Exclusive: Music curriculum plans 'deeply concerning'

Call for transparency over the formation of new model music curriculum as questions are raised about expert panel

Helen Ward

Where is the funding for schools' new model music curriculum, asks primary headteacher Michael Tidd

Plans for developing a new music curriculum have been condemned as “deeply concerning” by dozens of experts in music education.

An open letter to the Department for Education, signed by 30 academics, says that while the existing national curriculum was developed and consulted upon widely, plans for developing a new model music curriculum to go alongside it do not appear to include such a broad range of expertise.

“It is deeply concerning that a model curriculum could be perceived as replacing the national curriculum, thus ousting something that has been subject to a democratic process with one which has not,” the letter states.

The government announced last week that a new model music curriculum was to be drawn up by a panel of experts and published in the summer in order to “make sure their lessons are of the very highest quality”.

But the letter, signed by experts including Jonathan Savage, of Manchester Metropolitan University, and Anthony Anderson, of Birmingham City University, who have both worked as government curriculum advisers, says they are concerned that the experts chosen do not include people with sufficient knowledge of how to teach music.

Music curriculum: the right panel of experts?

And they have called for the DfE to supply details about the way panel members were selected.

"They are really good people," Dr Savage explained to Tes. "I am not casting aspersions on the quality of people on the panel – but they just the wrong group of people to do this task."

The 14-strong panel, which includes cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, Professor Linda Merrick, principal of the Royal Northern College of Music, and Naveed Idrees, the headteacher of Bradford’s Feversham Primary Academy, also has four representatives from music education hubs, the organisations that coordinate musical education services in a local area.

And the academics point out that: “Music education in the curriculum is the responsibility of schools, not music education hubs; the expertise in this area lies with expert teachers and those working in initial teacher education and schools.”

Ally Daubney, of the University of Sussex, speaking to the Tes, said: “There are brilliant teachers in schools developing fantastic curriculums for the 21st century who have been overlooked for this panel and it should be their work that is sitting in the centre of this development. There is also great expertise in initial teacher education. We’re all music teachers and have pedagogical expertise across the age ranges, which is also not represented anywhere on that group.”

The letter warns of potential “conflict of interest” in panel members who work for music services or music education hubs, who receive Arts Council England funding for music initiatives, getting involved in curriculum development.

It is understood from the DfE that while the national curriculum has statutory status, and must be followed by maintained schools, the model curriculum has no such status and will be supplementary.

The DfE believes there will be no conflict of interest arising between the panel members and this work because music hubs will not be recipients of any funding flowing from the model curriculum, which will be free for pupils and schools to use.

A DfE spokesperson said: “The model music curriculum will complement the national curriculum in music, but in no way will replace or conflict with it, looking purely at what knowledge pupils should be learning at each key stage.
“We have published the names of people on our expert advisory group developing the model music curriculum, who are a mix of teachers, music hub heads and principals of music institutions and have between them strong teaching and music expertise. As part of their work, the expert advisory group will seek the views of a wide range of music groups.”


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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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