The Value of Education in Retail

During this week of posts focused on music education, we’ve touched on the subject of in-store teaching and learning several times.  Drawing together the various strands of the music industry and supporting positive working relationships is a central tenet of the MIA’s offering. Tim Bennett-Hart, Director of Academic for RSL Awards, has written the following blog post for us outlining his thoughts and approach in the world in which we find ourselves.

What a year it has been for transformation!  For RSL Awards the changes brought about through Covid-19 have seen us move Graded Exams online and fundamentally change the way we interact with students. However, this is arguably more of a catalyst for evolution than a revolution. From our perspective the changes to include digital assessment and classical instruments were already in the pipeline, we brought forward our plans rather than inventing things from scratch. This has proved incredibly popular with students, which reflects the popularity of starting to learn a musical instrument throughout lockdown.

I think this is a fantastic place for the music industry to be – with a large number of new musicians. The challenge is how we keep people interested in music. Our graded exams are built around a pedagogy called ‘Progressive Mastery’, this simply means taking a complicated skill and breaking it down into appropriate steps. We then add the opportunity to take a graded exam to find out if the student has made the progress they wanted. Research shows that this approach encourages students to stay learning an instrument for longer (typically by around a year). Parents love knowing that their children are making progress in their learning by receiving certificates, and as students get to higher grades they can use their results to get into university (Grades 6-8 achieve UCAS points equivalent to taking A-Levels).

We see the relationship between retail and education as symbiotic. Simplistically, the more people who buy guitars means a larger number of people who might want to take our grades, the more people who take our grades will lead to more people wanting to upgrade their instruments and purchase accessories. Our syllabuses and material are all benchmarked so that learners can find something for the precise level they are working at, and people can have complete confidence of the suitability of the material.

So how can we help the retail environment? As the country starts to open again we think that experiences and activities will be vital, that’s why we will always offer face to face exams as well as digital versions. Getting people back into stores can be enhanced by offering an experience and reason to keep coming back. Adding teaching to the retail environment is nothing new, but in a post-Covid age it could be an incentive to keep our high-streets vibrant.

We have created a free registry of over 3000 teachers where students can find local teachers (or teaching organisations like retail stores). For the organisations engaged on the registry we provide ‘Teach Today’ a curated set of free resources to help start teaching – these include copies of the material, schemes of work/lesson plans, and advice from established music teachers. There are lots of good case studies about setting up teaching provision and we are happy to share our experience.

We are committed to working with the MIA to help grow music education in retail and will be offering even more resources specifically for retail in the near future.

If you are planning something special for re-opening, please get in touch and the team will be very happy to help you navigate the education landscape.


RSL Teacher Registry –

RSL Teach Today –

About RSL Awards

RSL Awards is an Awarding Body that specialises in awarding the qualifications in the Creative Arts. We award Graded Examinations in Popular (Rockschool) and Classical Music (RSL Classical), along with the world’s first regulated Music Production Grades, and now the world’s first and only Graded exams in Vlogging and Podcasting. Our qualifications are designed to be inclusive, diverse and open to all. To support Graded Exams we publish over 200 books. In schools we deliver alternatives to GCSE’s and A-Levels in Creative Arts subjects.

Annually RSL Awards certificates around 80,000 qualifications in 48 countries that enable a world-wide community of educators in the creative industries to help students achieve their goals. Alumni include Ed Sheeran, Jess Glynne, and Mercury Music Prize winners Wolf Alice.

In 2018, RSL proudly received the Queens Award for Enterprise in International Trade. Widely regarded as the most prestigious business awards in the country, the award celebrates the UK’s small and medium sized businesses for outstanding achievement.

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