Hubs And Spokes | Curricular Music Teaching – All Change Here

Respect. Confidence. Equity. No, not the motto of the French Revolution. These are the key levers that will deliver better music education in our schools. Learn how.

Teachers

Curricular music is undergoing significant change and teachers are at the heart of the revolution. Learn how we can get more music to more pupils more equitably.

 

For some, it’s a happy accident.

Take Anna Gower. “I did a very academic music degree at Cambridge. I wasn’t a stand up and perform kind of student, not then, and I loved the history of music and the research. When I graduated I was determined not to be a music teacher, the route everyone expects from a music grad. …[W]hen I became involved in Musical Futures and my whole music teaching life changed. It’s the reason I’m still a teacher today. GUA1

 

For others, it’s literally in the blood.

Consider Alex Laing. “I started learning violin when I was around four years old. I’m a fifth generation violinist in my family. So playing the violin is part of my family history and I felt that keenly even as a little boy. I’ve never been taught how to teach, it’s something that has evolved over time. I always did a lot of informal teaching, but by the time I was 21, teaching violin had become a big part of my life.” GUA2

Download the full case study here.

But whatever your route, teaching curricular music may very well be one of the most rewarding career choices you’ll ever make.

And successfully applying your skills, enthusiasm and passion for young learners is critical to help solve the current crisis in education. Your engagement has never been more important than now.

music teacher is playing piano for the primary school class

Too little music on offer?

Recruitment levels are significantly down. Salaries are under pressure. Alternative professional opportunities beckon.

All of these factors – and more – culminating in too few teachers on the ground delivering high-quality music education.

At the secondary school level, the outlook is quite concerning. 

Schools Week recently reported that “22 per cent of secondary teachers polled reported that year 9 pupils received no compulsory music lessons at all, and a further 13 per cent said they only studied it on a “carousel” for part of the year. Meanwhile 23 per cent of teachers said their school did not offer GCSE music, and 39 per cent of those with sixth forms said they did not offer A Level music.”

Download the full case study here.

For primary school students, music delivery is similarly strained.

“A new survey by Teacher Tapp also shows two in five primary teachers say pupils lack access to free instrument lessons, with music classes increasingly being taught by non-specialists.”

It’s these difficult realities that left Jimmy Rotheram, music teacher at Feversham Primary, Bradford and finalist for the $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, to question:

“The schools minister claims to value training and believes that ‘the most effective teaching methods should be pursued’ and that we should ensure music lessons are of ‘high quality’. So why isn’t this happening?

It amazes me that a government advocating a ‘knowledge-rich’ education, with a schools minister who supposedly wants every child to leave primary school able to read music can continue to tolerate a system which often wilfully fails to provide teachers, even music specialists, with what they need to deliver this in our primary schools.” TW

 

Is music education fundamentally broken?

Strong critics of the current schools’ model would say “Yes.” Others taking a more optimistic view of the situation would likely say “No.” 

What’s your perspective?

First, let’s take a look at some of the oft-cited factors suggesting our current music education policies and standards need a significant shakeup:

  • Perennially squeezed staffing budgets that leave many schools without a music coordinator and/or teaching specialist
  • Insufficient funding to upgrade essential resources such as curricula, instruments and audio equipment no longer fit for purpose
  • Large numbers of schools struggling to achieve the quantity of curricular teaching hours and co-curricular opportunities recommended under current DfE/NPME guidelines
  • A persistent wealth divide across educational settings making good quality music education harder to access for those from lower-income families.

Agree? Richard Morrison, chief culture writer for The Times, certainly seems to. He recently lamented, “If I had a quid for every well-meaning report I’ve read about improving music education in England, I could probably buy half a tank of petrol for a small motorbike by now. It would be an exaggeration to say that everybody knows what needs to be done to correct the lamentable neglect of music in many state schools.” TIM

Academic Respect, Confident Teachers, Universal Access

But is music teaching fundamentally broken? No.

There is a solution readily at hand.

Some would call it the “elephant in the room.”

Namely, improving the respect paid to music as an academic subject while concurrently increasing the funding and resources available to deliver it successfully to all pupils, irrespective of special needs, household income or privilege.

 

First lever. Greater academic respect.

To this point, Richard Morrison went on to say “Many politicians on all sides, it seems, still neither know nor care. However, I have rarely met a music teacher, professional musician or musically aware parent who can’t identify the problems. They boil down to one thing: disrespect. Music is still belittled as an academic subject. Consequently it is starved of curriculum time, trained teachers and resources.” TIM

Download the full case study here.

Second lever. Well-trained staff.

