Still singing for supper

25th February 2000 at 00:00
Maxwell Pryce of the SMA calls for government money to extend in-service training

The new curriculum for music is here, with its increased emphasis on singing and a new way of looking at music in schools. We welcome the reaffirmation of music as a practical experience for pupils, by developing musical confidence and awareness.

Listening and applying knowledge and understanding are seen as the main focus, building on the three contributory strands of performing, composing and appraising, understood from the previous Order.

"Pupils should be taught how to sing" is a strong statement throughout the key stages and complements children's wishes to participate in the current popular styles so readily available on CDs. At primary school this makes it easier for the general classroom teacher to deliver more of the Order through the voice, and builds on expertise that we all have.

But there is a problem of confidence for teachers. At key stage 3 there remains the problem of motivating young people to sing, particularly when the song chosen is not "cool". Many schools still lack computers or any other music technology to support the voice.

Money still needs to be spent to support the Order. Specialists need further in-service training to introduce a wider repertoire. Teachers need further confidence in the modern skills of improvising and vocal "belting".

Primary teachers still lack confidence in their own musicianship - whatcan you expect after only a dozen or so hours of music in initial training? We would like to see more money available to support teachers' own musical development and a recognition that time and money in initial teacher training are well spent.

Meanwhile, teachers will work hard to deliver the best music curriculum possible. At the moment it is up to national organisations to address training needs and to organise courses for singing and music teachers. This then relies on those same hard-pressed teachers giving up their time and money to attend these events.

It is sad but true that many teachers are no longer able or willing to do this. We need those same organisations to lobby for further funding to support teachers in the classroom. We need the Government to recognise the need for further funding to improve quality of delivery in the classroom through targeted in-service funding. Parents always say "you know how important music is". But do we?

* The School Music Association is for those working with music in education. Most of our members are practising teachers or musicians working in schools. We deal with the practicalities of raps and recorders, of motivating and music. Membership is open to all involved and interested in such work.

Maxwell Pryce is honorary secretary of the School Music Association, 71 Margaret Road, New Barnet, Herts EN4 9NT.Tel: 0181 440 6919.E-mail:

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