Testing 1

This is truly a testing time of year. Places for instrumental instruction, formerly occupied by last session’s S6s & P7s are up for grabs. Unfortunately, entry to this world entails an element of testing. This can be an area of consternation and misunderstanding and it is worth taking a moment to clarify the reasons for testing and some of the vocabulary involved.

The sole reason for testing is that of limited resources. To offer instrumental instruction to every interested pupil would entail increasing staffing on an unfeasible scale. Limited places are given to those whose potential for aptitude suggest that they are likely to continue. This process is referred to as selection but is known in realms of sport and theatre as trials and auditions.

The words “pass” and “fail” unfortunately find their way into people’s perceptions of the selection process. To the extent that a pupil is not selected for instruction, it may feel that some failing has taken place, but the idea that they failed to reach a minimum score is inaccurate. There is really very little similarity between this process and, for example, SQA exams.

In a primary school with three P5 classes, many of these ninety or so pupils express some interest in learning an instrument. There may, however, be room for only ten pupils (two groups of five). I hope this statistic highlights the gulf between “not making it into the top ten out of ninety” and “failing.”

Over the course of this week, I should like to outline the procedures involved. Although there is an overall understanding in our department of good practice, some details are instrument and location specific and I should like to stress that I shall be describing only my own experiences and ideas.