Summer reading

  • by HallamR

    Friday, 17 July, 2015 - 09:44

Do you have time to read 20 pages over the summer? If you do, you may wish to re-read the National Plan for Music Education, pages 9 to 28, paragraphs 1 to 86. You may be surprised. Published in 2011, four years on this is still a document that, implemented fully over the next 5 years, can help us to improve the quality and reach of music education significantly.

Inevitably there are some statements that are now out of date, for example, the national curriculum was still under review in 2011. Nevertheless, whatever your particular sphere of interest there are statements in The Importance of Music that will help as you form your arguments and shape your actions to provide the best possible music education in the future. Did you know, for example that early years is mentioned “Music teaching starts in the early years” in paragraph 2 and gets further mention in paragraphs 11; 26; and 28. Under SEND “[The NPME] aims for equality of opportunity for all pupils, regardless of race; gender; where they live; their levels of musical talent; parental income; whether they have special educational needs or disabilities; and whether they are looked after children”  (NPME Paragraph 5), with further mentions in paragraphs 32; 38; 87i); 122; 124; and in case study 8 on page 51. And there is a whole section on progression (section 3 Progression and Excellence pages 17 to 19). “The first opportunity many pupils will have to study music will be at school: it is on this foundation that broader opportunities and progression routes to the highest level rest.” (NPME Paragraph 6 page 9). See also paragraph 12: “Hubs have an important role in supporting first access, as well as giving broader opportunities and progression routes, in and out of school”; paragraphs 13; 14; 15 ; 18; 30; 63; 75; 77; 87i); and the case studies contain further comments on progression.

The Music Education Council (MEC) is taking this work forward and will do all it can to influence government policy and funding but there is much that we can do as a music education sector to improve music education, even within the limitations of the current policies and funding by celebrating and sharing the excellent practice that is going on day in and day out. On July 27th MEC will be sharing the outcomes of its work to date and formulating some action plans in September, so please look out for our communications and respond if you can, either via your professional association or direct to Decisions that are taken over the next 4 or 5 months will influence massively what happens over the next 4 or 5 years! Don’t miss out on this opportunity to make sure your voice is heard. Have a great summer break and happy summer reading.

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Steve Hawker's picture

Thanks for this, and good to re-read it.

One notable way in which times have changed in a few short years is the increasing number of local authorities that have axed their music services due to funding cuts. Councils face tough choices with non-statutory services like music.

In many areas councils have replaced music services with lists of self-employed teachers, or reduced terms and conditions to make it an unappealing long-term career for talented teachers. The fragmentation of music education means the benefits of a coherent, motivated and joined-up "service" for young people are eroded. This makes it much harder to carry out the NPME.

The music education landscape has changed, and many music services have set up independently after being made redundant by their council. This keeps the benefits of staff working together to further the goals of the NPME. But where the link between hub and music service is cut, local authorities may keep hub funding for financial reasons without necessarily having the musical vision to put the NPME into practice.

The assumptions in the NPME that local authorities are the best type of organisation to run hubs were entirely reasonable in 2011. But after years of austerity, and with councils reducing their involvement in music education, sticking rigidly to that assumption could jeapordise the whole hub project.

HallamR's picture

Thanks Steve. As you rightly point out the challenges due to changes in employment are greater than they were in 2011 but ideally the hubs also bring together private teachers as well as those employed by Local Authorities. (See page 6). The plan itself does not deal with employment or pay and conditions. Hopefully, by focussing on what is best for the young person and sharing creative solutions we will still get the best possible outcomes even in this period of austerity.

Steve Hawker's picture

Thanks for the reply, and indeed projects like are valuable for the focus on what's best for young people and sharing best practice.

However, organisational and workforce outcomes (as with YM projects) can be the key to the success of projects. The hub I had a part in setting up has many projects involving collaborative work between hub partners, schools and communities. This helps develop mutual respect, an understanding of different ways of working, and so in the end increases the opportunities and progression routes for young people. Hubs need to have an understanding of the diverse cultures in formal/informal music, and an unbiased approach to investing in the future of young people.

But there have been suggestions that in some areas local authorities have used hub funding to prop up ailing music services. The most bizarre example of a "restructuring" of a music service I've heard was when it was moved to the Department for Parks and Cemeteries. Its hard to imagine the upper management having much of an understanding of the aims of the NPME.

Hence my suggestion that in some cases, local authorities can be inflexible and unstable organisations in these times of austerity, and that preventing others from taking on the hub lead role could damage the long-term success of the DfE's hub project.