THIS summer the new national curriculum in music was circulated to schools, bringing both the confirmation of music's place in school (to the end of key stage 3) and the wonderful inclusion of instrumental playing for all children from this September. This probably makes our school system unique - and I am aware of the incredulous envy of advocates for music in other countries.
Yet I have not heard cries of joy from instrumental and general music teachers at their imminent emergence from years of marginalisation. And where were the anguished reports from school governors, complaining that they would be unable to meet the resource needs of these new requirements? It was as though nothing at all had happened and I felt like television's Victor Meldrew crying: "I don't believe it!" And how are instrumental teachers going to find out about these developments? The new curriculum material packs were sent to schools and I have yet to learn of a music service that was also included in the circulation. Many instrumental teachers knew nothing of the new opportunities, but they ought to by now. If bad news travels fast then surely the excellent news in the slim pink booklet should have travelled even faster. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and Department for Education and Employment have listened to argument for music, accepted the case for its inclusion and acted to ensure that all children have a statutory right to receive it. On this occasion, 10 out of 10 for the Government. P> What do the curriculum documents actually say? The good news, to be spread and repeated as often as possible, is that "pupils should be taught:
* at KS1: to play tuned and untuned instruments * at KS2: to play tuned and untuned instruments with control and rhythmic accuracy * at KS3: to perform with increasing control of instrument-specific techniques.
Using figures in the recent Associated Board (of the Royal Schools of Music)'s Making Music 2000 report I reckon an additional 4-5 million children should now receive at least an introduction to instrumental music at school, by right. All children entering primary schools from now on should do so. This is fantastic news.
I accept that it poses a problem to those responsible for funding the curriculum, but the message has to be: "Whatever other worthy project you have to defer, headteacher, music needs those funds now to fulfil the new statutory requirement." Heads and governing bodies have to be made to accept the requirements - music teachers have to become local advocates. The National Music Council has worked with the Music Industries Association and will shortly produce a leaflet setting out the requirements, to help music teachers get the case across to those holding the purse strings.
Bob Kelley is co-ordinator of the 1998 Campaign for Music in the Curriculum and Hon. Secretary of the charity Music for AllFree leaflet tel: 01483 223326. Fax: 01483 222748. E-mail: office@MIA.org.uk