Highlighted by the Fabian Society, “Access to high-quality music education in schools depends on whether young people are being taught by well-trained teachers. This is not the case for many. In primary schools, many class teachers receive limited training in music, which means many lack the confidence and experience necessary to support pupils to learn.” FAB 

 

Third lever. Lowered barriers to access

Lastly, as reported in Education HQ, “Music education must not be only for those already with the background or the early talent or the pre-existing motivation to access it. Music education must be for all, because music itself is for all. 

Most people listen to more music than they read literature; yet, even as an English teacher, I wonder why we make education in the latter mandatory while we leave the former much to choice and chance.” EHQ

 

The Return on Investment in Music

And why should we commit to pulling those levers?

Because it’s one of the most sound investments we can make as a society – and as teaching professionals currently entering or progressing within the field.

Music has so many benefits. 

Learning it improves language acquisition and reading development. It gives you skills such as sequencing and pattern recognition which are vital to  understanding maths and the science. Plus, it encourages emotional self-regulation and emotional wellbeing.

Download the full case study here.

Education HQ outline these factors, writing:

More than that, though, we know well, both instinctively and through academic study over decades, the powerful positive effect of music on education itself. Learning music has a significant impact on auditory processing that is vital to early language acquisition and reading development. 

The same applies to the cognitive capacity acquired in learning music for the structuring, sequencing and pattern discernment that are essential to mathematics, scientific reasoning, analysis and argument. 

Of course, there is also music’s profound positive effect on emotional and physiological wellbeing, which is all the more important in a time when educators everywhere are grappling with the means of addressing student anxiety and mental health. EHQ

Three primary pupils standing in a line,two clapping, one holding a maraca, another primary pupil standing to the left.
Two females, two males standing in semi-circle,male teacher on far right teaching clapping song to others.

Sing Education Is Here for You

Expertise and confidence in the classroom

For music education to improve, every curricular teacher needs to possess or have support to develop the expertise and confidence to deliver high-quality, accessible learning. That’s why we incorporate staff development, bespoke curricula and classroom management techniques into our careers framework.

 

High energy. Singing led. Full of fun. Never the same.

This is how Sing Education delivers classroom music. While meeting all the requirements of the National Curriculum, our Schemes of Work and termly lessons focus on getting children to actually experience and enjoy music. We don’t encourage them to reproduce sounds or melodies by rote. Each engaging and inclusive lesson uses our prepare, present and practice technique to focus their attention and build their understanding and musicianship.

 

Inclusivity is at the heart of our approach to primary school music.

From the practical delivery of lessons to the way our schemes of work develop, we ensure our teaching engages all children. Come explore our methodologies, training techniques and the impact which teachers say we have on the lives of their pupils.

 

We recruit the best. Train the best. Nurture the best. 

We disagree – music education is not broken. Quite the contrary. 

Sing Education know from the results we achieve with our partner schools that our unique system of teacher recruitment, management and development creates excellent music specialists. Our teachers are not only capable of delivering our outstanding curriculum but they also simultaneously make lessons, clubs and singing assemblies 100% fun and engaging for our pupils. 

That’s why we agree so wholeheartedly with the perspective of music educators like Alex Laing when they say:

“It’s quite normal for classical musicians to teach alongside playing, as a way to make some money. 

A lot of performers teach because they have to. For me it was always very different, it was a pleasure not just a necessity.”

To learn more about Sing Education, including how our music provision, online instrumental lessons and at home learning resources contribute to a well-rounded music curriculum, please visit www.singeducation.co.uk/schools

For even more info, practical tips and guidance, click below to download your FREE CASE STUDY “St. George’s: A New Direction for Primary School Music”

Download the full case study here.

About Us

Founded in 2014 and serving more than 16,000 children each week, Sing Education is a first class provider of primary school music education. Focusing on high-quality, singing-led tuition, we deliver a complete solution for schools which includes teacher recruitment, training and management, bespoke curricular resources and educational consultancy services. 

Through music lessons, singing assemblies, choirs, after school clubs and instrumental tuition, Sing Education works with students from Nursery right through to Year 6. Our core philosophy is that “Every Child Has A Voice,” and, as educators active in the classroom, our directors and teachers know firsthand how much young learners benefit from exciting, rewarding music education. 

Sing Education currently partners with schools throughout Greater London and Kent, as well as Yorkshire and the Humber.

Not yet on the list? Please enquire about our expansion plans for additional areas we will serve from the start of the 2023-24 academic year.

#SingEducation #MusicInFocus #HubsAndSpokes

 

Sources:

  1. Why I became a music teacher: my students make me a better musician GUA1 The Guardian
  2. Why I became a music teacher and my mission to reshape music in UK schools GUA2 The Guardian
  3. Why my school is putting music education front and centre EHQ Education HQ
  4. The truth about primary music specialists Teachwire TW

A National Music Service: How to Ensure Every Child Can Access a Good Music Education FAB Fabian Society

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