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heads make more of music

leading singing, they should recognise and embrace it as a tool with special powers – the power to enrich the curriculum, to aid memory, teamwork and aid attainment, we well as develop musicality. The Sing Up programme, led by the composer and passionate education advocate Howard Goodall, has done just that over the last 3 years. Today over 86 percent of all primary schools are now engaging with singing in a variety of substantive ways and the programme is well on its way to a near-100 percent reach with a high quality offer.

The Music Manifesto also generated and supported a number of high profile music programmes, including In Harmony – the English version of the Venezuelan social musical project, El Systema (now being led so ably by Julian Lloyd Webber) – and Wider Opportunities – whole class instrumental teaching, now so prevalent in our primary schools. And it supported programmes such as Musical Futures - now making innovative in- roads into refreshing the secondary school music curriculum with greater attention to quality music making. So far so good. Is there a problem?

Well, maybe. The progress so far is undeniable.

But my growing concern is that if it is to continue, the critical stakeholders in championing and exploiting these gains – school heads and leadership teams – are under-resourced by music educators and the government to be able to consistently make positive decisions going forward in favour of music making for their pupils. Much of the eulogising about the gains in music education has not addressed, as effectively as it might, the contradictions faced by heads and other school decision-makers (including governors) in their fight to give children a music education. Take for example, the couple of primary schools I visited in an inner-city London borough recently. They were both led by heads who are passionate about music and providing Wider Opportunities programmes for Year 3 and 4 pupils, subsidised and delivered by the local music service. They were also signed in to Sing Up and had started to use singing in their schools. Yet all this work was seen in isolation from their obligation to teach the music curriculum.

In fact, it came as a surprise to them that one could and should seek to link the two strands of activity. Moreover, both schools were using their meagre resources allocated to music to pay for a part-time freelance tutor to teach the music curriculum without any recourse to the expert opinion and integration of all this music provision the music service could provide. And they said that if they had to choose between investing between instrumental programmes and the music curriculum they would, not unreasonably, maintain their statutory responsibility.

When it came to addressing

progression of the Year 3 and 4 pupils this was how it was done. Children who where 'obviously talented' – those who showed quickest aptitude in instrumental learning – would be provided some further group tuition. Similar attention was paid to (some) vulnerable children, as 'it would be good to re-excite them to learning through music'. For everyone else, the vast majority, it was unlikely they could afford any further music making, beyond the free activity in the curriculum music class or from continued support from the music service and anything that Sing Up might deliver. To recap, these were musical schools, led by passionate leadership teams committed to music. My intention is not to overstate the specifics or imply that all schools are like this. But it tells me a few things, because it resonates with comments made to me by hundreds of heads.

Firstly, life is messy on the front line and schools are making the best educational decisions they can, often with a lack of input from experts sitting just beyond their school gates. We can change this. Music services, community musicians and the full array of music education bodies such as Youth Music have more than enough expertise. But that expertise must be delivered better and in a way that is digestible and useful to school leadership teams, to aid their education decisions. If I were still Music Manifesto Champion, I would call on the sector to undertake a massive co-ordinated campaign to do just this, in co-ordination with the relevant school leadership bodies. Secondly, for all the gains,

children’s lives are being positively

I’d get behind school leaders. Without them

and their pro-active decisions in favour of music, our children will be short-


and adversely impacted upon by teachers on the ground, who have not yet fully grasped that music education is an essential tool for effective child development for all children, and not merely a nice cultural option. For too many schools the message is only half understood or unable to be lived, because of the demands from an over- prescriptive curriculum and educational culture that necessitate decisions that are not solely made in the interests of the child. Those presenting as ‘most able’ (not by any means the same thing as ‘most talented’) and, arguably, most vulnerable are understood at some level to 'require' music. This is a good thing. What about the majority in the middle? And thirdly, the music education sector needs to agree a clear purpose for music education and work in far greater partnership with schools to make it so – what is the minimum a child and parent can expect of the aims and outcomes in their musical education? This renewed vision must harvest the power of combining the academic and vocational learning through the curriculum with the profound impact of learning through music making with others and new opportunities to embrace the cultural value of music, notably through the visceral power of listening to live music. The music education sector then needs to make its prime purpose the ability of schools to live it for the majority of pupils. To do this I would start by demanding Government establishes an over-arching music education strategy (not just limited to every child having an opportunity to play for a year, free) that it expects its investment to support. It should then ensure that those on the ground are given devolved decision making and autonomy to deliver it (and judged on their performance to do just that) – a lean central body commissioning local music task forces to work hand-in-hand with schools. For good measure I would appoint a ‘working Peer’ to oversee this, chairing a ‘star chamber’ with the ever changing ministerial teams from the departments of Education (DCSF) and Culture (DCMS). Most of all I’d get behind school

leaders. Without them and their pro- active decisions in favour of music, our children will be short-changed and the great gains of the last five years will wither.

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