The Arts in Education, Education in the Arts

  • by HallamR

    Thursday, 10 January, 2013 - 17:00

Part 1 Setting the Scene in England. Many people are busy making music with young people. They don't want to, or don't have the time to engage in philosophical debate or strategic planning.

Many people are incredibly busy making music with young people. They don’t want to, or don’t have the time to engage in philosophical debate or strategic planning. They just want good materials, lesson plans, assessment tools, schemes of work. A danger is that they miss out on what is happening now on the policy front that will affect their future. For example, have you signed up to the campaign?

Others can be so interested in policy, philosophical argument, academic papers that they lose touch with what is happening on the ground, day in and day out, the pressures and realities of the real world.

In England, our best music education is world leading. Over the past decade, despite horrendous economic pressures and political challenges, we have improved opportunities for young people. Overall we are more inclusive, have greater diversity. There are examples of the most disadvantaged having their lives transformed, and we still have excellence.

People and organisations are working more effectively together in partnership to meet the needs of young people.

The National Plan for Music Education (NPME) is providing a context for this but the Plan achieves nothing on its own. It is how policy and practice are connected – how the Plan is interpreted and implemented on the ground, at the interface between the professional and the young person that will make it work (or not!). 

Nor will the situation change overnight.

And there will still be examples of poor practice.

We can pick fault and criticise, or we can accept that things will never be perfect and do our best to improve things with the tools that are at hand now. The choice is ours.

It is generally agreed that the NPME provides the opportunity for a high quality, inclusive music education, and the Plan gives us the tools and levers to transform policy into practice.

We, as professional teachers, musicians and music educators, have to decide whether we will use those tools. Key words are “challenge” and “support”. Will we ‘challenge’ unsatisfactory provision and ‘support’ actions that will bring about improvement? Or will we be complicit in perpetuating unsatisfactory provision? Only if each and every one of us takes responsibility for the quality of our contribution to music education will we be able to bring about significant improvements for young people.

Only if we all, collectively, stand up for quality and value for money now, when resources are at their scarcest, will we have the evidence to make the case for continued funding in the short term and increased funding when the economy finally starts to improve.

In 2020 we need to be able to reflect back on the past decade and have something positive to show for our efforts. It is the choices we make now that we determine what that future looks like.

I will be developing these thoughts over the next few weeks. I hope they will be of interest and stimulate debate.

Read Part 2 of this blog series here.

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Matt Griffiths's picture

Many thanks Dick for your thoughtful contribution, which we hope will be the first of many on the Youth Music Network. Cheers, Matt

Rhythmix's picture

Great blog - as Dick says - we all need to be vocal about this issue! We've not only signed the petition but also written to our MPs some of whom are already supporting the campaign - there's a template here once you've signed up
If you tweet follow @ISM_music to hear about the campaign and use the hastags #EBacc #baccforthefuture.
We need to be vocal to support this campaign and about the work that we, our partners and Hubs are doing.

JWestrup's picture

This blog feels like a very astute snap shot of where we are now; policy, debates and strategy by definition, are the drivers of progress in music education (and any other sector) but the quality of the actual music and experiences are what we are judged upon by the wider world. Too many professionals are still blissfully unaware of the NPME and how it potentially impacts on them and it seems as though the gap is predictably between schools and music orgs/ third sector providers (with the latter being the ones 'in the know' - and yet we work with the same children and young people) Dick is right to remind us that the Plan isn't an 'answer' in itself; it's a framework - a 50% solid start - which requires the music sector to fill in the other 50% working in ever closer partnerships (and less money) But there is plenty to be optimistic about. Look forward to reading future blogs!