Music students and teachers record virtual performance in plea to Education Minister: 'Don't silence us'

Music teachers and students from Carrickfergus Grammar have joined a campaign urging the Education Minister to rethink a ban on music in schools.

The virtual choir campaign saw over 80 students and teachers from across Northern Ireland collaborate for an online performance of ‘How Can I Keep from Singing’, ending the video with the plea: “Music is the heartbeat of every school - please don’t silence us.”

It comes after school principals received a letter from the Education Minister Peter Weir indicating that ‘no indoor singing or playing of wind or brass instruments should take place on school premises’ following the Easter break.

Edward Craig, head of music at Carrickfergus Grammar, coordinated and produced the virtual performance.

A still from the virtual choir campaign on Youtube.

“Schools have provided high quality music provision throughout the pandemic in a risk-assessed, safe environment, and now we have a blanket ban on singing and playing wind instruments in our buildings,” Mr Craig said.

“The science says ‘it is not about vocalisation – whether it’s singing or speaking – it is about volume’.

“Where is the evidence that performing on woodwind, brass or voice has contributed to the spread of COVID in schools?

"We can have a music lesson in a private home, we can sing and play in churches, but in school we cannot sing or play on our own in a ventilated room - even for a lesson on Zoom while the tutor remains in their own home."

Susan Shepherd, a singing teacher in East Antrim, Belfast and North Down, said the ban did not seem to be in line with the relaxing of other restrictions.

“Teachers are calling for some hard evidence to back up this decision. No other country in the UK has banned music in schools; if anything they are increasing their permitted music activities,” she added.

“It feels like another decision that has been made too hastily without concern for the mental wellbeing of young people.”

"The announcement is causing stress to many pupils who have to undertake assessments for GCSE and A-Level music exams, as they are left having to record their performances at home. Many do not have access to good quality recording equipment, putting them at a disadvantage compared to others who do.

"Even the younger pupils for whom music provides them with a sense of fulfilment and achievement have had the opportunity to continue this taken away from them."

The virtual performance is available on YouTube.