The new Ofsted report, Music in schools: what hubs must do, finds that many hubs do valuable work in providing instrumental teaching and supporting local orchestras, choirs, festivals and music courses as well as building local partnerships. But this work reaches only a minority of pupils.
In fact, only a third of the hubs in this survey had started to work differently by beginning, at least, to improve the dialogue about music education for all pupils in schools.
Music hubs were set up across England in response to the National Plan for Music Education. Funded through the Arts Council, the hubs have defined roles including ensuring that every child sings regularly and learns a musical instrument in normal school class lessons.
The report concludes that little has changed in terms of provision in the music hubs’ first year. In more than two thirds of the schools visited there is little discernible difference from the support previously given by local authorities.
In common with previous Ofsted reports on the quality of music education, the report finds that in general expectations of pupils remain low. Unless they are learning an instrument, by age 14, many pupils do not understand, and cannot use basic practical musical features such as time signatures, scales, chords and melody shape.
Michael Cladingbowl, Director of schools policy at Ofsted said:
Music is a demanding academic discipline, developed through exciting practical musical activity. However, the vast majority of the schools visited shied away from teaching pupils about fundamental aspects of music as they thought it too difficult. All children, not just the privileged few, should enjoy a good music education.
Music hubs were created with this very aim, so it is concerning that the hubs visited for this survey could not show how their work in schools achieves this or how they provide value for money.
It is important that this report is used to share the best practice that we did find, highlighting where music hubs and schools are working well together. Over time we must expect greater impact on music education for all pupils in schools.
Headteachers and other school leaders often lack expertise in music education and are unable to lead or support the subject well. There is a gap between the expertise they have and that which is needed. Previous Ofsted music surveys have reported persistently wide variation in the quality of music education in schools, with too much being inadequate and with meagre musical content.
The report asks each hub, working with Arts Council England, to produce a school music education plan to address these issues, and offers Ofsted’s support. It makes a number of recommendations to music hubs including:
- promoting themselves with schools as expert leaders of music education within their areas and not simply as providers of services
- having regular supportive, challenging conversations with each of their schools about the quality of music education for all pupils in that school
The report also makes recommendations to the government and Arts Council England suggesting that they should:
- take rapid action to improve the reporting and accountability framework for music hubs, ensuring that it evaluates the quality of work
- challenge hubs to achieve the best value from the public money they receive
The report also makes recommendations to schools asking them to make better use of the provision and funding provided through hubs and to evaluate their musical provision more accurately.
Notes to editors
The full report is on GOV.UK.
Other findings from the report show that teachers often lack expertise. Too often, hubs that had been traditional local authority music services, with leaders whose main experience was in providing instrumental teaching, found it harder to understand how they might engage and challenge schools about teaching in class lessons.
It also finds take up of music at GCSE is low compared to many other subjects, including art and design, physical education and drama. Most older pupils in the secondary schools visited, were not involved in any school musical activity at all. There may be many reasons why students do or do not choose to take music at GCSE. But the overriding reason found in the schools visited was low expectations at the end of Year 9. The students who had chosen GCSE music almost always had additional experience through playing instruments or singing.
Music hubs were set up across England by the coalition government after an open application process. This followed a report by Darren Henley of Classic FM which, in turn, led to the National Plan for Music Education.