Can you smell a rat? Will music education wither and die in our schools?

Thank goodness for reporters like Richard Morrison. His article in The Times on the 7th July slipped under my radar until Harvey sent it other to me (thanks). Here’s a link. I might get into trouble for republishing it here, but I’m hoping News International have got bigger things to worry about this week ;).

There were two paragraphs that caught my eye. Firstly, the stark contrasts Morrison highlights in the way that music and the arts are perceived within the state and private sectors:

The fact is that children whose lives are enriched with music and the arts tend to do well in all subjects — and so do schools with the courage to offer this breadth of experience. That’s well understood in the private sector. An independent school without its own orchestra, theatre and art studio would be out of business. Yet in the state sector, and among the politicians who control it, the notion that music and art are a waste of curriculum time is still a widely-held fallacy.

Secondly, Morrison is right when he reports that many of us are smelling a rat. In considering the question about the late arrival of the National Plan for Music Education, the rat is revealed!

Well, Gove’s department is also reviewing the entire schools curriculum. Clearly the music education plan must tally with that. But campaigners for music in schools smell a rat. They suspect that Henley was set up to produce a report trumpeting all the ?ne musical opportunities outside the curriculum — outreach work by arts organisations; youth orchestras and bands run by local authorities; initiatives such as the Sing Up! campaign — so that the Government could argue that there’s no need for music to remain in the curriculum.

The problem is that if there’s nobody championing music in a school — a specialist music teacher, preferably — then there is little likelihood of its pupils taking advantage (or even being aware) of those opportunities. That’s already apparent in the thousands of primary schools where none of the staff has any musical training (another weakness noted by Henley) and where the head believes, rightly or wrongly, that the school will be judged solely on its pupils’ performance in “core” subjects such as English and maths.

Morrison has been consistent in this message and I’ve reported his analysis previously on my blog. My bigger worry is that there seems to be a deafening silence from the music education community about this direction of travel. Either people like Richard Morrison and I have got this completely wrong and everything is wonderful in the world of music education. Or, music education will wither and die in the majority of our schools (as Darren Henley mentioned in his report).

Whose fault will this be? Politicians? Certainly – through carelessness and ideology. But I would put a fair shame of the blame on the leaders of our national music education organisations. Their apathy is astonishing.




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