel that the panel chosen to discuss this issue looks rather one-sided, and so would strongly urge all those who care about the many types of abuse which can occur in music education and the wider music world to attend and ensure all types of opinions and experiences are heard.

Addendum: One point not addressed in my reply is where Fox says that ‘one result of the sexual abuse allegations has been calls to further regulate hands-on one-to-one tuition’. But the extent to which this mode of teaching is under threat is easily overstated – and the claims to that effect derive from a rather over-hasty headline by a sub-editor of a Guardian interview with the Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music, Linda Merrick (Helen Pidd, ‘One-to-one music tuition ‘may be abolished”, The Guardian, March 1, 2013, which can be read here). Merrick never says anything so forceful as that in the interview – the relevant quote is:

“As a sector, we will be looking at whether the one-to-one teaching model, which has been the model in the music world for years and years, can continue,” she said, stressing that such personal tuition has long been “a very important part of being a musician”.

I think all such models will benefit from continuous re-examination (my own views on the subject can be found in an interview with Classical Music magazine here). In general, as the cellist Michal Kaznowski, has suggested, a culture with more (figuratively) ‘open doors’, with students encouraged to co-operate, listen to each other’s lessons, and so on, might go a long way, beyond the guarded secrecy of the private one-to-one lesson. But I have seen no evidence of any likelihood that one-to-one teaching would be abolished in the foreseeable future – that is just scaremongering.

Since the TES article went online, I was copied into a important letter to Claire Fox, which I am reproducing here (anonymously) with permission:

Dear Claire,

I am pleased that you are debating the issue of abuse in music schools following the recent death of Frances Andrade and the subsequent outpouring of allegations of similar abuse. However, as someone who was also abused I am very concerned that the real issue is being clouded over by a total misunderstanding of what really goes on and I urge you to rethink the debate. Your debate could help prevent further abuse rather than further divide people on something that is irrelevant.

The issue is not one on one tuition: it is not a grope or inappropriate touch by a teacher in a music lesson that is the issue. It is the systematic, psychological grooming that goes on subtly until the “victim” is sufficiently weakened in order to “allow” sexual abuse to happen. This grooming can happen anywhere, and very easily, over a period of time: a simple flattering comment in the corridor after a lesson, a subtle complement then the withdrawal of praise. It is easy to do this in the highly competitive environment of specialist education where everyone is striving to be the best.

Until this is properly understood, there is no way that we as a society can prevent further abuse from taking place. None of the teachers at my boarding school – who were in loco parentis – did anything despite very obvious external signs that something was very wrong. Either they didn’t care or didn’t realise anything was wrong: both unacceptable. Many of those teachers are still there over 20 years later and the man who abused me continued to abuse girls there until one girl went to the police in 2002. However, he denied everything and is still teaching in other institutions as the girl and others who came forward could not face going to trial.

What needs to be done is simple:
Educate parents and teachers about grooming and spotting the signs of a child who is being abused
Educate children about grooming and what is appropriate behaviour (including touching) of teachers.

Please have the right debate.