A new $7 million Music Education Strategy launched by the SA Government undertakes to provide every child in that State with access to a high-quality music education. Announced in November, the Strategy will operate for four years and mainly target the early years and primary education. It is an impressive 24-page document that developed out of recommendations made by a working party led by the Elder Conservatorium of Music and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
One of its priorities is to “Upskill non-specialist teachers to improve the delivery of general classroom music education by providing professional development for teachers.”
A wide consultative process saw the input of 850 submissions from schools, teachers, and representatives from music and creative industries. Key guidance came from Dr Anita Collins, neuro-musical educator of Muse Consulting Pty Ltd and a widely respected figure in music education. She provides a powerful, underpinning philosophy within the document, stating: “Students who engage in music learning perform better academically, contribute to their communities, form positive relationships, continue their education into university, earn more through their lives and age better, physically and cognitively.”
The Strategy starts as of 2019 and will be evaluated over its four year lifespan by “a group of senior educators and music education experts to monitor outcomes”.
It came into being following concerns that a coherent approach to teaching music was lacking in the SA education system, that many schools were ill-equipped to teach music, and that too much music teaching was being left to non-specialist teachers. These concerns were highlighted in an InDaily report in May last year that described school music education in SA as in “crisis”. That claim was contested by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s managing director Vincent Ciccarello, but it did at least serve to push the issues firmly into the public spotlight.
One of the challenges the Strategy faces is where its spending program will go. SA already has a government-run Instrumental Music service that delivers one-on-one and group instrumental music teaching through 19 ‘focus schools’ state-wide. The Strategy document states that “While the Instrumental Music program caters to more than 7,500 students across the state, it is not universal and there is no system-wide model supporting general classroom music education.”
It is likely therefore that the two programs will operate side-by-side, Instrumental Music providing specialised tuition and the Strategy upskilling general classroom teachers in delivering music teaching. Nevertheless, a significant portion of the promised $7 million will presumably have to go towards purchasing instruments. ABC TV’s Don’t Stop the Music made it clear how crucial this is in teaching music to kids, and it is one area that the Strategy document actually does not mention.