UK academics call new music curriculum ‘undemocratic’

About two dozen education academics delivered a letter to the Department of Education today, claiming that the new music curriculum lacks expert input and a democratic mandate.

Their main concerns:

· The curriculum bypasses the Expert Subject Advisory Group for Music

· There is a worrying lack of pedagogic knowledge on the new panel of experts

· There may be a conflict of interests of panel members linked to music services/hubs likely to receive additional funding from this process

Stand by for much wrangling. Here’s the letter. You read it here first.

 

 

22nd January 2019

To whom it may concern

We are writing this open letter to you in relation to the recent announcement from the Department for Education that a ‘model curriculum for music’ is to be prepared by an expert panel for release this summer.

You may be aware that the current National Curriculum for Music, published in 2013, was developed and consulted upon widely before it was introduced. This document underwent expert and comprehensive peer review from across the music education community before implementation, particularly benefitting from the pedagogic expertise of many teachers and those working in primary and secondary initial teacher education. It is deeply concerning that a model curriculum could be perceived as replacing the National Curriculum, thus ousting something that has been subject to a democratic process with one which has not.

To our knowledge, there is no research highlighting any issue with the National Curriculum for Music document or its content. Therefore, it is intriguing to hear that the Department for Education intends to introduce a ‘model curriculum’. We ask you to share the research demonstrating that this proposed model curriculum is necessary. We are also keen to hear about any examples you have seen where producing a model curriculum of this sort has resulted in significant improvement in educational outcomes for pupils in music.

In order to support the implementation of the current National Curriculum, the Department for Education set up an Expert Subject Advisory Group for every subject, including music. As directed, this group was “representative of a broad range of stakeholders from across the education sector”, bringing together expert teachers from across the spectrum of primary, secondary and special schools with pedagogic experts from higher education; specifically, including initial teacher educators and teachers with significant experience in teaching, assessment and curriculum development. We are curious as to why none of these people have been invited to contribute to this particular project.

We also note with some concern that the Department for Education has recently appointed a new ‘independent panel of experts’ to create this model curriculum and are concerned that the constitution of the group does not hold sufficient pedagogic knowledge to successfully complete this task in a way that will make a positive difference to music education in our state-funded schools. Music education in the curriculum is the responsibility of schools, not music education hubs; the expertise in this area lies with expert teachers and those working in initial teacher education and schools.

Finally, we have concerns about the obvious conflict of interest between panel members who work for music services or music education hubs – the very recipients of Arts Council England funding that is flowing from these initiatives, as well as others involved with Arts Council funded work. We would question their independence as well as the limitations in their pedagogical knowledge in this curriculum context.

In the interests of transparency, we are writing to ask you to supply further details about the way in which the panel members were selected and the criteria applied for their appointment.

Yours sincerely

Dr Anthony Anderson Research Assistant in Music Education, Birmingham City University (Chair of Expert Subject Advisory Group for Music 2014)

Keith Armstrong Lecturer in Education, Teach First Music Subject Lead, UCL Institute of Education, London

Ruth Atkinson Lecturer in Music Education, Plymouth Institute of Education, University of Plymouth

Ian Axtell Course Director: Professional Development for Educators, Birmingham City University

Dr Rebecca Berkley Lecturer in Music Education, Institute of Education, University of Reading

Susan Bisatt Primary Music Tutor, Faculty of Education, Manchester Metropolitan University

Professor Tim Cain Professor of Education, Faculty of Education, Edge Hill University

Dr Christopher Dalladay Senior Lecturer in Music Education, The Cass School of Education and Communities, The University of East London

Dr Ally Daubney Senior Teaching Fellow, School of Education and Social Work, University of Sussex

William Evans Senior Lecturer in Music Education, Faculty of Education, Manchester Metropolitan University

John Finney Former Senior Lecturer in Music Education, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Dr Marina Gall Senior Lecturer in Education (Music), School of Education, University of Bristol

Clive Grant Lecturer in Music Education, Institute of Education, University of Reading

Dylan Gwyer-Roberts PGCE Secondary Programme Leader, Institute for Education, Bath Spa University

