Exclusive: DfE music curriculum delayed over 'quality'

Controversial new 'model music curriculum' was due to be published this summer, but will remain under wraps until DfE is assured it meets ‘high standards’

Music lesson

The publication of the DfE's new model music curriculum has been delayed until further notice, as the “required quality” has not been met, Tes can reveal.

The controversial supplementary curriculum should have been published this summer, but the Department for Education has since confirmed the framework will only become available to schools when it “meets the high standards teachers, pupils and parents expect”.

It is not clear how long this process will take, but the DfE has indicated more evidence is needed to guarantee the curriculum is suitable for publication.


News: 'Thousands' of peripatetic music teacher jobs 'at risk'

Survey: Creativity 'undervalued' in music education

Analysis: 'The very existence of music in schools is under threat'


The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) was selected to draft the model curriculum in February, after putting in a £4,500 bid for the contract.

The other two organisations approached, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) and Music Mark, both subject associations, chose not to bid.

The government said the model framework, designed to be complementary to the national curriculum, should ensure all pupils can benefit from knowledge-rich and diverse lessons and provide schools with a "sequenced and structured template curriculum".

But the plans have been described as “deeply concerning” by dozens of experts in music education, who are worried that the DfE expert panel leading the project does not include people with sufficient knowledge of teaching music in schools.

'They have done it on a shoestring'

And there was similar concern over ABRSM being given the contract to draft the curriculum – with critics questioning what experience the organisation, which is known for its graded music exams, had of grass-roots level teaching in schools.

Dr Jonathan Savage, reader in education at Manchester Metropolitan University and a vocal critic of the model music curriculum, said: “The fact it has been delayed is just another indication they have got the wrong people for the job.

“It takes a lot of money to do proper curriculum development. They didn’t pay enough money to have something half decent done. It was a minuscule amount of money. It is a bad idea, badly managed.

“It is fair to say they have employed the wrong people and they have done it on a shoestring.” 

He added: “The national curriculum needs to be supported properly by government resources, and it is just insulting that they feel they can produce a model curriculum with an organisation that doesn’t have the right skills or knowledge to do it well.

“A better approach would have been to talk to those people leading music education hubs like those at the Love Music Trust, Leicestershire Music Hub and Bristol Plays Music, who have already done this work, and look at ways of sharing the existing good practice throughout the country.”

The Department for Education confirmed the project has been delayed to ensure it “meets the required quality" and "to collect more evidence”.

A spokesperson said: “Music is a vital part of a broad and balanced education and our new model music curriculum will ensure all pupils are able to benefit from high quality music lessons.

“We are working with a range of experts to devise a knowledge rich and rigorous model curriculum, which will be available to schools as soon as we are assured it meets the high standards teachers, pupils and parents expect.”

ABRSM has been approached for comment.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you