Look at what is supposed to happen in primary school. Children in Key Stage 1 (5 to
7 year olds) should be taught to:
• use their voices expressively and creatively by singing songs and speaking
chants and rhymes
• play tuned and untuned instruments musically
• listen with concentration and understanding to a range of high-quality live and
• experiment with, create, select and combine sounds using the inter-related
dimensions of music.
And in Key Stage 2 (7 to 11 year olds): Pupils should be taught to sing and play
musically with increasing confidence and control. They should develop an
understanding of musical composition, organising and manipulating ideas within
musical structures and reproducing sounds from aural memory.
Pupils should be taught to:
• play and perform in solo and ensemble contexts, using their voices and
playing musical instruments with increasing accuracy, fluency, control and
• improvise and compose music for a range of purposes using the inter-related
dimensions of music
• listen with attention to detail and recall sounds with increasing aural memory
• use and understand staff and other musical notations
• appreciate and understand a wide range of high-quality live and recorded
music drawn from different traditions and from great composers and
• develop an understanding of the history of music.
Is this a picture you recognise? Is this happening in the schools you know? Are
these the experiences young people are getting now? In some places the answer is
a resounding ‘yes’. This is why we have some of the best music education in the
world. But as report after report states, the situation is patchy. If, as I am proposing,
music education is vital to humans, what can we do about it? We can be clear who is
responsible and hold them to account. I don’t believe anyone sets out to do a poor
job. We have to find constructive and supportive ways to bring about change.
Read the full lecture here.