Friday, 6 July 2012

The Importance of Music - the National Plan for Music Education revisited

For some potential last minute changes in my book Parents Survival Guide to Music Lessons regarding the new Music Hubs, which are replacing Local Authority run Music Services/Music Trusts I revisited the National Plane for Music Education - simply entitled The Importance of Music.

Here is the overview of the Plan's core roles taken from the document:

Core roles
a) Ensure that every child aged 5-18 has the opportunity to learn a musical 
instrument (other than voice) through whole-class ensemble teaching 
programmes for ideally a year (but for a minimum of a term) of weekly tuition 
on the same instrument.
b) Provide opportunities to play in ensembles and to perform from an early 
c) Ensure that clear progression routes are available and affordable to all young 

d) Develop a singing strategy to ensure that every pupil sings regularly and that 
choirs and other vocal ensembles are available in the area. 

Extension roles 

a) Offer CPD to school staff, particularly in supporting schools to deliver music in 
the curriculum.
b) Provide an instrument loan service, with discounts or free provision for those 
on low incomes. 

c) Provide access to large scale and / or high quality music experiences for 
pupils, working with professional musicians and / or venues. This may include 
undertaking work to publicise the opportunities available to schools, 
parents/carers and students.

What I am really missing in the plan is a clear commitment to instrumental music teaching, including 1:1 lessons. Why does not one of the core roles read simply:
provide instrumental music tuition for every child?

Of course, the reason is funding. Whole class-lessons are cheap - in particular if delivered by a salaried primary school teacher who has been on a CPD course. This is not to detract from the value of group lessons or whole class teaching as a taster for an instrument. Of course group lessons are a valid way to teach students, in particular beginners can benefit and there are many very positive aspects to group lessons, such as having a ready made ensemble to hand in the lessons.

Much of a song and dance (geddit) is made in the document of progression of talented students onto schemes like the MDS (Music and Dance Scheme) and NYMO (National Youth Music Organisations), like the National Youth Orchestra etc.

But, the standard required for inclusion in the MDS (Music and Dance Scheme) is very high and to be allowed to even audition for any of the National Youth Music Organisations you need to achieve a distinction at grade 8.

 The DfE currently supports 2000 students with MDS bursaries. These students attend either specialist music schools, e.g. Menuhin, Purcell, Cheethams, or CATs (Centres of Advanced Training), i.e. the junior departments of the national conservatoires, e.g Junior Royal College of Music, Junior Guildhall etc.

There are around 11.000.000 children living in Britain. 2000 children on MDS is a tiny number. And they won't have reached the standard required by a Junior Conservatoire by having whole-class ensemble teaching (ideally for a year).

p.s. 1:1 lessons get mentioned in a diagram on pg 18 of the plan, but a 'find search' of the term revealed no other mentions

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