UK Report Urges Major Changes in Music Education

Image credit: Arts Council England
Graham Strahle
| March 24, 2019

A sweeping report on music education in the UK has made a series of powerful recommendations on the way music is taught in schools there, and the ideas it comes up with are ones we could consider adopting in this country. Entitled Retuning Our Ambition For Music Learning: Every Child Taking Music Further and conducted by a body called the Music Commission, it urges a rethink in the whole landscape of music education.

Among the ideas it proposes in its ten-year vision is that every secondary school should have “at least one music specialist teacher on its staff”, and that every child should be given free school-based instrumental tuition.

Other recommendations it makes are raising the amount of music training time in teacher training courses, and establishing national and local music teacher networks to “promote peer learning, guidance and support”.

The UK report also makes an interesting point that independent music teachers should be “better valued” as part of the overall provision of school music education. It says these teachers are just as entitled to be given ongoing professional development opportunities, “through voluntary registration and accreditation into music teaching focused on supporting progression, recognised by governments and music services”.

The report’s thrust is about skilling up the workforce generally. It says schools have to do their part too by working towards agreed standards that recognise “the importance of music, cultural education and creativity that builds on prior knowledge and sets young people up to succeed in further study and life beyond”. Inspection and assessment models could be introduced to ensure that schools meet such standards, it suggests, via “periodic national reports and case studies”.

The Music Commission is an umbrella organisation established by the UK’s equivalent of our AMEB, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), in conjunction with Arts Council England. Its panel members comprise “artists, chief executives, academics, economists, music educators and leaders”. Of note is that its eight-member Research Reference Group includes one Australian, Stewart Riddle – he is Senior Lecturer in the School of Teacher Education and Early Childhood at the University of Southern Queensland.

Retuning Our Ambition For Music Learning is stimulating stuff and worth reading in full, as it opens up a panoply of topics connected with music education. For example, it wants to see parental involvement brought more into the centre of children’s learning experiences, and it impels music educators, music industry and tech companies to collaborate together to advance “new, integrated approaches to the teaching and assessment of learning of music in a digital age”.

It could spur similar greenfields thinking in this country, on these topics and more.

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