Don’t Stop The Music-we don’t intend to!

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At our Musical Futures team meeting this week, the programme that aired on C4 this week entitled ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ was widely discussed. We have a keen interest in what is happening in our primary schools as we start developing “Musical Futures Primary” over the next few months. We also hosted a great first #mufuchat primary special which exposed the passion of teachers for engaging children with music in school.

There was a general feeling that initially James Rhodes identified some of the challenges that stand in the way of our children accessing quality music education. What came across clearly was that the value placed on music in some primary schools is undermined by the absolute necessity for results to be good enough so that the school isn’t judged to be ‘requiring improvement’. The Headteacher’s last comment – that the children had enjoyed it but things had already started ‘slipping’ in other subjects – really summed up that the high-stakes context in which our primary schools are operating and that is something we can’t ignore.

The Year 5 teacher filmed delivering a music lesson, that I don’t think anyone could argue (from what was shown) contained any musical learning at all, expressed her frustration at not seeing the point of doing music which she doesn’t enjoy teaching when she could be spending more time on literacy and numeracy work.

The very truncated conversation with the local music hub that barely got any air time served to show how much of the hub’s school music provision is costed delivery. With no budget to buy in support, James Rhodes virtually hung up on them!

Finally the programme raised issues of what exactly constitutes a quality music education anyway. In James Rhodes’ mind the fact that children “don’t even know who Elgar is and leave school not knowing how to read music” was a massive issue for him. However, here at MF central, we agree with Jackie Schneider who identifies in her blog post about the programme, there hat there are issues in our schools that are far bigger than that!

The #mufuchat Tweet-Along which can be replayed in real time if you weren’t around to join in, revealed a massive passion amongst teachers to put this right. It became overwhelmingly clear that teachers feel that the Great Instrument Amnesty isn’t the answer. The need for a sustainable and quality music provision in our schools remains a challenge for which we continue to search for solutions.

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Our scoping into Musical Futures Primary has so far taken us to Canada where we met Sandie Heckel, who took the Musical Futures Find Your Voice ideas, tried them with her students then set up her own primary and secondary teacher groups to take it further with students of all ages. Our CEO Abigail D’Amore and Development Director and teacher Anna Gower went to visit Musical Futures Australia, coming back with some new ideas about what primary music could look like when it’s rooted in Musical Futures principles (read their many blogs on the subject Here, Here, Here, Here and Here). In October we will be in schools in New York to see how Little Kids Rock has got younger children playing music in some of the most challenging schools in the US. See, we believe the issues in music education are the same across the world and we are keen to look outwards as well as confronting issues that lie closer to home.

However, although the vision for Musical Futures Primary is  under development, this much we know:

1) That it will start with music that students like and identify with and hold true to the principles that underpin Musical Futures.

2) It will have a central focus on providing initial and ongoing training, resources and follow-up support for generalist teachers to be able to deliver music activities themselves

3)  It will be sustainable and not focused on a particular age group or key stage.

4) It will have a clear rationale for why quality music provision should be in our primary schools and an incentive for schools to take it on.

There’s a way to go yet, but it’s a journey we can’t wait to start. Meanwhile, we will be tweeting along with episode 2 of Don’t Stop the Music on the #mufuchat hashtag from 9pm on Tuesday. Do join us.

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