WE have known that teaching pop music in schools was a promising idea since the Newsom report in 1963 (Half Our Future, Department of Education and Science). Newsom perfectly understood that a gap had grown between music education and the place pop music holds in most people's lives.
So recent research from the National Foundation for Education Research and my own survey into secondary school music teachers, Valuing School Music, make worrying reading. Both reports confirm that classroom music lessons need to change and teachers require a new type of training and support if we are to make our art into a subject that interests most pupils and is valued by their parents. Changing what happens in school music is a slow process. Advocating immediate and radical departures from established practice is both unfair on teachers and would probably just not be taken up. University courses such as the BA Hons in commercial music at University of Westminster, and other pop musiccourses around the UK have shown there can be models that are both high quality and popular. But so far no one has produced a new agenda for music in schools.
Perhaps that is what we need now, so that over time teachers, the teacher training organisations, and policy makers in music education will recognise the comments of teachers in the Valuing School Music survey - that pop music, followed by musicals, is the most significant British musical achievement of the past 50 years; so probably the art of making pop music ought to have a central place in defining what children learn in music lessons.
Before we can produce this agenda, there is much to do. We are collaborating with the National Foundation for Youth Music and the Arts Council of England to research a network of teachers and youth organisations. And on July 4 Music for Youth is running a National Rock and Pop education forum at the South Bank, in association with Rockschool.