Summary of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into School Music Education
Prepared by Alex Masso
In November 2013 the Victorian Parliament’s Education and Training committee released its report into music education. The full title is the “Inquiry into the extent, benefits and potential of music education in Victorian schools” and the report can be downloaded here.
Music education should be an essential part of every young person’s education,” said the committee chair, Mrs Jan Kronberg MLC. “Not only do they gain enjoyment and reward from making and listening to music, but research also shows that learning music can lead to improved student engagement at school and enhanced social wellbeing.
Some of the key recommendations are:
- A state-wide strategy to guide the future delivery of school music education in Victoria
- A promotion plan to ensure that school leaders and teachers understand the importance and benefits of a quality music education
- A music education guide to support schools to deliver a quality music education
- Increased education, training and support for teachers, particularly at the primary school level
- Support for secondary schools without an instrumental music program to start a program.
This parliamentary inquiry would not have happened without the successful advocacy of Victoria’s School Music Action Group (sMAG) and in particular Dr Anne Lierse. Dr Richard Letts from Music Australia spoke at the inquiry and there are many references to Music Australia (its formal submission and other research) in the parliamentary committee’s final report.
What the parliamentary committee said
The report appears to accept two of the main points made repeatedly by music education advocates in Australia (including MCA): 1) that there is evidence of many benefits to music education in schools, and 2) that the provision of music education is still inconsistent and inadequate; as the report says, “not all students have equitable access to music education” (xvii).
Regarding the evidence, the report finds “The research and stakeholder evidence about the value and benefits of music education provides a compelling case in favour of ensuring that every student has access to a meaningful music education” (xvi).
- To read more about some of this evidence, see the Music to Our Ears report.
The inquiry also found a lack of policy direction for music education: “At present, there is no policy guidance on the provision of music education in Victoria. The Committee believes there would be benefit in the Victorian Government developing a music education strategy to guide the delivery of school music education.” (xviii)
On the big question of whether specialist music teachers or ‘generalist’ teachers should teach music in primary schools, the report says both play a role but stops short of recommending that specialists teach music in all schools, choosing instead to promote the value of specialist music teachers to school leaders and increasing the music skills of generalist teachers.
Victoria is unique in Australia for its approach to instrumental music teaching in schools, and the parliamentary committee “firmly believes that the Victorian government should continue to support this popular and successful program,” which will be welcome news to the many teachers, students and parents involved in instrumental music programs.
Some of the recommendations will be very interesting to policy makers, advocates and others involved in finer details about the provision of music in school systems (1, 4, 14, 16, 17).
A number of recommendations from this inquiry relate to the training and professional development of teachers, one of the most significant factors affecting whether music is taught at all and how it is taught. This includes more professional development (9, 11, 12) and resources for teachers (10) as well as some very interesting recommendations about new tertiary courses and qualifications for music educators (7, 8, 15).
Teachers, principals and parents may be interested in recommendations that aim to increase musical activity at a school level, including ensuring that schools have adequate facilities and equipment (3), promoting the benefits of music education to schools (5), developing a music education guide for schools (6) and grants to encourage schools without an instrumental music program to start one (13). Another recommendation is to ‘build a network of lighthouse secondary schools’ that will deliver more in-depth classroom and instrumental music programs (2).
The Government is required to respond within six months of the Final Report being tabled.
Full list of recommendations:
Recommendation 1: Collecting data on music education provision
That the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development collects annual data about music education provision within Victorian government schools, both primary and secondary.
Recommendation 2: Building a network of lighthouse secondary schools with a strong focus on music education
That the Victorian Government builds upon existing secondary schools with strong music programs to create a network of lighthouse secondary schools across the state which are able to deliver sequential and in-depth classroom and instrumental music programs.
Recommendation 3: Ensuring schools have adequate music facilities and equipment
That the Victorian Government ensures that government schools have adequate music facilities and equipment to support music education.
Recommendation 4: Developing a new Victorian strategy for school music education
That the Victorian Government, in consultation with music organisations, students, teachers, schools and other relevant stakeholders, develops and implements a strategy on school music education in Victoria.
Recommendation 5: Developing a promotion plan for music education
That the Victorian Government develops a promotion plan to communicate the importance and benefits of a sequential and in-depth music education to school leaders and teachers.
Recommendation 6: Developing a music education guide for schools
That the Victorian Government develops a guide to support schools to deliver a sequential and in-depth music education from Foundation to Year 10.
Recommendation 7: Developing further education opportunities for primary classroom teachers to specialise in music education
That the Victorian Government works with universities to develop a postgraduate course for in-service primary classroom teachers to specialise in music education.
Recommendation 8: Developing an optional course in music education for pre-service primary classroom teachers
That the Victorian Government works with universities to develop an optional music education course for pre-service primary classroom teachers and puts in place measures to attract students into the course.
Recommendation 9: Delivering ongoing support and professional learning to primary classroom teachers
That the Victorian Government develops a support network of music educators that delivers in-school professional learning and support to primary classroom teachers.
Recommendation 10: Sharing teaching and curriculum resources in primary schools
That the Victorian Government supports primary schools to work in clusters to share teaching and curriculum resources with respect to music education.
Recommendation 11: Targeting music professional learning opportunities to graduate primary classroom teachers
That the Victorian Government supports the provision of targeted music professional learning opportunities for graduate primary classroom teachers and supports them to attend.
Recommendation 12: Increasing music professional learning opportunities in rural and regional Victoria
That the Victorian Government supports the provision of increased music professional learning opportunities for primary classroom teachers and specialist music teachers in rural and regional Victoria and supports teachers to attend.
Recommendation 13: Supporting schools to establish an instrumental music program
That the Victorian Government establishes a start-up grants program to support secondary schools without an instrumental music program to start a program.
Recommendation 14: Developing criteria to allocate Instrumental Music Program funding
That the Victorian Government develops a set of criteria for Department of Education and Early Childhood Development regions to use when allocating Instrumental Music Program funding.
Recommendation 15: Developing an appropriate teaching qualification for instrumental music teachers
That the Victorian Government works with universities to develop an appropriate teaching qualification for instrumental music teachers.
Recommendation 16: Providing guidance on the operation of the Permission to Teach Policy 2011
That the Victorian Institute of Teaching develops a guide for schools about how the Permission to Teach Policy 2011 applies to instrumental music teachers.
Recommendation 17: Reviewing the base school model for employing instrumental music teachers
That the Victorian Government reviews the base school model for employing instrumental music teachers and puts in place measures to assist base schools to better manage the employment of instrumental music teachers across multiple schools