COMMONS

Education Committee web forum: Music Education

The Education Committee invites views on the strength of the evidence in relation to the current policy and the evidence on trends in participation in music education and quality.

Thank you for all comments submitted to the ‘Evidence Check’ forum. The forum is now closed. Comments received will help the Committee evaluate the evidence received from the Department for Education.

The Committee will use the comments to select topics for one-off oral evidence sessions in early 2015.

Evidence

Please read the Department's evidence on music education:

Image: iStockphoto

18 Responses to Music Education

Mark Bick says:
December 15, 2014 at 09:23 AM
Ofsted have a major influence on music education and need sometimes to be challenged for providing deeply flawed evidence. I am particularly concerned about statements on use of notation in the report “Music in schools what hubs must do” Nov 2013.

Paragraphs 8, 14, 15, confuse aspects of western classical notation with “fundamental aspects of music”. This leads to a clearly musicologicaly false assumption that pupils can only “understand melody shape, rhythm, beat” by seeing it notated. In paragraph 36 it says about year 3 singing: “…the pupils had not seen the notation of the song, learning to sing it by copying the teacher. The pupils were in the dark about the chord sequence, time signature and melody shape they had sung so beautifully”. This is complete nonsense. It suggests that, for example, an Indian classical singer or a jazz improviser do not understand the shape, harmonies and underlying rhythm of what they are doing. There is a clear reason for giving significant emphasis to teaching western classical notation – it allows students access to the great wonders of that tradition. This is a powerful enough reason in itself. It does not need music educators to promote the approaches of that tradition to the exclusion of all others. On the contrary, music education has too often neglected singing and playing by ear and the development of skills in improvisation, both vital skills for huge areas of the wonderful world of music. We can give proper pride of place to western classical music in our education without being ignorantly and damagingly ethno centric.
Sion Humphreys (NAHT) says:
December 15, 2014 at 09:16 AM
NAHT was pleased to see music retain its national curriculum status across the
first three key stages.
Our concern at secondary level is that the impact of the emphasis the government has placed on the English Baccalaureate suite of subjects has compromised the ability of schools to maintain the presence of music in a broad and balanced curriculum. In its survey of members conducted in 2011 the National Association of Music Teachers reported that opportunities to study music were being reduced in 57 of 95 schools included in the survey. Work undertaken by the Incorporated Society of Musicians has revealed similar concerns.
The structure of the Progress 8 accountability measure should, in theory, strengthen the position of music and other arts subjects in the key stage 4 curriculum. There is an obvious incentive for schools to encourage able musicians to study for a GCSE qualification as this will enable young people to study appropriate subjects and at the same time boost the school’s points total upon which the measure will be calculated.
NAHT’s concern is that the erosion of music in the curriculum will compromise the above. We are further concerned that this could encourage the perverse incentive of encouraging more able musicians to pursue their GCSE studies.
The policy of continuing to allow non GCSE musical qualifications to count in the performance tables is welcomed by NAHT. However, such qualifications could be the outcome of more affluent parents being able to pay for private tuition and any qualifications that ensue would not be an accurate reflection of the school’s value-added.
The above would be less of a risk were the provisions of the National Plan for music working as intended and particular reference is being made to regional hubs.
‘The Importance of Music’ is a valuable and far-reaching document which contains a plethora of points by which the effectiveness of music hubs, the cornerstone of the policy, can be evaluated. NAHT has been deeply concerned by reports by such bodies as the Musicians’ Union (February 2014) and the content of Channel 4’s ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ series. The evidence suggests that funding cutbacks are seriously compromising the ability of hubs to deliver their aims and objectives.
A Channel 4 production may incur the risk of being accused of a lack of empirical rigour but the fact that the campaign that it engendered has been taken over by the Incorporated Society of Musicians is an indication of the serious concerns held by the music community.
NAHT believes that, as a matter of urgency, there needs to be a rigorous and robust investigation into the perceived gap between that which ‘The Importance of Music’ advocated and the reality implied by reputable organisations such as the Musicians’ Union.
Mark Bick says:
December 14, 2014 at 08:33 PM
I believe that most Hubs have made a good start but there is still a long way to go. Major reductions in local authority funding and many structural changes have been challenging and distracting. Most of my evidence is anecdotal, but seems to be consistent across quite a few hubs. Hub commitment to genuine partnership has been fairly poor (with a few excellent exceptions). This is perhaps not surprising, given the challenges hubs have faced in the transition from music services. I have heard repeated reports of hubs not listening to partners and having top down thinking, driven by limited perspectives. In some situations this may be due to poor understanding of how to manage vested interest in commissioning models but it is also likely to be a product of huge time pressures on manger as a result of structural change. This, combined with delayed one year announcements of funding, has led in some hubs to short term commissioning which I believe has undermined both innovation and progress towards sustainability of provision. Where the music workforce have been forced to go freelance, there are significant questions about maintaining quality and particularly about CPD. I get the impression that CPD budgets have also been substantially reduced (services have mostly paid employed staff to attend CPD, which is a significant investment). Freelance workforce does give significant flexibility, but for them to be underpaid and under supported would seem to be a major mistake for the long term quality of delivery and successful adaptation to new needs and models of delivery.

