Bournemouth and Poole College and the Wessex Youth Orchestra: uncomfortable evidence (1: poor cooperation/excessive pressure)

(Post made at 2131 UK GMT time on 04 Nov 2018 in a personal capacity.  Please see here for important background and disclosure of interests).

This is just part of the evidence that I presented to the College and the “Independent Investigator” during my formal complaint of May 2017.  Evidence which the investigator (from View HR Ltd) appears to have completely ignored: the report dismissing the complaint stated that “no witnesses have been willing to step forward to provide any evidence in support of his allegations”.

The individuals quoted below (all of whom had confirmed to me in writing that the statements attributed to them were accurate) confirmed that they were not interviewed by the investigator (see here), despite my having supplied their contact details to the investigator via the official contact person at the College. Did the official contact person fail to pass on their contact details to the investigator? The investigation was concluded very abruptly within days of my supplying these contact details.

Concerns about poor cooperation between the WYO and local schools/musical ensembles, and excessive demands/pressure on WYO members

The College/CWYM (Centre for Wessex Young Musicians) claimed to me while I was Chairman of SWYM (the Society for Wessex Young Musicians) that “school comes first”.

However, you will already have seen that the opposite happened in March 2017, when the WYO refused a request by a school Head of Music for WYO pupils to be released from an extra WYO rehearsal (on a weekday) so that they could attend a school concert.

This is part of what teachers (from schools and ensembles) told me when I asked them separately about their experience of the degree of cooperation from the WYO:

Teacher 1:

“Some people think the WYO is way too demanding and inflexible. Several WYO members and parents have mentioned to me over the years that they find the Thu/Fri/Sat evenings leading up to concerts too much – especially those older ones prepping for GCSE/A Levels with other commitments/life outside WYO. A committed player left WYO because of unreasonable demands (including being told off or made to feel almost ashamed of themselves for missing rehearsals). Other players have mentioned similar feelings to me.”

(Relevant here is the number of rehearsals and whether they are excessive or not. 18 rehearsals, including six extra, during the spring term seems clearly excessive at a time when pupils are prepping for GCSE/A levels. I saw – and presented to the College – other evidence that pupils feel under pressure to attend extra WYO rehearsals, not just regular ones).

Teacher 3:

“The indiscriminate addition of extra Thurs/ Fri / whole Sat WYO rehearsals badly disrupts other organisations (musical & otherwise) which rely on producing similar standards on much shorter rehearsal times. It is unfair to the children in the WYO, many of whom are trying to cope with GCSE & A levels. In reality, only a handful of them end up going into the orchestral world these days, so this regime is over the top.”

Teacher 4:

“Even though we have asked for this information, we are not informed of the dates of extra rehearsals.” “When we ask pupils who are in the WYO if there is an extra rehearsal on such and such a date [which clashes with a school rehearsal], they are extremely reluctant to answer.”

Teacher 3:

“We want to avoid clashes, but it is very difficult when we are not informed about when extra rehearsals are due to take place.”“Changes to the WYO schedule caused a lot of disruption with absolutely NO cooperation or collaboration.”

Teacher 6:

“Cooperation for many years has been minimal, even when we asked for players to be released slightly early from a Saturday morning rehearsal to attend an early afternoon rehearsal of our own ahead of a concert that evening. We want to avoid clashes because we want to support the WYO, but the WYO does not share the information with us which doesn’t make sense.”

A retired teacher (Teacher 8) also confirmed to me that the lack of cooperation by the WYO with schools and other groups dates back many years (e.g. in the years before 2008).

Concerns about the fairness of the WYO’s approach to competitions

Teacher 3:

“It is unfair that the WYO should perform in competitions with so many extra (and usually older) players, and a lot of extra rehearsal time. It is not a level playing field.”

I have previously pointed out that having a lot of extra rehearsal time, as well as putting unnecessary pressure on pupils who have other commitments including GCSEs and A levels, inevitably increases the gap between the WYO and its feeder groups, which is a problem for the sustainability of the Centre.

The feeder groups rely on regular rehearsal time alone, and of much shorter duration. I say unnecessary pressure because the WYO could – and in my opinion should, like most other youth orchestras – choose repertoire that could be performed to a very high standard within the significant regular rehearsal time already available to the WYO (with perhaps one extra rehearsal needed in an emergency), and which does not regularly necessitate large numbers of extra players. (The following did not form part of my evidence to the College because it was collated later, but as an example see here:  The Bournemouth and Poole College’s Wessex Youth Orchestra spent just under £2,000 on extra players for two concerts.)

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