It seems that uncertainty is pretty much a given for music teachers at the moment: so as good a time as any, we thought, to add to it with a short series of articles on the future of music education in the UK. Over the next couple of issues at least, we will be asking teachers, examiners, leaders, organisations, consultants – anyone with an interest – a selection of questions, to find out where they think the field is going.
In the first tranche there are some rather bleak predictions, it has to be said, but some bright notes also sound. If you would like to contribute, feel free to send in your views to email@example.com
One potentially seismic shock in English schools will be the new and dramatically reinforced English Baccalaureate. At the moment the EBacc feels like an ominous, darkly threatening force – a weather system over the Atlantic, a shuffling monster at the brow of the hill (or is that Michael Gove?) – but its impact if introduced as planned could be enormous and damaging.
For 90% of children to be entered into the EBacc would mean not only a huge decrease in their personal choices; it will also surely increase the pressure on school leaders to focus on EBacc subjects. Battles fought on music’s ability to improve students’ attainment appear to have done little to change minds at the Department for Education. The extent to which anybody outside the Conservative government is demanding something like the EBacc is also unclear.
The creative industries are generally united against it, as the letter published in this edition shows.
Surely the biggest danger of the EBacc is that, in attempting to equip each generation with a comprehensive set of qualifications (however misguidedly), it risks alienating those students it purports to be helping.
Analysis by the Cultural Learning Alliance of the initial, soft introduction of the EBacc found that even this had an adverse effect on arts subjects in schools. This effect was also felt more strongly in schools with a high proportion of children on free school meals.
Only time will tell, as much for England’s children as for its state school music departments. More so than ever, we must beware of music education becoming the mind-expanding, confidence-building, enriching preserve of the wealthy.