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Music Educators welcome Ofsted's new music criteria

14 November 2012, Rhian Morgan

There’s been a broad welcome to Ofsted’s revised subject-specific criteria for music. David Ashworth, a music education consultant and manager of, said the new guidelines 'incorporate some of the key messages from Ofsted's most recent music reports and guidance documents, making them both up to date and consistent. I would like to think that these guidelines will impact on the way music is taught in schools and that there will be a steady and incremental improvement.'

The revisions include replacing the term ‘satisfactory’ with ‘requires improvement’ and new references to music hubs, the National Plan for Music Education and provision of first access to instrumental learning and GCSE/A Level courses. Retention rates in additional tuition, extra-curricular activities and curriculum courses at Key Stage 4 and 5 have also been added.

Mark Phillips HMI, Ofsted's National Advisor for Music, said: 'The term "musical provenance" brings together the important historical, social and cultural origins of music that help support pupils’ musical understanding. We have also included reference to the use of movement, alongside singing and listening, to help pupils internalise musical ideas.' There are also references to literacy, used to support musical learning, and to spiritual, moral, social and cultural education, recognising the importance of music’s contribution to a school’s overall effectiveness.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, described the guidelines as superb news. 'This is a real boost for music teachers in schools where they are often asked to sub-level against their own expertise,' she said. 'To explicitly state that “manufactured sub-divisions of levels” is a sign of inadequate teaching will empower these teachers and send a clear message to those still sub-levelling that this is simply inappropriate for music education.

'On top of this good news, Ofsted has recognised that progression into Key Stage 3 and beyond is an important indicator of a good music department,' added Annetts. 'There is a clear signal here that music must not be sidelined, and that schools – if they want to avoid getting a bad report from Ofsted – should strengthen music and provide opportunities at Key Stage 4 and 5.'

The changes were also welcomed by Lincoln Abbotts, teaching and learning development director at ABRSM. 'The guidance set out in Ofsted’s report can only be positive as we all work towards achieving consistent high quality in music education. The "Outstanding" descriptions remind us of the incredible power that music has in inspiring young people and the wider community around their schools.'

But David Ashworth also sounded words of caution, saying that there needed to be an overhaul of restrictive whole-school assessment procedures. 'We are chipping away at this problem, but you reach a point when you just wish someone with the authority and muscle would, once and for all, work with music teachers to sort out what and how we should assess,' he concluded.

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