Sarah Hennessy Honorary Fellow (Senior Lecturer 1990-2016), University of Exeter

Fiona Hunt Primary PGCE Programme Leader and Music Lead, Institute for Education, Bath Spa University

Kate Laurence Lecturer in Education, UCL Institute of Education, London

Kelly Davey Nicklin PGCE Programme Leader and Subject Leader for Music, Birmingham City University

Duncan Mackrill Senior Teaching Fellow, School of Education and Social Work, University of Sussex

Chris Philpott Reader in Music Education, University of Greenwich

Kip Pratt Lecturer in Music Education, Plymouth Institute of Education, University of Plymouth

Jayne Price Head of Division, Department of Initial Teacher Education, University of Huddersfield

Susannah Robert Senior Lecturer in Primary Education – Music and Drama, Institute of Education, St. Mary’s University

Dr Hermione Ruck Keene Associate Lecturer ITE/Music Education, University of Exeter

Dr Jonathan Savage Reader in Education, Faculty of Education, Manchester Metropolitan University (Chair of Expert Subject Advisory Group for Music 2013)

Gary Spruce Visiting Lecturer in Music Education, Birmingham City University

Dr Ian Shirley Senior Lecturer in Primary Music Education, Faculty of Education, Edge Hill University

Dr Mary Stakelum Head of Postgraduate Programmes / Director of Research, Institute for Education, Bath Spa University

David Wheway Senior Lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University (Chair of Expert Subject Advisory Group for Music from 2015 onwards)

Vanessa Young Senior Lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University

 

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  • Wow. These people really, really don’t like it when it’s not them that get to decide. Which is really what this letter is complaining about isn’t it?

    Guys, when you have a broken system, at some stage you have to try giving somebody who is not one of the people who broke it, a go at trying to fix it. Does that make sense?

    • And nobody has commented on the lack of *private* (as in freelance) music teachers in either camp. The best private teachers have a lot of pedagogical experience, are better musicians than the school teachers, and can offer insights into what is missing in the school curriculum (because they have to bridge the gaps).

    • Indeed. The signatories seem to be all academics at some rather second division universities (and a few unknown and minor colleges). Why should they be trusted more than any others? There’s little representation there from any conservatories, one might question that for starters. These pseudo academics need to get back in the classroom and drop their dead-end ‘research’, yesterday’s inexperts. I did read that learning notation is one idea now mooted – but rich after years of not really caring a hoot about that.

    • Perhaps Penis Tucking for Gender Re-assignment is next. With 26 or more new genders who needs music in schools!!?? There are other, more urgent, matters to attend to; like unisex toilets.

      When you break down society with decadence and then deny there’s a problem, folks, don’t be surprised when music and other rigorous courses just completely disappear. And teaching notation to students would be regarded today as ‘elitist’ because it puts discreet knowledge into the hands of fewer people.

      I agree with Simon Gregory’s comments. Don’t expect these ‘academics’ to like private teaching or private schools; neither of these can be controlled by the state and there’s a fear of their ‘orthodoxy’ not being promulgated.

  • Hmm. No signatories from the Royal College, Royal Academy, GSMD – indeed, the British music conservatories, nor well known professional musicians! It’s an academic nirvana; all theory and no practical experience. Go away please to your text books. Music is a living subject!

  • Generally, when “reforms” like this are made it means that they will try to include more students more superficially and/or they are trying to find a way to reduce the budget. For example, they may want to local arts organizations to do more “young people’s” concerts and lectures, call that the school districts’ music program, and cut out music teachers from the schools. I suspect that that is what these music teachers and professors at teachers’ colleges fear.

  • When these educational reforms take place, especially in “frills” subjects, it generally means that they are interested in either covering more students more superficially and/or trying to find a way to cut the budget.

    It could be that they fear that the idea is to utilize arts organizations more and consider young people’s concerts and lectures to substitute for music educations classes in the schools, eliminating some music teachers. This is probably what the signers, who are mainly music teachers in government schools or their professors in the teachers’ colleges which train them, fear.

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