The parents did everything possible – but the Wessex Youth Orchestra and Bournemouth and Poole College let their child down badly

(Post made at 1234 GMT on 10 Nov 2018 in a personal capacity.  Please see here for important background and disclosure of interests). This is a follow up to this post.

I cried when I read the email turning down the child’s application to join the WYO

Shortly after finding out that the family were leaving the Centre (for Wessex Young Musicians) because the child’s application to join the WYO had been rejected, and because the rejection email had left the parents shocked, I asked to see a copy of that email.

When I read it, I am not ashamed to say that I cried.  I could not believe that anyone could be so insensitive.

The family had been incredibly supportive of the Centre for 6 years, with the child displaying near 100% (possibly even 100%) commitment and loyalty, not only attending and performing in every concert, but also with both pupil and parents helping out in numerous ways.

The family had gone out of their way to help their child prepare for the WYO audition, including the child playing in another youth orchestra during a course in the August before the September audition.  That other youth orchestra played repertoire very similar to that recently played by the WYO, and the child had performed very successfully with that orchestra.

The instrument was one in great demand, and for which the WYO was very short of places, and has remained very short of places ever since.  It is not as if there was no room for the child in the WYO, or that the child’s membership would have significantly constrained the WYO. (Even if the latter had been the case, couldn’t the WYO/College have explored ways in which any concerns might be addressed?).

The WYO’s email gave no credit to the child or family for the massive loyalty they had displayed to the Centre for so many years.  A word of thanks to the parents for their very significant assistance to the Centre during their child’s 6 years of membership would have been well overdue.

No credit for the intense training in musicianship provided to the child by those 6 years of Wessex Starter Strings and Wessex Middle Strings membership and by the extra help from the parents.  Some players join the WYO without having had the benefit of such training, and need to learn vital things like counting bars rest, knowing when to come in, and most importantly, not to play.

This child had extensive experience of this, unlike many previous successful WYO applicants who had sat at the back of the WYO section and had to learn how to play in an ensemble from scratch.  Not all of these successful applicants had the nimbleness or dexterity of fingers that the WYO email suggested all players needed to have from the start.

A recognition that the child had successfully played in another youth orchestra would have been appropriate.

An attitude of “what can we do to help your child with disabilities take part in the WYO” would have been what I was expecting, and in line with the College’s stated policy. (In my opinion, what the College says, and what it actually does, have been completely different in many areas.)

Instead, although there was an offer for the child to attend one or more future WYO rehearsals, there was this insuperable condition (of strengthening finger joints) for the child to be able to join the WYO.

To me, and more importantly to the parents, it was the equivalent of saying: “you’re very welcome to join the WYO when you have overcome your disability”.

And so I cried

I could not imagine how the parents were going to explain to their child that despite the family doing everything possible, going far beyond the call of duty to help the Centre for Wessex Young Musicians and to prepare for the WYO, the email implied it was very unlikely to ever happen.

What was this going to do to the child’s confidence? Something very positive in his/her life (membership of the Centre) had just turned into something very negative.

At best, the WYO email was incredibly insensitive (that was the clear view of the parents). At worst it was not only a breach of the College’s policies, but also illegal discrimination against a disabled child.

The parents had done everything possible. Life with disability is hard enough, even when you have extra help.

But the WYO and the Bournemouth and Poole College kicked them and their child in the teeth.

And that’s why I cried, and why I spoke up about this.

The Bournemouth and Poole College and the Wessex Youth Orchestra should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves in this affair.

One thought on “The parents did everything possible – but the Wessex Youth Orchestra and Bournemouth and Poole College let their child down badly

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