I’m in the process of re-reading the report published yesterday about the future shape of the National Curriculum for England. The debate on Twitter has thrown up some good points, some of which, although basic, are worthy reiterating here.
Firstly, the Government has announced that there will a one year delay in implementing these changes. Those of us in the music education community are used to Government delays and extended deadlines! So, a new National Curriculum will not be in place until September 2014 (at the earliest). I’m not sure I really buy the reasons given for this by the DfE (more debate, taking time to get it right, etc). It smacks of incompetence to me, and a recognition that making all your curriculum experts redundant last year really wasn’t the best move.
Secondly, when the new National Curriculum is launched it really won’t be a ‘national’ curriculum in any meaningful sense. By then, if the current trends continue, the vast majority of secondary schools and many primary schools will have opted out by becoming academies and will not be obliged to follow the ‘national’ curriculum at all. The accountability structures for academies are already causing many people a great deal of concern; this will only continue and concerns will deepen I suspect as some of the legal frameworks and apparent financial benefits (they’re not looking so attractive now are they?) underpinning academies begin to unravel.
Thirdly, in all the exuberance about the report it is worth remembering that it is just a report from a group of experienced, well informed and intelligent education experts. On that basis, it seems highly likely that Gove will ignore the whole thing. Only kidding! But whilst the report might, on the whole, be encouraging in many respects, there is still campaigning and advocacy work to be done. This report is not Government policy and there are no guarantees that the Government will adopt each recommendation here. So, for music education, let’s not starting counting any eggs before they are hatched.
Finally, an apology. I was a bit hasty with the negative prose about our music education organisations yesterday. One organisation, the Incorporated Society of Musicians, has done sterling work over the last year. Their Public Affairs and Policy Officer – Henry Vann – deserves particular praise for his tireless advocacy and campaigning on behalf of the music education community. Thanks Henry and apologies for overlooking the excellent work you have done. You are a valued colleague and I really appreciate your sustained and powerful advocacy. I know much of this takes place behind the scenes but it is important to recognise, publicly, your contribution which does, I know, go well beyond the legitimate demands made of you by your employer.