Music education really does matter! Perhaps you’re thinking this is a strange statement to make? Isn’t it obvious, self-evident, common-sense? After all, Music as a subject is part of the National Curriculum and, as such, enjoys a privileged position in our schools (unlike a subject like Drama, for example) and, therefore, should feature in every child’s education from 5 to 14.
Despite their often fine rhetoric, for many of our politicians today music education does not seem to matter, at least not in the sense that many of us that have worked as music teachers over many years will recognise. Music education is facing a storm of issues created by policy neglect and an inability to recognise and correct the negative impact of wider educational policies. The result is a league table of National Curriculum subjects with many, including Music, towards the bottom of the table and facing the very real possibility of relegation in the education of many young people.
There are widespread consequences to this. Last week, the TES has reported that the recruitment of new students for teacher education courses for Music has dropped by 30% in the last year. This raises important questions about who should be teaching music in our schools? Does it need to be done by qualified teachers or well-meaning amateur or professional musicians visiting on an occasional basis? Government figures have showed a general decline in entries for Music GCSE and A level examinations over the last few years.
In this article written by UCan Play MD Jonathan Savage (and recently published in Forum), he argues that a systematic, developmental and comprehensive music education should be at the heart of every child’s formal education within the state education system. The benefits of a music education are briefly explored before a presentation of research data that demonstrates a decline in music education as a result of poorly designed and implemented government policies in recent years.
Rather than an over-reliance on the ‘outsourcing’ of music education to music education hubs and other private providers, qualified teachers with appropriate musical and pedagogical skills and understanding hold the key to the provision of a quality music education for all young people. Within primary schools, teachers without a music specialism need to be reminded that music as a subject is not impossible to teach and can be done well with their ‘generalist’ skills; within secondary schools, music needs to relate to other curriculum subjects in a more explicit way. This is examined through a metaphor drawn from the Renaissance period.
Ultimately, this article argues that music education is too important to be left to amateurs. All children deserve a music education that is designed and delivered by qualified and skilful professional educators. We hope that you will find the article useful ammunition in defending and promoting music education as a cornerstone of every child’s music education in your school.