Key to motivating young musicians

23rd February 2001 at 00:00
Teachers of music will now have benchmarks for measuring year-on-year advances. Richard Hallam is enthusiastic.

The next three to five years will be crucial for all music teachers, whether they are classroom based, instrumental or vocal. Has Curriculum 2000 made a difference to music teaching? Should it? For many excellent teachers, the answer to both of these questions will be "no". Their students already engage with a curriculum that motivates and enthuses, is musical and educational and provides progression and high quality work.

The national curriculum ensures an entitlement to excellent music education for all. Do our students get that entitlement? We must examine what and how we teach, and test our success. This summer we will be attributing levels to our Year 9 students. For the first time national comparative data will be available. We will have our own benchmarks against which to show our year-on-year improvements.

This provides an ideal opportunity for music teachers to secure resources and continuing professional development. So many music teachers work in isolation; curriculum development can by-pass us. Music education for the 21st century has to include appropriate use of ICT and senior managers need to be persuaded that regular technician time is a necessity in today's music classroom. Our students need to work in spaces that are conducive to high quality work, on quality equipment, with the skills thatmake them proud of their musical accomplishments. More students will take up music at key stage 4 when they are offered a curriculum at KS3 that is enjoyable and motivating, and includes high-quality musical experiences.

The challenge then will be to maintain our high levels of achievement by delivering carefully chosen courses. Longer term this will solve the difficulty many teachers are experiencing with post-16 courses. While greater numbers of students are taking AS music, the need to teach A2 courses separately has put full A-level music courses under threat in some schools.

Performance indicators will measure the effectiveness of music services in raising standards, and funding will be linked to them. The accreditation of graded exams in the QCA's framework, together with implications at KS4 and beyond for funding and UCAS points, means that examination of the instrumental and vocal music curriculum is firmly on the agenda too. A Common Approach, published jointly by the Federation of Music Services and the National Association of Music Educators provides a template for this curriculum. Testing times indeed for music education. But times that also have the potential for being wonderfully rewarding.

Richard J Hallam is chair, NAME, 16 Pinions Road, High Wycombe, Bucks HP13 7AT. Telfax: 01494 473410.E-mail:'A Common Approach' pound;3, FMS, tel: 020 7833 7931.

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