So, this was the brief:
Following the request by Robin Hammerton HMI that we develop helpful guidance and support for schools and music hubs on music curriculum and assessment, Music Mark is pleased to have been asked to lead on this. . . . We would like to invite you to attend a meeting of what has been christened a “big tent” by Robin, a coming together of representatives from schools, music hubs, music education organisations and individuals, to discuss and debate the content of such guidance and agree next steps.
It was great to be in a room full of people who felt passionate about the importance of music education. And I have no doubt that everyone who was there was genuine in their desire to ensure our children get a rich and diverse music education that is both musical and meaningful. I was really grateful to be invited and would like to thank Music Mark for organising it and Musical Futures for hosting.
Robin Hammerton is absolutely bang on the money with his desire to get music education organisations working together. The recent music report by Henley noted that:
“The Music Education world is fragmented and uncoordinated”.
Robin didn’t mince his words – whilst acknowledging that some schools provide a fantastic music education he was deeply concerned by the number of schools which didn’t. He actually said at one point, “Music education is dying in schools”. Robin suggested that a short, succinct document offering “helpful guidance and support” from all the major education organisations, to hubs, to be used in schools could make a difference.
I am not convinced. I am not sure how a letter from us “telling” the hubs to “tell” the schools how they could teach music is going to lead to improved music lessons for our children. I’m not sure who the audience is for this guidance – I had rather hoped any help or guidance would be aimed at the teachers expected to teach music but from the discussion it seemed that heads, governors and hubs were being targeted. I also want to know what this document would be expected to achieve and how we would know if it was successful. Although there was agreement that this was a good question we were unable to answer it.
I don’t think that lack of knowledge is the problem. The assumption behind producing this “big tent” guidance document is that if only heads and hubs ‘knew’ what to to do then music education could be transformed. I strongly suspect that this is not the case. I think that we need to ask schools – heads and teachers – about what the barriers are to teaching good quality music lessons. Music education organisations need to listen first before they can offer targeted advice and support.
I’m also wondering if targeting heads and hubs is the most effective strategy. My instinct is to reach out to teachers. The days of top down strategies, rolling out initiative after initiative, are over. Teachers talking to teachers, sharing ideas and good practice, organising their own CPD are the way forward. We ignore grassroots teachers at our peril.
The night before todays meeting I found new guidance on progression and assessment which had been published by ISM, who were one of the organisations at the meeting. I had rather expected to discuss this at the meeting today, particularly as one of the authors was a keynote speaker. I didn’t raise it but it strikes me as odd that, given they had done a lot of work and the guidance covers exactly the issues we were discussing, we didn’t actually discuss it.
I may be wrong and that writing this new guidance document will unite the various organisations and galvanise schools into upping their game. But if I had my way I would start with the people who actually teach music.
It is sincerely not my intention to upset the good people charged with this task but I feel I wouldn’t be justifying my place in the tent if I didn’t express my concerns.