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Music and the National Curriculum

Discussion in 'Music' started by jonsavage, Jan 20, 2011.

  1. Today will be an interesting day for those of us with an interest in maintaining Music as a National Curriculum subject. The Coalition Government is set to launch its review by a panel of 'independent' experts. For me, key questions to consider are:
    1. Who is there representing Music as a 'subject' worthy of study by all students? What are their qualifications for doing so?
    2. To what extent will the key 'ways of knowing' about Music that I value (i.e. through performing, composing, listening, improvising, reviewing, evaluating, etc) be fought for or articulated through the review?
    3. How will the review relate to the as yet undisclosed findings of the Henely Review?
    My views on all this review are well known and you can read more about these on my blog at www.jsavage.org.uk. I am very pessimistic about the outcome and believe that the days of Music being a compulsory subject in the National Curriculum for all pupils to the age of 14 are other. However imperfect the current system, there is the opportunity for a systematic, coherent and development music curriculum for all pupils today. This won't be in place after Gove et al have had there way.
    I'm also prepared to predict the future for music teachers and their jobs today. I believe that in 3 years from know there will be 50% less music teachers in state schools than there are today.
    What do others think about developments today?
    Whatever your view, I think we should all be responding to the review and I urge you to fight for a quality music education for all children.
  2. That's 'over', not 'other. [​IMG]
    And 'developmental' not 'development'. [​IMG]
    And 'their' not 'there'. [​IMG]
    Sorry. Should check my work more carefully [​IMG].
  3. bessiesmith

    bessiesmith Occasional commenter

    I agree - when I queried why the Dept of Ed had sent me a letter about the future of RE in schools in response to my letter about Music I received an apology with the excuse that they had received hundreds of letters concerning RE- and the tacit implication that they had had far fewer about Music. They have promised to actually read my letter and reply although I am still waiting......
    I fear that unless the press - particularly the right wing variety - take up the cause then it may be lost for the immediate future but at least we can say we tried.
  4. Based on recent events I predict that there won't be a music job at my school in September and I think many others will find this to be the case too.
  5. The DfE has just launched details of the National Curriculum review on their website. As expected, there are certain subjects that are going to be compulsory, and many others (including Music) on which no decision has been made.
    The Expert Panel and Committee have been announced. The Expert Panel includes 3 distinguished professors of education and is led by Tim Oates, Michael Gove's favourite 'academic' it seems (although his key paper has been neither peer-reviewed or published in the traditional sense it seems). The committee includes a number of serving and retired headteachers, but not teachers (not even Michael Gove's favourite teacher Kathryn Birbalsingh).
    Anyway, the fate of Music will be announced in the Spring of 2013. Prior to that, there are couple of periods of consultation. The first of these ends in April 2011. During this consultative phase the review will consider whether:
    ... each of the
    remaining subjects listed in paragraph 13 [i.e. this includes music] above should be part of the
    National Curriculum, with statutory Programmes of Study, and if so at
    which key stages. For any subjects which are not recommended to be
    National Curriculum subjects in future, the review will advise on
    whether there should be non-statutory programmes of study available at
    particular key stages, and/or whether those subjects, or any aspects of
    them, should nevertheless be compulsory but with what is taught being
    decided at local level.
    (para 16)
    So, Music could be 'in' or 'out'.
    If it is 'in', it would have a programme of study, devised and implemented in schools in September 2014.
    If it is 'out', it may or may not have a non-statutory programme of study for particular Key Stages; or aspects of it may be compulsory but with local decisions being taken about how that is implemented. The review does not clear how this would work (sounds like a way to shift the blame to me?).
    Either way it is absolutely vital that we campaign hard between now and the end of April to ensure that Music remains a compulsory National Curriculum subject.
    The second period of consultation in early 2012 will determine the potential content and structure of any statutory or non-statutory elements of Music (and the other non-compulsory subjects identified within the Review documentation).
    Finally, in this whistle stop overview, the core subjects will have their new programmes of study in place for schools to start teaching them in September 2013; all other subjects will have their programmes of study implemented and delivered for September 2014, i.e. round about the time for another general election when who knows what will happen).
    Whilst some may be waiting and hoping for Henley and his review's findings, don't forget that whatever he says it will have to fit within this framework. My hope is that Henley will argue strongly for Music within the National Curriculum. This would give us a tremendous start in our fight to ensure its place and would, one hopes, shape the Expert Panel and Committee's views. We'll have to wait a week or so to see what happens on that front.
    Get campaigning!
  6. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Michael Gove has invited all schools to become academies and large numbers are planning to do so. Given that academies only have to teach the core subjects of the National Curriculum, I wonder if there will be any point in specifying subjects beyond the core?
    If we got to the stage of more than 50% of schools being academies, it could hardly be called a "national" curriculum if more than half of schools were free to ignore half of its requirements.
  7. Well I guess therell be lots of music teachers (particulary instrumental teachers) who will have time on their hands to respond and campaign as there will be a fair few of them out of work come September.
  8. I wonder how long you have been teaching, John? When I was at school there was no National Curriculum, but there was still a music teacher in every school. The vast majority of Heads value music and many value the performing arts as a whole. We represent the school and bring an approach to learning that is different from most other subjects. Schools thad decided not to offer music would face a barage of criticism from parents of children who had a stong interest in the subject, and may find it harder to compete for the falling student role. You are needlessly worried about music teacher's jobs or the future of music in most schools.
    I would be more worried about Govies insistence that there don't appear to be enough "facts" in the NC. What we need is less prescription, not more!
    On a personal note - I would be happy for the national curriculum and its"ways of knowing about music" to drop into the never ending pit of fire and damnation from whence it came. I give it very little thought at the best of times and generally teach what I damn well please (which is what I think most appropriate for my students). When I do look at it I notice that it normally is following my lead.
    I am more worried that the already limited amount of music that takes place in primary schools will evaporate.
  9. I think you are being naive if you think that music will stay in all schools. Already only a week after the possibility of redundancies have been mentioned music has been removed from the options which effectively makes my role non-exsistant. In many schools, particularly those in deprived areas, the music budget is heavily subsisdised so that students can take part in instrumental lessons. The pressure of meeting the targets of the Ebac will mean many schools happliy jetison the performing arts subjects in order to give greater time to the more accademic subjects required.
  10. I taught music in two high schools for six years from 1996. I have worked in HE running PGCE courses at MMU since then.

