It is Time to Follow the Example of Pipe Bands in Encouraging Our Judges to Teach

By Robert Wallace

Twelve years ago Pipe Band Magazine reported on an important ruling adopted by the then RSPBA Adjudicators Panel. Headlined ‘Rule Change at AGM Means Judges are Free to Pass on Their Knowledge’ it basically cleared the way for judges judging bands they taught or assisted with. Lordy, lordy pipe bands showing the way for our solo administrators! Compare that with the retrograde rulings from the Solo Piping Judges Association of recent times. Read the article in full with comment below….

‘Pipe band adjudicators can now judge bands that they teach or assist with. The rule prohibiting this was scrapped at the AGM held in Glasgow last month [March 2005]. The proposal to rescind it was put forward by the National Council. On the face of it this may seem an unusual, even controversial, step to take but the belief in Headquarters and amongst the Association’s senior officials is that it shows a maturity of approach to a lifelong problem within the pipe band competition structure.

‘Between 30 and 40% of our adjudicators help out with bands, bands they may end up judging on the competition field. It is considered important that these judges be allowed to pass on their undoubted knowledge and expertise to the next generation of bandsmen and women. As well as questioning the integrity of judges, the old rule mitigated against them acting as educators. Furthermore the monitoring group maintained within the Adjudicators Panel is so well structured and organised that all results are subject to the utmost scrutiny.

‘If any judge’s results were found to be following a pattern of partiality and inconsistency then it would not be long before he or she was brought to book. Bob Shepherd, a member of the Adjudicator Training Group, spoke at length about the decision and about developments in the ‘mentoring’ process being adopted for RSPBA judges.


 


Bob Shepherd

‘He said: ‘Bands need assistance. Where do they go for that assistance? They turn to judges or attached judges. These are usually former pipe majors and the likes of Richard Parkes and Robert Mathieson who are both on the judge’s panel. It would be wrong to deny bands access to their knowledge so the rule had to go.

‘I am not concerned about bias amongst our adjudicators. I honestly believe that all of our judges are impartial and operate with integrity. I really mean that. No one can accuse them of cheating because they all have their known opinions and that is what they are being asked to give. However we are finding through our mentoring process that they have different parameters within which they judge. One man may look for technical expertise in a band, giving good marks for clean playing with no slip-ups etc.

The original article

‘Another may turn a blind eye to the piper in the front rank who brings in an ‘E’ too early, favouring instead the band’s overall musical effect and cohesion. Through careful scrutiny of comment sheets the judge’s strong and weak aspects are exposed. If there is a complaint then there is a system in place to deal with it. Inconsistency would be spotted right away and the judge may be asked to explain it. We have a clear template of criteria with which we can compare a judge’s comments. If any deficiency is spotted then the Training Group is there to put that right.’

‘I say again, no one should expect them all to operate within the same parameters. What they do is subjective. One man’s meat may be another’s poison, but I earnestly believe they all operate with honesty and integrity.’

Let’s repeat some of the article’s salient points:

‘… [the change] shows a maturity of approach to a lifelong problem within the pipe band competition structure…’

‘…It is considered important that these judges be allowed to pass on their undoubted knowledge and expertise to the next generation of bandsmen….’

‘….I am not concerned about bias amongst our adjudicators. I honestly believe that all of our judges are impartial and operate with integrity….’

‘…the old rule mitigated against them acting as educators…’

Reading this one wonders again at the warped wisdom of the Solo Piping Judges Committee and their risible pupil/teacher rulings. Don’t they trust their judges in the way the bands do? Aren’t there the same monitoring safeguards happening anyway in the solo world in post contest, peer-to-peer discussions (you bet they are). As the ultimate sanction, can’t a solo contest promoter simply withdraw an invitation to judge to any repeated transgressor?

There is now a significant change pending on the committee of the SPJA. One hopes the new recruit will bring some fresh thinking to what is widely seen as a discredited organisation. I sincerely hope it will get its act together in the coming year and start to operate with some enlightened common sense. Rules which impede education should be kicked into the heather along with the ridiculous complaints procedure setting judge against judge.


Four weeks to the sun!