I would argue that the specific definitions of core and extension roles have led to distortions in delivery away from the most effective use of funds. First Access (Whole class) is the only role where there is detailed prescription (one instrument, whole class, minimum of one term). What I have heard and seen of first access including reports from parents indicates that much provision runs significant risk of putting children off playing rather than enabling more to progress, particularly where it is only one term. I have however come across reports of what sounds like excellent practice, but even with this, the case is weak that this is the most effective use of funds to help as many children as possible start and then progress in music. Because singing is separated in the roles it has been given far less resources, which does not seem to make any sense. Even worse, some hubs & some teachers seem to have assumed that you don’t need to sing as part of first access, whereas all examples of good practice that I have come across involve significant singing (plus rhythm and movement, improvisation and broader musicianship). It would make sense to give hubs flexibility to find their own most effective use of resources to find models of first access that really do lead to progression.

One barrier to progression is the lack of skills in small group teaching among many music service and freelance specialist instrumental teachers (vocal teachers tend to be better at this).

Youth Music has driven a substantial improvement in inclusion by hubs – (MINC programme, report due soon) but this has not always been easy. Those involved have reported a culture in music services where inclusion is spoken about, and welcomed, but seen as separate department and not needing substantial investment because it is not a core or extension role. Gloucestershire Music Makers has had significant success in embedding regular weekly music sessions into the work of PRUs, Hospital Education and EBSD schools across our county. We are now beginning to develop music activities with students at risk of exclusion or poor outcomes in mainstream schools.

The National Plan is clear that inclusion is a cross cutting agenda, underpinning all the work of hubs and is assumed in all the hub roles, but this does not always seem to have been understood. There is a history of music services not doing as well as inclusion. There is still progress to be made in ensuring that the whole workforce operate inclusively and unless that is done across all hubs, inclusion outcomes will continue to be variable. Inclusion work has tended to be seen as short term projects with external rather than core hub funding. I would argue that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in a hub area are in the most need of consistent long term investment and the least able to cope with stop/start activities.

At the core of inclusion is basic good teaching, including effective practice identified in meta analysis by the Sutton Trust (Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit). Good use of feedback, enabling students to understand their own learning (meta cognition), mastery learning and collaborative learning are all highly relevant to music education and are identified as powerful practices in the Toolkit. With compliant students it is possible to get away with poor teaching but the approach
Arts Council England says:
December 12, 2014 at 12:26 PM
Arts Council England is committed to ensuring that music education improvements are supported by robust evidence and data collection.

Arts Council England is the fund holder for 123 Music education hubs. We collect quantitative and qualitative data from hubs on an annual basis. Data is already evidencing the positive impact hubs are having on music education in England. Early analysis of the 2013/14 Hub annual data shows that:
• Hubs worked with 88% (5% increase since 2012/13) of primary schools and 78% of secondary schools on one or more of the core roles.
• 584,000 children learnt an instrument through Whole Class Ensemble Tuition (50,000 more children than in 2012/13).
• Over 450,000 musical ensembles took place and 716,000 young people took part.
• Hubs supported singing in 62% (10% increase since 2012/13) of primary schools and 60% (13% increase) of secondary schools.
• £188m was raised by Hubs to support its activities. On average, the Hub grant was one third of the total income raised by Hubs.
• Hub partners raised £19.8m to support Hub activities.
• For every £1 that the Hub invested in partners to deliver Hub activity, partners raised a further £2.33 to support it.

