Government announces new Model Music Curriculum in England.

Today, 26 March 2021, the DfE has released the new Model Music Curriculum for England. This extensive guidance shows schools a recommended approach to delivering the music national curriculum. We know that all schools will want to read and digest this document over the coming weeks, particularly in the light of music deep dives and with a broad and balanced curriculum in mind. You can find the full document here.

At Learning Music we really welcome the expectations set out in the model music curriculum with regard to the timetabling of music across the Key Stages. The document recommends that KS1 and KS2 have an hour of music per week (which can be separated into shorter sessions), and this is something we know primary colleagues will be really appreciative to have clear guidance on. At KS3 the recommendation is for a minimum of one period a week, not taught in a carousel format. Again we know that many secondary teachers who have been fighting against carousel systems in their schools will be relieved to have this guidance to show that music needs to be taught weekly.

At primary level, the guidance also sets out a recommendation that children in Year 3 or 4 should have a whole class instrumental programme for at least one term. This reiterates a key part of the National Plan for Music Education, and brings this project together with the curriculum for the first time. However, this is the first time since 2007 that there has been any ‘official’ advice about targeting these programmes at a particular year group. Initially the ‘Wider Opportunities’ programme was targeted at Year 4, but since then schools and providers have had free reign to offer programmes in any primary year group, with many schools opting for Year 5 or KS1 programmes. Our own Whole Class Instrumental Programmes can be tailored for any age, and you can find information about them here.

Interestingly, at KS3 there is also advice for ensemble provision as part of the curriculum, which we might more usually think of as ‘extra-curricular.’ In addition, in each year group there are suggestions for teaching either through Keyboards, or through a ‘class brass band’. Whatever ensemble you’re looking for, and whether you consider it intra or extra curricular, we can provide instrumental expert teachers to support you. Find out more here.

The Model Music Curriculum places a great deal of emphasis on staff notation, down to even specific detailed instructions for which rhythms and pitches to learn in which year. This may cause some concern for primary non-specialist teachers, many of whom do not read music notation themselves, and will therefore be concerned as to how they might implement these specific concepts. In the primary schools that we support with curriculum lessons, notation is fully covered by a music specialist, and our coverage is more ambitious than that which is laid out in this guidance. You can be sure that our curriculum and PPA provision will amply cover staff notation, and you can find out more about this here.

Another useful feature of this guidance is that it sets out specific advice for ensuring high quality singing, in terms of warm-ups, posture and breathing, and choice of repertoire. There have been successive Ofsted reports on music bemoaning the use of singing as ‘just for enjoyment’ in schools, and so this guidance is perhaps designed to help schools think about improving the quality of singing so that pupils will enjoy it even more! If you are not a confident singer, and would like some support to get you started with implementing high quality singing in your school, feel free to contact us for some advice.

There are indicative repertoire lists included within the model curriculum drawn from classical (including film), popular, and world musics. It is great to see some attempt within these to include the works of female and BAME composers and musicians, and hopefully this will encourage schools to give their pupils a broad musical diet reflective of our society as a whole.

If there is a specific musical culture or tradition that you would like to explore, contact us to find out how we can build this into our provision for your school.

Overall, the model music curriculum presents some interesting ideas, and is definitely worth a read for all music teachers. Whether you choose to adopt all, part or none of it, it will certainly get you thinking about the purpose of curriculum music in schools.

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