    The biggest difference between the two jobs is that in my current role I get to visit numerous music departments in schools across the NW of England. I work with other colleagues who visit many more (around 100 each year in total). I feel that I have a good grasp on the issues facing music education within the high school even though I'm not directly involved teaching music. Others can disagree!

    You may be the best music teacher that has ever taught. You may also be working in a school that is never going to drop music from its curriculum offering. All I have said in previous posts here is that I'm worried that should music disappear from the National Curriculum then many schools will choose to drop Music as a regular component of their curricula. This will be dependent on the Headteacher's views and the senior curriculum managers of course. There are numerous examples of this happening already in academies across the UK.

    Elsewhere on this forum, other commentators are noticing that the option choices for Key Stage 4 courses, and the position of Music within these, are becoming very difficult. I am worried that this will affect the take up of Music at this level (which is already one of the lowest of GCSE choices nationally). This can't help the position of Music generally in secondary education.

    Like you, I am also worried about the crisis in the provision of Music within the primary school.

    Finally, I find your comments about the National Curriculum very worrying. As I have said already, you may not feel the need for a National Curriculum which has grown out of many music teachers' combined experience, wisdom and expertise. It is, in my view, built on firm foundations of educational research into musicality and approaches to musical teaching and learning that we would all do well to pay attention to.

    Whilst you may feel that you have all of these skills and expertise already and can do your own thing, many of the rest of us are a bit more humble and like to build on the work of others. In that sense, the National Curriculum is a helpful and essential framework. It is also politically important but that's another story.

    Either way, a National Curriculum of the sort we have had in this country for the last twenty years has given us a framework of musical entitlement for all pupils that we ignore at our peril. If it disappears, there is no doubt that you won't miss it. I tend to think that others will. And it will also give some senior managers an excuse to dismss Music as too expensive, noisy, something that can be done elsewhere, etc, etc, etc.
  11. I am finding it hard to be anything other than pessimistic. In my school we now have a 2 year KS3 with pupils selecting options in year 8 and the way the new options blocks have been set up coupled with parents wanting their children to achieve the bacc means that a music group in next years year 9 is higly unlikely. We have also been told that Music in years 7 and 8 will be on a carousel next year meaning that pupils will recieve only half a year of music (1 hour per week for half the year). The department is reducing from 2 teachers to 1.
  12. Let's hope Rockmeamadeus is reading this. Things are far from rosy in other schools. I'm sorry to hear about this fretless. I hope you find ways to ensure Music remains a vibrant subject within your school despite these cuts.
  13. How are we going to change Gove's mind on this? He's talking about 1-2 subjects to add into the EBacc, but it will probably just be RE. I can't see him adding music without art or drama and vica-versa.
    We may have to wait for another government... It's going to be a long and depressing 4 years then.