As part of their funding agreements with us, all Hubs are expected to have business plans, budgets, management accounts and audited financial statements in place throughout the year. Hubs are required to undertake a regular local needs analysis and audit of music education provision across genres in their area in collaboration with the hub board, partners and schools. On at least a termly basis they must undertake a risk assessment assessing the hub’s delivery of the core and extension roles, finance and governance. We take our role in supporting and monitoring the quality of Hubs seriously and recently published Ensuring quality, which sets out our approach to the support and challenge we offer to all hubs to ensure high quality music education

Following Ofsted’s repot ‘What hubs must do’ in November 2013, we with Ofsted to support the creation of School Music Education Plans (SMEP). Every Hub has a SMEP in place which outlines how it will work in partnership with every school in its area to support and challenge the quality of music education. The 2013/14 annual data shows that between the launch of SMEPs in April 2014 and October, Hubs worked with approximately 60% of schools in England. We have set a target of 100% for this academic year. Hubs to date are reporting a positive change of attitude and increased communication from schools which have led to stronger relationships.

We also invest £9.2m in 165 organisations delivering music to young people through Youth Music grants and undertake an annual data return. The 2012/13 data showed that:
•75,000 participants in funded projects
•80% of participants were experiencing challenging circumstances, such as homelessness, looked after children, special educational needs

Since April 2012 six In Harmony programmes have been funded jointly by the Department for Education and Arts Council England. NFER has been commissioned by Arts Council England to undertake an evaluation of the effectiveness and impact of the In Harmony programme. It is based on a baseline, enabling outcomes to be measured using pre and post comparisons. The programmes are working with 3,500 children in 11 schools and one nursery. Early findings from the evaluation indicates that In Harmony is enhancing musical skills, and overall educational achievement, and improving attitudes to learning, teachers’ and parents’ expectations of their children, and parental engagement with school.



David Perkins says:
December 08, 2014 at 01:22 PM


I have spent the last 24 years leading and managing music services in one capacity or another. 22 of those years from inside a local authority and the last 2 from within a charitable company limited by guarantee. I have absolutely no doubt that the last 2 years have been significantly more productive than the previous 22. This is not to disparage the local authority concerned, Birmingham as it happens, they were as supportive as any other council and financially supported the city’s youth orchestras, bands and choirs for as long as it was possible for them to do so.



However, as the cuts loomed we knew that life within the local authority would not afford us the agility and flexibility we needed in order to be able to respond to the changing and growing demands of our clients, which in our case are Birmingham schools. Hence the bold but necessary decision to leave the council and set up a charitable company completely independent of it. The council transferred £2.1m worth of musical instruments to us without which, of course, the venture would not have been viable. But there any special assistance or helping hand ended. From the moment of transfer onwards we were completely by ourselves.



Two years later we have no regrets. Control over our own destiny has allowed us to cross-subsidise the music service from other more profitable parts of the company. This has enabled us to purchase further musical instruments to support the year-on-year growth in the number of schools and pupils supported. An investment that would have been impossible under local authority control. Increased agility has enabled us to overcome pupil disadvantage more swiftly and effectively. Our work within SEN pupils is developing in a way which old ways of working would not have allowed. Pupils whose first encounter with instrumental lessons was through the Whole Class Instrumental Teaching programme are now beginning to take their rightful place in our ensembles programme and are progressing rapidly through it. Despite the withdrawal of the subsidy from the city council our youth orchestras, bands and choirs continue to flourish. The fact that we make no charge to parents for these activities has enabled us to ensure and promote inclusion and diversity. This, in particular, has been made possible through the continued provision of the Arts Council Music Grant without which our music service would look very different indeed.



We view our independence not as a second-best alternative to local authority protection. We consider ourselves more secure outside the council than in it. For those who worry about the loss of local democracy and accountability, we answer that we are now accountable directly to the schools and pupils of Birmingham, not to local politicians and officers who are prone, often with the best of intentions, to meddling.



