Something to sing about

9th June 2000 at 01:00
Anice Paterson of NAME welcomes the return of music to the primary curriculum and improvements at A and AS level.

There is much to welcome in music education at the moment. The National Association of Music Educators is delighted that music is again a full requirement for primary schools in the national curriculum after worrying indications that too many schools had almost dropped music provision to make way for literacy and numeracy. But no complacency please. As well as the planning help provided by new schemes of work, support is still essential for general class teachers to develop their confidence and skills.

We need to ensure that the standards fund monies, much welcomed two years ago, are replaced by a system that provides long-term stability for the work of music services and sustainability for projects started as a result.

New courses arising from the long-awaited review at AAS level are welcomed and, along with vocational courses and increased use of music technology, should mean greater access for students who do not necessarily wish to continue their musical interests in a career. Able musicians brought up on the aural tradition of jazz or rock music have found a conventional A-level course inappropriate and should now be better catered for. Reviewing GCSE to ensure progression in the intermediate stage between key stages 3 nd 5 will be needed. More upheaval is likely then.

Developing key skills through music has considerable potential and, in terms of work-related learning, music is one of the most real. Pupils composing or performing in the normal course of their work in school are operating in exactly the same ways as "real" performers or composers. They generate new ideas, refine, manipulate and rehearse them. They make decisions and have to present their work to externally-driven deadlines, often in a public context. Graded instrumental and vocal examinations are at present being evaluated and slotted into the national qualifications framework and could have a marked effect on how music is perceived in schools. Will we get the next generation of music teachers, with the new pound;6,000 training salary for PGCE students, to do all this?

So much to celebrate, so much to do. What will continue to matter to members of NAME are the many aspects of music education: the relationships and expectations of teachers in the classroom, the communication of serious musical study and delight in equal parts, and a good musical experience in every lesson for everyone.

Anice Paterson is chair of the National Association of Music Educators, 16 Pinions Road, High Wycombe, Bucks HP13 7AT. Tel: 01494 473410. E-mail: musiceducation@name.org.uk. Website: www.name.org.uk


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