Following a sound track

26th March 2004 at 00:00
"While it would be rash to attribute all forms of emotional disturbances to education, there is no question that formal education and training have played a part, at times a major part, in the exile of feelings from western culture".

Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative So writes Sir Ken Robinson, chair of the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education and one of a group of authors who wrote the report All Our Futures: Creativity Culture and Education. This report appeared to fall on almost deaf governmental ears in the UK. It may have been ahead of its time, but we may need to re-address its conclusions in terms of the creative curriculum for our schools. There are those who contend that we are not radical enough, we are not using what intelligence we have - emotional or otherwise - and the formal and informal curriculum has not created the improvements in standards we need.

Any headteacher will wax eloquent about the essential place of music and the arts in the school curriculum - why they are unique and why they must be there - and how it positively affects the creative curriculum. However, only about 8 per cent of the school population learn a musical instrument before the age of 10, so why not concentrate on pupils who want to learn or sing, and leave the others? This view is often expressed by some who have limited budgets. Along with re-modelling the school workforce and other priority issues, there is still a potential to obscure the real agenda.

The National Association of Music Educators (NAME) is committed to the view that music education should be accessible to all. A fundamental premise is that music is a unique experience that must be retained because it is a complex, aesthetic and yet transient activity. Without it about one third of the human being is undeveloped.

Three millennia ago, it was clear to Plato that the individual required a character that was hewn from aesthetic and moral codes and firmly rooted in the curriculum. Three decades ago, The Arts in Schools (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, pound;10) concluded that the whole person had to develop the full variety of human intelligence - the education of feeling and sensibility, physical and perceptual skills, the exploration of values and an understanding of social culture.

So what's changed? The national curriculum is, among other things, a "ground-up" model, but still uses a "top-down" model of assessment.

The music curriculum is currently being reviewed and several potentially groundbreaking advances that look at different ways of teaching in the classroom, including key stages 2-4, are in hand. These may look exciting, but standards are the main talking point for the policy-makers.

Around one in four schools do not now offer music, even as an option at ages 14 to 16. There is still a hotchpotch of qualifications, which have not addressed the vocational needs of the individual in music, so the full range of potential applicants to the music teaching profession may not be covered.

One of the tenets of the present reforms is to break down barriers between teachers, lecturers and trainers to provide a workforce that more appropriately matches the needs of young people. Three weeks ago we had the fascinating and positive outcomes of "Wider Opportunities", which was designed to show ways of giving primary pupils wider access to music, and before that the proposed new aspects of the curriculum for ages 14 to 19, which will be released soon. Are we making any impact? Perhaps we are up a cul-de-sac. Where is the radical change needed to address the issues of the 21st century?

NAME, together with the Schools Music Association, has recently been involved in working for the DfES on embedding information and communication technology in music, especially at KS3, which is the current priority. This is part of the e-learning strategy for education as a whole. What does ICT do for music? The impact of ICT in the proposed national framework for ICT has five main areas which can be related to music: lautomony - access to music through online resources, especially for composing and performing through the use of new technologies; lscope - ways to support music itself and opportunities to map ICT on to the curriculum; lcreativity - there are unique vocational opportunities for young people in recording and music technology, to experience events which have relevance for them, excite and stimulate their imagination, and provide the foundations - literally the soundtrack - for their lives using ICT; lanalysis - music provides a way to explore and use a variety of possibilities, such as the investigation of patterns and performance, structures and effects; lquality - music provides a measure of ICT success, both in musical terms and in the outcomes of the learning process, pedagogy and the use of new infrastructure.

We plan to provide support for ICT in music - part of the DfES agenda - by working with schools through subject and professional associations. We propose that this major initiative will include: a national management group led by a consultant; support for CPD opportunities for teachers in local education authorities; developing new digital content; the setting up of a rural support network for smaller primary schools; the use of ICT in music performance; and much more.

In NAME, we support the ICT framework pilot schemes which, through the assessment of schools' self-evaluation and more formal inspection, will enhance subject leadership and resources in music from the bedrock - the improvement in teaching and learning.

Music has to be heard to make sense. Judging pupils' practical involvement in music depends on what it is judged against. There's no point in having standards and trying to raise them if they are the wrong standards in the first place. As Sir Ken Robinson also says: "We won't survive the future simply by doing better what we have done in the past."

So what is the point of all this? Is it that we must learn to be creative or fall behind? The triangle of human existence is at the heart of the story. It is not enough to have the knowledge and the expertise. What is missing is a third way - being "mind full" of the uniqueness of the individual, which is not always evident in government targets.

Music not only provides the "soundtrack" for this activity, but the ongoing skills to achieve it. The unique qualities of the art, that are transient and never repeated, must be retained for all pupils. That is to say, without creativity we have no intelligence of feeling and we do not know ourselves.

Roger Crocker is chair of the National Association of Music Educators and music development officer for Wandsworth LEA

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