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Music to remain a National Curriculum foundation subject across KS 1-3

8 February 2013, David Ashworth

The government has released a National Curriculum consultation document for music, which states that music is to remain a National Curriculum foundation subject for Key Stages 1 to 3. The National Curriculum continues to be statutory for all state schools, but it is also intended to guide what is taught in schools that have opted for academy status.

The document contains details of the government’s proposed music curriculum, which includes the statement that ‘pupils should leave school with an appreciation of how music is composed and performed, allowing them to listen with discrimination and judgment to the best in the musical canon.’ The aims across all Key Stages are to ensure that pupils ‘perform, listen to, review and evaluate music across a range of historical periods, genres, styles and traditions’; that they ‘learn to sing, compose and have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument’; and that they ‘understand musical notations and how music is constructed.’

The subject content for each Key Stage is covered in just a few bullet points, paring core content down to basic essentials. Key Stage 1 is about pupils singing expressively, playing instruments musically, making and combining sounds (composing) and listening with concentration and understanding. Key Stage 2 pupils are doing the same things with increasing accuracy, confidence, control and expression. In composing and improvising, they are now organising and manipulating ideas within musical structures.

At Key Stage 3 there is more detail. Pupils build on their previous knowledge and develop their vocal and/or instrumental fluency, accuracy and expressiveness. In composing, they develop musical ideas by drawing on a range of musical structures, styles, genres and traditions. They will listen with increasing discrimination and develop a deep understanding of the music that they perform and listen to, and its history. Throughout the document, there is reference to ‘great musicians and composers’, the musical canon and the history of music. It is left to teachers to interpret what this might mean.

Regarding, assessment and reporting, level descriptors will no longer apply, but there are attainment targets for the end of each Key Stage. These state simply that pupils are expected to know, apply and understand what has been specified in the relevant programme of study.

The rationale given for this stripped-down curriculum model is twofold. One is to give more autonomy to the teacher, where it is recognised that the National Curriculum provides an outline of core knowledge around which teachers can develop exciting and stimulating lessons. The other is to try to provide a document which parents can easily understand, in the hope that they will become more engaged and involved with their children’s education.

Responses to this consultation are invited, using the forms and guidance which can be found at http://www.education.gov.uk/a00221262/reform-national-curriculum. The closing date for these responses is 16 April and there is the expectation that the new National Curriculum will be implemented in September 2014.

Gove performs dramatic U-turn on EBacc

7 February 2013, Christopher Walters

Michael Gove, the education secretary, has this morning announced a dramatic U-turn on his widely condemned English Baccalaureate (EBacc) policy. This means that the coalition government’s proposed English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs), which were due to replace GCSEs in ‘core’ subjects from 2017, will now no longer be developed.

Recent days have seen Gove respond increasingly angrily to critics of the EBacc, claiming that the Labour party and other opponents of the policy believed that children from poor families should ‘stick to the station in life they were born into’. But it has now emerged that the education secretary’s aggressive defence has in part been fuelled by behind-the-scenes pressure from the Liberal Democrats to scrap the policy, in addition to the barrage of publicly voiced opposition from teaching unions and organisations representing the arts, sport and religious education.

Introduced 18 months ago on an agenda of bringing rigour back into secondary education, the EBacc has been popular with the Tory faithful and some parts of the right-wing press, but universally unpopular with education experts and arts organisations. Much of the criticism has been to do with the confusing nature of the policy, which was initially introduced 18 months ago as a league table performance measure – rather than a qualification – and given to students who score a C or above at GCSE in maths, English, two sciences, a language and history or geography.

Then, last year, Gove announced plans to make the EBacc into the backbone of his secondary education policy. GCSEs in the EBacc subjects would be replaced by more rigorous EBCs, with less coursework and more emphasis on end-of-course exams. The EBacc itself would remain a performance measure, but tabulated from EBC rather than GCSE scores.

With a drive to raise the profile of the EBacc and a raft of new EBC qualifications promised, Gove hoped that the EBacc would force schools to prioritise what he saw as the ‘core’ subjects of secondary education. But the education community bit back, claiming that there had been little or no consultation before the implementation of the policy and arguing that non-EBacc subjects and learners with special needs would be marginalised.

Soon there was widespread opposition among arts organisations, curated by an effective ‘Bacc for the Future’ campaign set up by the Incorporated Society of Musicians. And while Gove countered that there would still be room for arts and technical subjects to be taken alongside the core EBCs, teachers responded that schools would be likely to enter students for more EBCs and fewer non-EBacc subjects in order to maximise their chances of each student achieving the EBacc.

Nor has there been much support for Gove’s vision of what constitutes ‘core’ subjects. The education secretary’s list has been slammed by education experts for being entirely backward looking, with much criticism for the exclusion of the arts and technical subjects such as design and technology and computing. Last week’s hurried inclusion of computer science in the science category did little to convince critics that the EBacc subjects were being chosen on a rational basis or that the original list had been properly thought through.

Today’s announcement may represent the result of successful lobbying from the EBacc’s opponents, but it remains unclear whether the non-EBacc subjects are likely to fare any better under the new arrangements. The EBacc as a performance measure is likely to remain, despite the fact that GCSEs will now no longer be replaced by EBCs, and schools could still be pushed towards driving numbers of candidates for subjects which fall into a contentious category of ‘core’ subjects.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and coordinator of the Bacc for the Future campaign, said: ‘This is good news for children and good news for education. We must learn from the last six months of consultation and ensure we work together to create high quality and rigorous GCSEs and A levels with appropriate assessment fit for the 21st Century. Creative subjects such as art, music and design and technology need to stay at the heart of education so that we can develop talented youngsters to feed our creative industries and generate growth.

