‘Lack of depth and rigour in English music education’

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Only a ‘minority of pupils’ receive a good music education in the UK, says a new report from Ofsted.

According to a report by the BBC, Ofsted claims that UK schools display a lack of ‘depth and rigour’, with the majority of schools citing the teaching of musical notation and classical music as being too difficult.

A number of schools are also reported to have told inspectors that they did not know how to develop group singing or seek expert help, while children were also found to be missing out on whole-class instrumental teaching, which is funded by support networks known as ‘hubs’.

Ofsted’s criticism comes a year after a major reshuffle of music support services in England under the government’s Music Plan, whereby around 150 local authority music trusts were reorganised into 120 music hubs. These included music trust staff, voluntary groups and private firms, which provided services to schools in specific areas.

The government claimed that music funding would be primarily targeted at the ‘less well-off’ in a move to close the “musical divide between rich and poor.” Yet, in spite of the announcement, the government also cut music service budgets by up to 25 per cent in some cases.

Meanwhile, the Ofsted report did, however, state that the new hubs had brought ‘energy and vitality’ to music teaching, but that it only reached a minority of students.

Michael Cladingbowl, director of schools policy at Ofsted, commented: “Music is a demanding academic discipline, developed through exciting practical musical activity.

“However, the vast majority of the schools visited shied away from teaching pupils about fundamental aspects of music as they thought it too difficult.

“All children, not just the privileged few, should enjoy a good music education.

“Music hubs were created with this very aim, so it is concerning that the hubs visited for this survey could not show how their work in schools achieves this or how they provide value for money.

Diane Widdison, national organiser for teaching at the Musicians’ Union, claimed that the music hubs had gone to great lengths to ensure the new system works.

However, she also noted that many music trust staff had been made redundant, put on zero hours contracts or made freelance teachers within the new music hubs, therefore reducing consistency and stability within music services and reduced staff commitment.

“Schools have no duty to engage with music education or music hubs at all, she said. “You can’t have a national plan for music when you have not got the main players in the schools involved. So it ends up going back to those areas that are able to afford things.”

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