  14. I'm currently teacher training (secondary music) and have been following this closely. When I was choosing my GCSE options at college, English, Maths and Science were of course compulsory. The college also specified that I took a MFL and either History or Geography. I was left with two ‘free’ choices for which I chose music and D&T.

    It’s my understanding that these choices would now amount to the English Baccalaureate. Moreover, the college where I studied boasted a music department of 3 full-time teachers. Isn’t Mr Gove simply rebranding what has happened in many schools for years? I certainly hope so rather than the alternative which is the sidelining of music.

    Perhaps my experience of GCSE options isn't commonplace? I’d be interested to know people’s thoughts on this!
  15. Oops... there are probably better suited discussions for my above post, but regarding music's place in the National Curriculum I feel that even if the statutory curriculum is reduced only to subjects that comprise the English Baccalaureate then the future still isn’t that bleak...
  16. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    "Science" is not good enough. For the Eng Bacc you have to either enter for all three separate sciences (and get at least a C in two of them), or you have to get a C in both Science and Additional Science, or at least a CC in double science.
    Thus you would have had only one (or perhaps no) free choice.
    The worry is that when everything that is not an Eng Bacc subject gets crammed into possibly just one option slot, students who would have liked to take (say) Art, Music and Drama must now choose between those subjects. With the uptake for GCSE Music already periously low in smaller schools, as previously mentioned, just the loss of a couple of students can make the class size too small to be viable. Thus Music disappears at KS4.
    Another point to bear in mind is that even a single MFL has not been compulsory in recent years in many schools. Reintroducing compulsory MFL then takes up another "free choice" option block in such schools.
  17. Yes! Yes! I'm reading this. I might have to eat one or two of my words and this does happen very often so pay attention!
    We had the weekly staff meeting today and the Head went through what the EB would mean. She was one of the Heads who attended a meeting about it in London. In our school it seems that all students will be taking this qualification and, yes indeed, the option blocks are being re-arranged. The only saving grace was that an MFl was already compulsory at our school. I can not understand what this obsession with putting RE in is. I mean, I'm a Chrstian and even Id on't think we should be teaching it! There are plenty of humanities included already (to be honest I include Englsih as a humanity). Music is right at the bottom of the list. I've only just managed to build it up.
    We need to get our heavyweights invovled - where is Black Adder man when you want him?
    Anyway - words eaten!
  18. No worries. In terms of heavyweights, Sarah Kekus, the current chair of NAME, shares many of the concerns raised in this and other posts. Have a look at:
    I suggest that all readers of this forum with a concern for music education start making representation to our national bodies (NAME, MEC, FMS, MIA, etc) as well as your local MP. Also, of course, make your own response to the review.
  19. In fact, I was phoned by NAME just the other day. I was asked to take part in a survey. It basically went like this...
    Caller: 'Do you think that the proposed Ebacc will have a detrimental effect on the uptake of Music at GCSE?'
    Me: 'Yes.'
  20. While in school music sessions cannot be compared to the luxury of having an individual student for half an hour to target specific skills or the experience of performing in an ensemble with students of comparable standard there is great benefit in trying to inite curiosity at least. Yet inclusion is at the heart of most education drives, or at least it would take a brave (and honest) person to admit that it was no longer a consideration.
    As a teacher who *just* remembers life pre-NC, most schools in the area I worked in did still employ music teachers. Music has always had a fight on it's hands to be taken seriously due to small number of staff in dept, small take-up in relation to year group size etc. Then if the students do achieve stunning results it's probably because you put only 22 students through GCSE not 300 as they did in Maths.
    There's another dimension to the thinner end of the thin end of the wedge too which goes 'consider delivering the music courses you run in 50-75% of the time allocation usually given to a foundation subject GCSE/AS/A2 course and maintain your results profile'. Not sure that recent changes to the GCSE specs have helped either... besides compulsory interventions and 1-2-1 mentoring initiatives...
    Although in general schools want an increase in (largely unrenumerated) shop window events, perhaps because the pics look good on the website and tick the boxes (in many cases) for networking and community links...
    Isn't there some truism about shooting the artists first come the revolution?

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