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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH
reports on problems brewing
for the International Baccalaureate

? ' Dear Alice
I am absolutely furious!!!!

In common with a friend of mine (who is also from the Sevenoaks area) I took the International Baccalaureate rather than A-levels etc at my grammar school. I hate to brag, but we've both done really pretty well in music performance. We were chosen together to represent our area in national chamber music competition, and my friend has just won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, while I just received a distinction in my (post-grade VIII) Performer's Certificate on cello. Our music teacher graded us both 7 out of 7 for the IB in music performance -- but the IB person then put us both down to 6 out of 7.

Now the IB music is supposed to be Grade VI standard. Correct me if I'm wrong, but post-Grade VIII (distinction!!!) is, er, rather higher than this. (Not to mention that my friend must be one of the top performers in the country, to have been given a scholarship to the RAM.)

Not only this, but this is the second year in a row when all the music students in the Sevenoaks area have had their performance crucially marked down!

Not only that, but the IB claims that there can be no appeal 'as the marks have been marked twice' -- a get-out clause of no meaning whatsoever.

Now I don't plan on being a professional performer (I'm reading other subjects at university) but I'm still really upset, as is my friend. This is a bias against people in our area -- possibly even all of Kent? -- possibly because standards of performance are unusually high compared to other countries. And the lack of any appeal process is a complete disgrace.

Please bring this to people's attention in your column, if possible. Other kids out there (at least in Kent) should know that they have no hope of a fair mark from the IB in music performance. And the IB should know that people have noticed!

Name withheld'

Ask Alice

Alice Dear anon,

I was shocked to hear about this, and called up some of my contacts (I don't live very far from you myself). Sure enough, the grapevine is absolutely a-buzz with the IB's seeming bias against people from your area. (I would love to know if your suspicions are correct, and that other, unusually strong, areas of musical performance have also been marked down too. Anyone reading this in other areas of the UK please advise.)

And it is certainly crazy that people like your friend couldn't achieve top marks in performance. (What level do they expect, exactly, from 17-year-olds? Rostropovich's? Domingo's?)

This is all the more worrying because the IB is supposed to be the 'gold standard' against which A-levels strive in vain. The 'top schools' quite often prefer it, and brag about its international acceptance in posh brochures. But what price international acceptance if there is no appeal against churlish unfairness?

We should form a movement: Fair Play for IB Music Pupils in Kent (or FPIBMPK. Hang on, that acronym still needs a little work.)

In the meantime, good luck to you and your RAM-going friend -- and enjoy the next three years.

co-founder, Blast IB Unfair Marking in Kent (or BIBUMIK)

Copyright © 1 August 2008 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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