As a person whose life was changed by the free instrumental lessons I received as a teenager I will continue to do whatever I can to keep the opportunity alive for future generations, especially those from the wrong side of the tracks. I hope that we have found a new business model that will allow this to happen.
jonathan Pye says:
December 06, 2014 at 12:09 AM
I Have found that music in education is a very good way to help young find confidence to engage with other area's of their education. It also offers a way for a lot of children to achieve a sense of pride in what they can do. I know of many young people who have been able to cope with life changing events in their lives by processing these event through song writing. Eg the loss of parents at a young age,divorcing parents, death of a sibling. These are real life traumatic events, and music goes a long way to help the young people concerned cope with such events. I have the recordings to prove it! This can only happen in a safe environment such as a school or educational arts center!
Colin Cranmer says:
December 05, 2014 at 04:34 PM
The commitment to Widening Opportunity in music afforded by the previous government's response to a need perceived by the music industry and resulting in the Music Manifesto was laudable and has had a positive impact in primary schools. The best results have been achieved when schools - principally through committed headteachers and governing bodies - have offered small group lessons in the years following the first access engagement. Children who show aptitude and commitment can, with the active support of their parents, make good or rapid progress towards being highly competent and knowledgeable musicians. The children who have not opted to continue their instrumental learning beyond first access have, nevertheless, gained an insight into the a world which uses all the learning styles and demands levels of concentration and excellence to achieve an acceptable level of performance. Pupils scoring 80% in maths or science assessments would usually be pleased with the result but if pupils play 20% of a performance piece inaccurately most parent audiences are covering their ears!

There are well documented limitations to some first access schemes, (limited choice of instruments, poor response by the school staff in engaging with the visiting professional music teachers etc) but many primary schools in the rural part of Yorkshire with which I am familiar committed to the project enthusiastically. They invested in sets of instruments and provided an appropriate learning environment for the lessons. The DfE evidence relies on nationally sourced data which takes time to gather and collate, the evidence 'on the ground' during the academic year 2013-14 and the current year is that many schools have been subject to such stringent budget reductions that, although their commitment is strong, have had to make the decision to abandon the first access scheme. The loss of academic, social and personal growth of the resulting cohorts of pupils is already becoming apparent.
The yearly reduction in funding from the Arts Council for Music Hubs has and continues to threaten the existence of a highly qualified, committed work force of teachers as their employers seek to manage a continuing demand from schools and parents for instrumental teaching with smaller amounts of money. This has led to the denigration of pay and conditions, forcing some QTS staff to work for Unqualified rates, some to become self-employed as their Hub becomes just a commissioning agency, some to abandon music education as a career.

The Music Manifesto has the potential to be one of the most innovative and successful long-term education projects of recent years and displayed wide support from all significant participants at it's initial levels of funding but is in danger of losing much significance following the years of reduced funding which appears to be continuing.
Ciaran O Donnell says:
December 02, 2014 at 11:50 AM
Music Education has had some great successes in pretty austere times. This is representative of the commitment of the entire sector and the value placed on it by parents, schools and young people.

There is much evidence cited in previous posts to support the claim that young people still enjoy music education. The science, now better understood, signposts clearly the enormous contribution to synaptic development that music supports in young people.

In Birmingham, Whole class ensemble teaching has expanded to 320 weekly classes across 176 schools. Retention in following years lies at 31% meaning that we are retaining 3,000 more children than before, while building the brains of the other 10,000. Our ensembles system is brimming with talent and there is regular performance opportunities valued by the parents and local schools. The partnerships developed through hub working have brought value, new expertise and direction in a relatively short space of time. Good governance and retention of a line management team has given us the footing needed to constantly quality assure the delivery.

However - there is more to be done. There are 300 primary schools here and capacity issues in the development of new, suitably trained staff and the funding of additional musical instruments. These are challenges we can overcome.

The level of funding reached in 2013/14 crippled many hubs. Others felt it in 2012 and some could not withstand the first tranche of reduction in 2011. Long term, sustained funding and the re-professionalisation of the workforce must be addressed if we are to sustain and build upon the commitment advocated in the National Plan for Music Education. Much of the sector has survived by cutting performance management teams (their quality assurance and most experienced staff), reducing salaries, moving away from teacher pension schemes, NI contributions and leaning on the goodwill of a dedicated and committed workforce. And they have managed....like the rest of the country, because musicians understand, determination, practice, perseverance, from an early age. But things are creaking nationally.

