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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 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.

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