The Importance of Music – National Music Plan

Today, the National Music Plan NMP has been published by MICHAEL GOVE, Secretary of State for Education and ED VAIZEY, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, outlining their vision for the future of music in education and the plan for music tuition and music lessons in in schools.

Brief Summary of National Plan for Music Education

Desired Achievements

  • Inside a framework of broad and balanced curriculum, teachers to have a high level flexibility in deciding how to teach music.
  • All children in England provided with opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument
  • Opportunities for group playing and advanced level tuition to be offered.
  • Consistency of music education to be improved across the regions, ensuring a high level of quality tuition
  • hubs to take over activities from LEA music services, wef September 2012.
  • National level delivery will be monitored by a National Plan board.

Desired experience for children

  • Subject to the National Curriculum review, all children aged 5 to 14 in maintained schools will experience National Curriculum music, with support within and also outside school hours.
  • A minimum of 1 term (ideally 1 year) whole class group teaching programmes
  • Opportunities to access higher level tuition and focus on encouraging all children to sing regularly
  • Emphasis being placed on use of technology to support the music tuition.

Music Education Quality and Standards

  • Local needs to be audited by Music Education Hubs
  • Dual approach of access for all children to experience music tuition with further opportunities to advance to higher levels.
  • Maintaining National Youth Music Organisations and Music and dance Scheme as aspirational achievements.
  • Promoting music through In Harmony Sistema England to children in areas of exceptional deprivation.

Music Educators skills

  • Leadership qualities to be key priority when forming new hubs
  • Communication and CPD to be encouraged both by the Hubs and also school to school.
  • New module to be introduced to Initial Teacher Training to enhance music tuition capabilities and skills.
  • By 2013 Music educator qualification to be developed

Funding and Monitoring

  • DfE funding per pupil (weighting for free school meals) – funding parity across all areas by 2014-15
  • Funding to be provided for existing providers eg LEA music services from 1/4/12 to 31/7/12 – and from 1/8/12 to 31/3/15 for the new hubs
  • New hubs to cover each LEA to improve consistency of music education across the regions, utilising national and regional music and arts resources to meet needs of local children.
  • process to award select hub leaders and distribute funding to managed by Arts Council England, reporting to DfE with revised Ofstead music inspections to monitor performance

Comment on NMP from Declan Cosgrove

It’s finally here! The long awaited National Plan for Music In Education and it is surprisingly more positive than many had expected …. Depending on where you stand!

Following on from Darren Henley’s report in February, which made some valuable recommendations and suggested the creation of music education ‘hubs’, some of the contents are not unexpected and have already been in open discussion, whilst others come as more of a surprise.

What is not unexpected is that ‘more is expected for less’. In the current economic climate, the fact that the budgets are reducing from just over £ 82 million this year, to £ 77m in 2013, £ 65m in 2014 and £ 60m in 2015 in perhaps a bitter pill that has been expected. What is significant, however, is that music is the only subject that has ring fenced money, a welcome status which is reinforced by the recognition of the wider educational and social benefits that musical ability can bring.

The ‘elephant in the room’ is the question as to whether music will be a core subject in the National Curriculum, after the review early next year and this is not resolved by the report. An encouraging sign however is that irrespective of the outcome of the National Curriculum review, there are clear requirements made on schools to provide specified music education opportunities to all children with every child having the opportunity to sing regularly, to learn to play an instrument and be offer the opportunity for advancement ie:-

• Whole-class ensemble teaching programmes for ideally a year (but for a minimum of a term); opportunities to play in ensembles and to perform; clear progression routes available and affordable; and for a singing strategy to ensure every child sings regularly.

An interesting and arguably subjective word is ‘affordable’ and in view of the relatively high costs currently involved in providing music tuition, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. There is a clear instruction to offer subsidised or even free tuition for pupils who could otherwise not afford to pay.

On the subject of budgets – one big change is the move towards more transparency in respect of allocation of funds – now being linked to pupil numbers, with a higher weighting for pupils on free school meals. This ‘per-pupil’ method of allocation instead of the more opaque method of allocation to the Local Authorities at present, will undoubtedly mean that there will be winners and losers – but for the losers, there is some transitional relief cash to soften the blow.

Staying on the theme of budgets, the biggest winner is the Arts Council England (ACE) who are the fund holders and who will be responsible for appointing and monitoring the Music education hubs, which are to be set up by Sept 2012 – with national level delivery to be monitored by a National Plan board. The hubs are to be created to co-ordinate the provision of services between local partners.

Participation in The National Youth Music Organisations and Music and dance Scheme are held up as aspirational achievements for pupils and the importance of promoting music through In Harmony Sistema England to children in areas of exceptional deprivation, is emphasised.

What is encouraging is that the wider personal, inter-personal and social benefits of music education are recognised, notably the ability of music to improve confidence, self esteem, self expression, social interaction skills, overall communication, creative ability and even reading ability.

An interesting, if a touch unexpected inclusion is the expectation of all Key Stage 1 and 2 pupils to experience performance from professional musicians. Another very welcome inclusion is cash to provide for additional training to increase the confidence and skills of primary school teachers in relation to music tuition. The recognition of the power of IT and technology to support music education is also welcome.

Irrespective of the National Curriculum review, school heads can still play a hugely important role in influencing the level to which music plays a part within the school, both in and out of school hours. A challenge of the hubs will be to engage and motivate the heads and also music teachers in collaboration with other music educational organisations and parents to ensure that musical achievement Is given the priority and support it deserves.

There is a pretty tight timescale in which to implement these changes and a lot of the success will be down to how well the hubs engage with local music educators and organisations, not least music teachers and heads and how well ACE promotes excellence in leadership within the hubs. There are already voices expressing concern about there not being enough money to deliver on the promises and whether the new hubs will increase rather than decrease the administration costs and red tape. The jury is out …..