The bright side: Considering the benefits of lockdown for music… Jump to main content

The bright side: Considering the benefits of lockdown for music teachers

Dr Elizabeth Stafford, Director of ISM corporate member Music Education Solutions, reflects on the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on music teachers.

Like many music educators I buried my head in my hands and considered my future for a moment or two when lockdown measures were first announced in March. The prospect of little or no face-to-face work for an undefined period of time was - and is - a deeply distressing one.

However, through the gloom there was one pinpoint of light. In my experience the reasons that have always been most often stated for teachers not engaging with Continuing Professional Development (CPD) are time, and cost. Suddenly with lockdown came time for (some, not all!) teachers to devote to their own development, and a minimising of the cost due to supply cover not being required while the teacher took part. At Music Education Solutions® we also chose to discount some of our services down to cost price to further lessen the financial burden.

At Music Education Solutions® we have been offering online distance learning courses since 2014. I’m not going to lie - these have never been what you might call popular! However, with lockdown came a wave of interest in online learning for teachers. Suddenly we were inundated with course bookings! Since March we have provided over 700 teachers with access to thousands of course places. These teachers are predominantly from the UK, but we have also received significant international bookings from New Zealand to Canada, and everywhere in between! We have had primary schools and music hubs signing up their whole teaching staff for one or more courses, and individual instrumental and secondary teachers signing up for relevant content.

By far our most popular course has been Confidence in Primary Music. This is designed for non-specialist primary teachers to improve their own musical knowledge and understanding before they start trying to teach music to their classes. I was delighted that this course was received so positively, as to me it proves that primary schools do want to teach music, and teach it well. There is a lot of negativity in our sector about primary schools not valuing music, ignoring it, or not acknowledging its importance. I have always been sceptical of this, as in my dealings with schools over the last two decades generally the message has been 'We want to teach it but we don’t know how.'

One positive point that we can take from our lockdown experience, therefore, is that there are a great many teachers across the UK - and indeed the world - who have used this time to develop their skills, knowledge, and understanding of music and music-teaching. When schools reopen in September our teaching workforce will stand ready and waiting to implement this new knowledge, albeit with whatever restrictions may be in force. We might almost feel that music education is in a better position and has a brighter future, certainly in the primary sector, than it did before the COVID-19 crisis developed.

Primary Music Toolkit

The ISM Trust and SMA commissioned an online toolkit to help primary school teachers bring the primary curriculum to life.