She added: ‘The voices of the creative industries and education sectors have been listened to, and we welcome this. We will now be looking closely at the new proposed national curriculum for music and work with the government to ensure that we have a national curriculum, GCSEs and A levels fit for the future.’

Virginia Haworth-Galt, chief executive of the Federation of Music Services, said: 'FMS welcomes the government’s decision not to replace GCSEs with EBCs at this point in time. While it is vital for young people to achieve qualifications in core subjects like English, maths and science, there has been concern amongst some music educators that the EBacc was too narrow in focus, at the expense of other more creative subjects. The government’s National Plan for Music, along with protected funding for music over three years, is recognition of the key role music can play in children’s academic, social and cultural development.'

Cardiff and Newport music services face savage cuts

5 February 2013, Rhian Morgan

Cardiff City Council is proposing to end its subsidy of music lessons in schools by cutting its £151,000 grant to the Cardiff County and Vale of Glamorgan Music Service. The move is part of plans to save £22m in the next financial year.

Councillor Russell Goodway, cabinet member for finance, said the Labour administration had to make 'difficult decisions' as a consequence of the UK government’s austerity measures. The move will mean the music service increasing its music tuition fees by 11% to make up the shortfall.

Emma Coulthard, a music development officer with the music service, says it has become a challenge for music services to deliver what is being asked of them on dwindling funding. 'In Wales, where there was no Wider Opps money, no In Harmony and no Youth Music, Cardiff’s music service has had to be particularly creative and forge strong alliances with schools and others,' she said.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Gwent is facing similar cutbacks, with Newport City Council proposing to withdraw its funding for Gwent Music Support Service. Many hundreds of people have signed petitions against the plans. Protestors in both areas say that it is children from the poorest families, many of whom currently receive free lessons, who are most likely to suffer.

Newport-based Emma Archer, a student at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff, said she found the situation 'abhorrent'. 'Times are very hard for councils,' she said. 'However, there is a complete dearth of creative thinking at the moment. If we cut all creative outlets for the next generation and offer them little prospect of easy access to further education and very little certainty of a job at the other end, just what kind of society does the current government expect will be created?'

The two petitions can be found here:



Computer science added to EBacc but still no arts

31 January 2013, Rhian Morgan

Arts organisations are to intensify their lobbying of the government for the inclusion of creative subjects in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) following the announcement that computer science is to be included as one of the science options which count towards the EBacc.

The change has been made following lobbying by technology companies who have been calling for a bigger role for computing in education. The Department for Education says the change is intended to reflect the 'importance of computer science to both education and the economy'.

The EBacc is currently awarded to pupils who get A* to C grades at GCSE in English, maths, sciences, history or geography and a language. From 2017, new English Baccalaureate Certificates will replace GCSEs for these subjects. There’s been extensive lobbying to add further subjects including music, the arts and religious education, with concerns that excluded subjects could be marginalised.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), called on the government to address 'the needs of the creative economy and introduce rigorous creative subjects'. Stephen Twigg, Labour's education spokesman, said 'Gove's exams still place no value on creative subjects like art, music and drama, and no value on practical subjects like engineering, design and technology and construction.'

Meanwhile, the EBacc proposals have been heavily criticised in two parliamentary debates for omitting creative subjects, while Bacc for the Future, a campaign coordinated by the ISM, was praised by the Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones for bringing strong voices together to save creativity in schools by calling for a sixth pillar of creative subjects to be included.

Bacc for the Future now has more than 44,000 signatories on its petition and the support of more than 100 organisations across the cultural, industry and education sectors. The petition can be signed here: www.baccforthefuture.com/sign-the-petition.html

Ofsted announces new programme of music inspections

14 January 2013, Rhian Morgan

Mark Phillips HMI, Ofsted’s national adviser for music, has ordered a series of school visits in the next few months, focusing on 'the effectiveness of music subject leadership by subject' and 'the extent to which the leadership of the local music hub is supporting and augmenting musical teaching and learning in that school'.

Visits will take place in primary, secondary and special schools, including academies, and schools will be given up to five days’ notice of a visit so that arrangements can be made with the music hub or partner organisation. A report on the visits will be published in autumn.

The aim is to follow up the findings of the 2012 Ofsted music reports Wider Still and Wider and Sound Partnerships, and to monitor the early impact of the music hubs. Phillips says inspectors will not be reporting individual judgments on the overall quality of achievement, teaching and the curriculum in each school.

'We acknowledge that it might be too soon to see significant progress with some of the priorities that we’ve set out in our 2012 reports, such as substantial changes in participation rates between different groups of pupils and significantly better musical teaching,' said Phillips. 'But we believe also that we should expect, already, to see noticeable improvements in the way that music is managed in schools, particularly by senior leaders and through partnerships with the music hubs.'

Fiona Pendreigh, chair of the National Association of Music Educators, agrees that improvements should already be evident: 'Although it is too soon to see progress with some of the outcomes expected from hub work, there is no doubt that with the wealth of reports and case studies to draw on, improvement in the way music is being managed within schools should be evident.

She added: 'It would be encouraging if schools, including the teachers, saw themselves more as partners within the hubs than previously, when they were perhaps more of a client of the music service. The integration of schools within the hubs is key to the provision of high quality music education for all children.'


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