Government publishes the Model Music Curriculum

The Government has published a Model Music Curriculum (MMC) for England, which contains non-statutory guidance to help specialist and non-specialist teachers deliver music lessons in our schools. For some time there has been much concern about the level of provision of music in our maintained schools. Much of this concern is related to Government’s own policy decisions such as the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), Progress 8 and other accountability measures which have marginalised arts subjects including music in our schools.

We are currently reviewing the document in order to provide our members with analysis of its contents and we will be sharing more detailed information shortly. However, on our initial reading, we are concerned that this document does not address the adverse impact of the lack of resources and the accountability measures. Numerous research studies have confirmed it has caused the decline of uptake of creative subjects in schools, because they are not counted by the accountability measures. Issues around the funding of our schools is a long term matter of concern.

The MMC aims to identify "the core concepts that are needed for pupils to progress in their study of music" and demonstrate "how pupils can build their understanding of these concepts from year 1 to year 9". The announcement followed confirmation earlier in the week that hub funding would be maintained for the next financial year. We hope that Department for Education will soon also publish a refreshed National Plan for Music Education.

It is important to note that Ofsted have said that "there will be no pre-requisite from inspectors that schools should adopt" the MMC. Since it was launched last week it has already been revised several times to take account of some of the concerns which have been raised.

More information

The MMC recommends that Key Stage 1 and 2 pupils should receive a minimum of one hour of teaching a week and KS3 music should have a minimum of one weekly period.

In addition, it suggests that placing music with other subjects on rotas (or “carousels”) is not a substitute for teaching one lesson per week per subject across an academic year. There is also a strong emphasis on singing in KS1 and KS2 and notation is prioritised for all age groups.

The MMC also includes:

  • A suggested repertoire that encourages pupils to listen to classical music such as Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, Rock n Roll songs from Little Richard and Elvis Presley, jazz from Nina Simone and modern classics such as Queen.
  • Progression from an introduction to beat, rhythm and pitch in Year 1 through to secondary school, where pupils will be introduced to more technical aspects of music like quavers, treble clefs and staccato and legato.
  • Opportunities for pupils to discuss and interpret the meaning behind songs at KS3, developing creativity through improvisation and composition.
  • Case studies for Key Stages 1 and 2 are provided to demonstrate how teachers can combine knowledge, skills and understanding.

Our research

As a nationally-recognised subject association, we have been at the forefront of lobbying to reverse years of worrying trends in provision and the marginalisation of music in the classroom. For example, in 2019 we published our State of the Nation report with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education and the University of Sussex.

For many years, we have argued music education should be at the heart of the school. This is in response to the marginalisation caused by accountability measures such as the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), which does not include arts subjects. Our research found a quarter of English secondary school teachers said pupils are not receiving classroom music throughout Key Stage 3. The MMC outlines a minimum weekly music lesson across the key stages.

Our report in December also found that:

  • 26% of English respondents indicated that their school did not provide classroom music in all three years of KS3 - meaning that over a quarter of children were missing out on curriculum music lessons at some point during Y7, Y8 and/or Y9.
  • 22% of teachers said their KS3 pupils were not usually receiving weekly music lessons.
  • 38% of KS3 music lessons were on a rota or carousel system for some or all year groups - 100% of those were in English schools.

These findings were confirmed by Ofsted's report investigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people in England. This discovered primary leaders had narrowed curriculum “to prioritise English and mathematics” and a lack of access to equipment in the first national lockdown had affected pupils’ learning.