There is an opportunity here now. Fund the sector and hold it accountable for the outcomes. Allow us the resources to develop the workforce and the network of hubs, to support the development of best practice, to learn from the sharing we have begun to develop, and to support the schools and families in bringing music to more of them in an affordable way.

It will support academic achievement, financial stability through the creative industry and a happier, healthier, youth for the future.

There is no future in looking to the past. There is a committed sector waiting to be funded.

Ciaran O Donnell
Services for Education
Music Service
Birmingham

Lead organisation for the Birmingham Music Education Partnership.
Ciaran O Donnell says:
December 02, 2014 at 11:49 AM
Music Education has had some great successes in pretty austere times. This is representative of the commitment of the entire sector and the value placed on it by parents, schools and young people.

There is much evidence cited in previous posts to support the claim that young people still enjoy music education. The science, now better understood, signposts clearly the enormous contribution to synaptic development that music supports in young people.

In Birmingham, Whole class ensemble teaching has expanded to 320 weekly classes across 176 schools. Retention in following years lies at 31% meaning that we are retaining 3,000 more children than before, while building the brains of the other 10,000. Our ensembles system is brimming with talent and there is regular performance opportunities valued by the parents and local schools. The partnerships developed through hub working have brought value, new expertise and direction in a relatively short space of time. Good governance and retention of a line management team has given us the footing needed to constantly quality assure the delivery.

However - there is more to be done. There are 300 primary schools here and capacity issues in the development of new, suitably trained staff and the funding of additional musical instruments. These are challenges we can overcome.

The level of funding reached in 2013/14 crippled many hubs. Others felt it in 2012 and some could not withstand the first tranche of reduction in 2011. Long term, sustained funding and the re-professionalisation of the workforce must be addressed if we are to sustain and build upon the commitment advocated in the National Plan for Music Education. Much of the sector has survived by cutting performance management teams (their quality assurance and most experienced staff), reducing salaries, moving away from teacher pension schemes, NI contributions and leaning on the goodwill of a dedicated and committed workforce. And they have managed....like the rest of the country, because musicians understand, determination, practice, perseverance, from an early age. But things are creaking nationally.

There is an opportunity here now. Fund the sector and hold it accountable for the outcomes. Allow us the resources to develop the workforce and the network of hubs, to support the development of best practice, to learn from the sharing we have begun to develop, and to support the schools and families in bringing music to more of them in an affordable way.

It will support academic achievement, financial stability through the creative industry and a happier, healthier, youth for the future.

There is no future in looking to the past. There is a committed sector waiting to be funded.

Ciaran O Donnell
Services for Education
Music Service
Birmingham

Lead organisation for the Birmingham Music Education Partnership.
Ian Thomas says:
December 01, 2014 at 12:41 PM
There has been some real strong progress made by some Music Education Hubs over the past two years, looking at the examples from this year’s National Music Council’s Music Hub Awards, the recent House of Lords debates on Music Education in July and October and the examples of Hubs given in those debates, the case studies on the Arts Council website of Hubs in practice all show Hubs developing new approaches and ways of working to reach and support young people.

• We need to learn better from and share better where Music Education Hubs are working well to support the wider sector including from programmes such as In Harmony, Class Band projects and Youth Music funded programmes;
• Support better those Hubs which are innovative or who want to be;
• Develop a stronger research and evidence base for our work with young people to make the case better and stronger to funders, to champion music education such as the Education Endowment Fund /Sutton Trust, other government departments, school governors and to schools to spend the budgets on music education such as pupil premium funding, Armed Forces Premium funding to make music lessons affordable for all regardless of background and ability to pay which should be built into the OFSTED inspection framework of schools;
• Keep a strong focus on teaching and learning and the quality of teaching practice within Hubs.

The DfE 'Evidence Check' memorandum for Music Education further sources of evidence
• The Liverpool In Harmony evaluation reports be found here http://www.liverpoolphil.com/193/in-harmony-liverpool/social-action-through-music.html
• Youth Music Learning and Impact Reports 2014 http://www.youthmusic.org.uk/our-impact/youth-music-impact-learning-reports-2014.html
• Sistema Scotland is looking into the health impacts of music on young people
http://www.gcph.co.uk/work_themes/theme_2_urban_health/young_people_urban_environment/sistema_scotland_evaluation