Traditional music notation is certainly the elephant in the primary school classroom. Teachers in primary schools are required to teach skills in music and, whilst singing has always been acknowledged as an excellent musical activity, over the years there has been criticism that changing the song does not necessarily add to the skills being learned. The beauty of singing is that it can result in wonderful performances. These concerts fulfil important needs, generating a sense of achievement and satisfaction for the pupils, and providing content for school festivities. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of this. Singing songs, however, is a challenging medium for a structured music curriculum. As I explore what is available to support primary whole-class music teaching I discover a general avoidance of traditional music notation. When I research why this might be, I discover three main responses: 1. You can’t expect non-specialist music teachers to teach traditional music notation 2. We don’t need it – it’s limiting creativity – Paul McCartney couldn’t read music and it didn’t stop him - - and - - - it’s not relevant to Indian music etc. 3. Primary school music lessons should be practical lessons. Pupils should be allowed to make music not learn theory – one lesson a week is not enough time to do both So I consider these responses …… And then I see that, if any child signs up to learn the clarinet or the flute, at the same time as getting their first instrument, they get a tutor book. The tutor book is full of traditional music notation ….. Hmmm. Traditional music notation does seem to be critical if you’re going to learn to play a musical instrument. I consider further …… What if the right resources were available? What if there were really strong resources - - that could help non-specialist music teachers teach a class of 6 year olds to read and play a melody on a glockenspiel? This is the twenty-first century. We have so many audio-visual routes of communication, surely we could create resources that could support non-specialist music teachers in delivering a skill-based curriculum? So, what about the second response? Not relevant, limits creativity etc. I totally accept that music literacy does not make a musician. There have been astonishing musicians who could not and do not read or write a note of music. However, if you talk to them, many of them say they wish that they could! Limiting creativity? There is a nugget of truth in this, however, it is the same nugget of truth that led to primary school teachers in the 1980s being forbidden to correct spelling mistakes or grammatical errors for fear of limiting creativity. Teaching literacy, whether it be in the English language or the language of music provides a means of expression. It only limits creativity if it is used as a means for narrowing expression instead of broadening opportunities. And what about it not being relevant to Indian music? That’s a bit like saying there’s no point in learning English in case you are going to move to France. We’re in England, and, if we understand the structure of one language, it helps us to understand the structure of another. Finally, response no. 3. Music lessons should be practical music making lessons not theory lessons, and, with just one lesson each week, there’s not enough time for both. My first reaction to that is to return to the model of the child learning to play the clarinet who probably only gets one 30 minute lesson each week and yet, that covers the necessary theory to read the notes, the technical elements of playing the instrument and creates time for music making. Aha, I hear you say, but they go home and practice. Well, I say, some do, it’s true, but certainly not all ! However, let’s revisit the notion of going home to practice for a moment in the light of modern technology. Could we not get an app. for that? Just because pupils have not signed up to play the clarinet, could they not have the opportunity to learn to play the glockenspiel or the recorder, traditional primary school instruments, in a meaningful and skilled way? Could they not also have the option of going home to practice? My second reaction is to ask why should music making and music literacy be separated? Is it not a practical, music-making activity to look at a rhythm written down and learn to play it? Learn to play it faster or slower, or in time with everyone else or taking turns with others? Is it not a practical, music-making activity to learn to read and play Twinkle Twinkle on the recorder? Why is it not a practical activity if we read the instructions as we go along? Is composition not a practical activity is we write down the notes before playing them? From what I read, there doesn’t seem to be an issue with drawing pictures or creating charts to ‘notate’ compositions. I’ve explored, researched, and considered what I’ve discovered. The answer I seem to have reached is: primary school teachers need much, much better resources to support them in teaching skill-based music. They need a curriculum that will support them in teaching a whole-class of 6 year olds how to read and play a melody on a glockenspiel, with technology to support pupils practising their skills at home. Primary school music teachers can’t create this for themselves. This is the sort of thing that needs a multi-skilled team of musicians, educators and computer programmers. So? Along the route of my exploration I did discover some resource packages that offer support to primary music teachers and I won’t criticise them because they are offering something greatly needed by teacher, and they contain many exciting activities. But they don’t really address the elephant in the music room. Where is the package that gives non-specialist primary music teachers the option to choose to teach traditional music notation? I’m not suggesting that every child in every school should be forced to learn traditional music notation, nor every teacher be forced to teach it, but, at the moment I do not see it as even an option. Why is it not even an option? Where are the resources to make it an option? What do you think?