School Music Provision

The provision of music education in Australia varies state to state, with different models and programs offered in each jurisdiction. In schools where it is prioritised, music is recognised as part of the core curriculum, and is a major selling-point to parents. Countless not-for-profit organisations, Government agencies and companies are hard at work providing vibrant, dynamic and inventive music programs in Australian schools.

Advocates would like to see universal provision of arts and music education for all Australian schools students.  Clearly the Australian public also share this view. According to the Australia Council:

89% think the arts should be an important part of the education of every Australian

Unfortunately, this is not the case, and many music students miss out on music education as part of their schooling.

Recent History

In 2004, in response to pressure from music educators, the Australian Government undertook the National Review of School Music Education which was published in 2005. This report was widely supported at the time with close to 500 submissions received and over 5,000 petitions in support. This report noted that:

Raising the quality and status of music education will have a positive impact on the breadth and depth of aesthetic, cognitive, social and experiential learning for all Australian students and, ultimately, for our society at large.

The National Review provided an excellent blueprint for improving music education in Australian schools. While some recommendations have been implemented including campaigns to increase status for music, strengthened enrichment programs, and more teachers in some schools, a decade on there is still much to do.

Achievements

The status of music in many schools has been raised by advocates and researchers who demonstrate the many benefits delivered by music education, through their excellent work. Music Australia’s Music: Count Us In program has reached millions of students across Australia, and each year more than 2,000 schools and 500,000 students participate in what is now Australia’s biggest school music participation program.  Almost all Australia’s major performing arts companies provide rich education programs offering arts experiences to over half a million students annually. Many other companies and artists also tour schools with performances, workshops and residencies, and provide resources that offer further music enrichment to thousands more students.

Free digital resources are available to schools and teachers through the national digital resource collection managed by Education Services Australia which has over 18,500 resources aligned to the Australian curriculum.

Some States have good state school music education provision. Queensland, for example, has 950 primary music specialists and instrumental teachers working in their schools, and music education is provided in 87% of State schools. In 2014, the Queensland Government announced funding for an additional 16 specialist music teachers to build on a program they see as integral to school education.

Other States, such as Victoria provide specialist instrumental music teachers and programs in some state schools, which can be supplemented on a user pays basis, generally with fees paid by parents.  The majority of Australian independent schools have an effective music program, and in the public sector many parents ensure provision for their children by paying for private music instruction.

To learn more about Parental Engagement, visit our Music At Home resources.

Professional Learning

For the majority of teachers, access to professional development and on-going professional Learning are essential ingredients for providing engaging music education in schools. Generalist teachers can lack confidence, and might not be able to access the professional learning they require to overcome this barrier. In States where music specialists are not provided, there are countless opportunities for generalist teachers to access professional learning or professional development in music. With the right training, and enough practice, teachers can become wonderful enablers of children’s creativity and musicality. Music Australia offers professional development to all registered teachers through Music: Count Us In, aimed at a generalist level but with extension activities for those with some experience. With downloadable resources, video conferencing, live streamed workshops and face-to-face sessions with experienced music educators, all teachers can develop their skills, free of charge.

Other wonderful organisations offering professional learning and development in music can be found in our Australian Music Directory.

The Work To Do

The Music to Our Ears report, produced by Music Australia and the Caledonia Foundation provides some disappointing data about the reality of music provision in Australian schools:

  • 63% of primary schools offer no classroom music
  • 34% of secondary schools offer no classroom music
  • Only in the states of Queensland and Tasmania is music a part of the primary school curriculum in government schools and taught by specialist music teachers
  • Less than a quarter of government schools (primary and secondary) offer a program that would meet the standard of music education in the National Review
  • Over three quarters of independent schools meet this standard

Download the Music to our Ears Report

Clearly there is a huge amount of work to do and achieving the goal of providing all students with the opportunity for a music education is hugely ambitious. However, music educators, advocates and many professionals, parents and principals are passionate about the difference music can make to a young person’s life and are determined to work towards that goal.

So how could it be achieved? We have identified four key areas:

  • Increase the number of specialist music teachers in primary and secondary schools
  • Increase the number of primary teachers able to teach music
  • Increase professional development for the existing teacher workforce
  • Increase enrichment programs to strengthen music education in schools

Music advocates believe that, if implemented, these measures will:

  • Contribute to a better trained and more valued teaching workforce
  • Deliver specific behavioural, cultural, academic and economic benefits to students
  • Deliver a range of benefits to schools and communities
  • Improve Australia’s national education position and outcomes.

The Australian Curriculum: The Arts was completed in 2013 and is set to be introduced in each state and territory over a number of years. The five subject areas are music, visual arts, dance, drama and media and it is structured in five stages.

As we near 10 years since the National Review of Music, Music Australia is committed to developing comprehensive data about the state of play for music education in Australia. Our Education Advisory Group has commenced research in order to renew our advocacy and activities in this space.

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