DfE 'dropped the ball' on plan for music, says adviser

Government expert says many schools are "not even aware" of the National Plan for Music Education, which is due for renewal next year

Amy Gibbons

Children in music lesson

A member of the expert panel overseeing the development of the DfE's controversial new model music curriculum has said the government may have "dropped the ball" on its current National Plan for Music Education.

Bridget Whyte, chief executive officer of music education association Music Mark, said the Department for Education (DfE) "need to think carefully about how they share their publications", while speaking at a seminar in London this morning.

The plan was introduced back in 2012, but Ms Whyte said many schools were still "not even aware" it exists.

"I get a sense from my colleagues at the DfE that they might have dropped the ball slightly on version one [of the plan]," she said.

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It also emerged that there is still a lot of work to do on the next version of the plan. The government announced in January 2019 that it would refresh the document, with a new version to be published in 2020.

But Hannah Fouracre, music education director at Arts Council England, said at the same Westminster Education Forum meeting that, as of today, there is currently "no draft of anything".

Ms Whyte also confirmed the panel is waiting for a "revised timetable" on the controversial model music curriculum.

The new framework was due to be published this summer, but the DfE has now said the curriculum would only become available to schools when it “meets the high standards teachers, pupils and parents expect”.

The original national plan included provision for music education hubs – 121 of which have since been rolled out across the country.

The current funding settlement for the hubs runs out on 31 March 2020, and no further investment has yet been confirmed. 

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of ISM, said last month that it was “vital” that there is no gap in funding while future plans are drafted.

The government has, however, committed to a significant increase in funding for schools by 2022-23.

When asked what she meant by the DfE "dropping the ball", Ms Whyte said: "Schools were told about the plan but were not then constantly reminded about it and over time I think many - probably partly due to the turnover in staff in music departments and school management - forgot it concerned them.  

"Without pressure from the DfE to engage with it and therefore to become an active part of their local hub they engaged more as customers than as partners.  

"I am not sure the DfE would go so far as to agree that they ‘dropped the ball’ as I put it.

"But I do get a sense that they are thinking about how the plan can better articulate the idea that schools are partners within a hub in any ‘refreshed’ plan, and I would hope they might even think about wider communications around its launch and implementation."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want all pupils to have the opportunity to study music at school – that’s why it is compulsory in the National Curriculum from the age of 5 up to 14.

“Through our Music Hubs programme, more than 700,000 children learnt to play instruments in class together in 2016/17 and we are putting more money into arts education programmes than any subject other than PE – nearly half a billion pounds to fund a range of music and cultural programmes between 2016 and 2020. This money is in addition to the funding that schools receive to deliver their curriculum.

“We are currently working with music groups and practitioners to refresh the national plan for music education and develop a high-quality model music curriculum.”



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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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