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A second report from the Music Manifesto group has recommended a series of steps to improve music education at maintained schools in England

The Music Manifesto was set up by the government in 2004 when prominent individuals in the music industry and education were brought together to generate ideas for promoting music education.

In its first report, published in July 2005, the Music Manifesto set out the facts about the current state of music education in England and asked key questions about existing provision and future direction. In particular it asked musicians, teachers, policymakers, and music and creative industry leaders:

  • What action would you take to enhance music provision for children and young people?
  • What action must we take together?

A steering group spent a year devising a programme based on the responses to those questions, setting up three ‘work-streams’ which between them dealt with almost 600 organisations and individuals before passing their recommendations on to ‘Music Manifesto Champion’ Marc Jaffrey, who has shaped them into the second Music Manifesto Report.

The report says ‘brilliant work’ is already being done that supports the Music Manifesto aim ‘to give every child the chance to make music and enjoy the immense benefits it brings’. But, it adds that this work is being hamstrung by a lack of coordination and focus, particularly at a local level.

It makes the central recommendation, ‘that everyone involved in music education should work together to provide the framework and focus needed to deliver a universal music education offer to all children, from early years onwards, where they can take an active part in high-quality music making’.

To achieve that, it proposes the development of collaborative music education ‘hubs’ that would bring together everyone involved in music education at a local level, to identify and assess local needs and priorities, plan resources and coordinate a more effective delivery of music education in schools and local communities. Schools would also work more closely together, forming music federations.

The report recommends an immediate focus on singing as ‘the most direct route to providing a music-making experience for all children and young people’. A proposal for a nationwide singing campaign for all primary school children, with the 2012 Olympic Games as its focus, is among the seven steps which the report asks the government to take. These also include a commitment by the government to fund the improvements in music education for at least the next five years.

Next steps proposed in Music Manifesto report

1. Confirm the Music Standards Fund until 2011 to enable music services to participate fully in strengthening and improving music education provision. 2. Commission a series of pilot projects to test the viability and key principles of music education hubs and school music federations in 2007/8 with a view to national implementation by 2011. 3. Carry out an urgent review to identify sustainable funding for community musicians while music education hubs are being established. 4. Implement a national campaign to provide singing for all early years and primary children by 2012, with a significant singing element in the cultural programme of the Olympic Games. 5. Introduce a musical passport scheme to enable young people to record and gain recognition for their individual musical achievements. 6. Build on the opportunities offered by such initiatives as the new creative diploma, Musical Futures and the Key Stage 2 music entitlement to extend the music offer to every young person with a particular focus on those who are vulnerable and marginalised.

7. Implement a programme of professional development for music educators with a focus on singing within early and primary years settings and the curriculum for the new creative diploma.

Making every child’s music matter, Music Manifesto Report No. 2 can be downloaded from publications.teachernet.gov.uk/

Musical Futures project pioneers new approaches

Different approaches to the provision of music at key stage 3 are being explored by the Musical Futures project, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Ofsted has recently carried out an evaluation of some of this work at a small number of schools in Hertfordshire and Nottingham. Its findings and recommendations carry implications for music teaching beyond the confines of the project itself.

Musical Futures is trying to establish what affects young people’s commitment to music and to develop ways to meet their diverse musical needs while enhancing the experience of making music. The project then aims to realise viable and sustainable models of provision which will be able to support a national strategy for music and young people.

At the heart of the models being piloted around the country is the concept of informal learning, with pupils working independently in groups to develop their musical skills, knowledge and understanding through performance-based activities. Teachers and visiting musicians act as guides.

Ofsted found that the schools it visited warmly welcomed the opportunity to be involved in the project and that teachers were invigorated by the opportunity to think again about teaching music and enjoyed exploring different models of provision.

The pupils’ motivation for music also increased significantly, which had a marked positive impact on the whole school. Ofsted reported that lessons had been learned from the projects about the need for better measures of progress and for ensuring that high levels of challenge are sustained for all pupils. But its report was essentially positive and concluded that the project ‘challenged many assumptions about musical learning and offered effective alternatives to established teaching approaches’.

An evaluation of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Musical Futures Project is at www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications/
For information about Musical Futures see www.musicalfutures.org.uk/about.html

This article first appeared in School Governor Update – Dec 2006

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