ISM response to Ofsted review regarding music subject provision

A new Ofsted report examining music teaching has found wide differences in the quality and quantity of music education in schools across England. One in five of the schools visited were judged inadequate for music. Here is the ISM response to the report along with the reports main recommendations.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), said:

This is a critical time for music education, with the implementation of a National Plan, and this clear signal from Ofsted of how music education needs to improve is welcome. All music educators and Head Teachers must work together to ensure that the use of technology in music is encouraged, and the striking inequalities in provision – particularly by gender – are tackled. The real message here is for Head Teachers and music educators to engage with the ISM, as the professional association for music, and other bodies to ensure that their staff are able, and confident enough, to teach music to the highest standard.

Ofsted's recommendations in full:

Schools, all other funded providers of music education, and providers of Continuing Professional Development should work together to:

Challenge inequalities in musical opportunities and participation among pupils and between schools by:

  • regularly monitoring the participation and retention of pupils from different groups in musical activities
  • developing strategies that lead to increased participation in musical activities by under-represented groups of pupils, particularly boys, pupils with special educational needs, pupils known to be in receipt of free school meals, and children who are looked after
  • ensuring that additional funding and opportunities reach the schools and pupils in most need.

Promote teachers’ use of musical sound as the dominant language of musical teaching and learning by:

  • ensuring that lesson planning includes a strong focus on the teacher’s musical preparation as well as defining lesson structures and procedures
  • establishing musical sound as the ‘target language’ of teaching and learning, with talking and writing about music supporting, rather than driving, the development of pupils’ musical understanding
  • developing and refining teachers’ listening and musical modelling skills, so that they can more accurately interpret and respond to pupils’ music making and show more effectively how to improve the musical quality of their work.

Plan for pupils’ good musical progression through and across the curriculum by:

  • giving sufficient and regular curriculum time for the thorough and progressive development of pupils’ aural awareness and musical understanding
  • providing robust curriculum plans that identify the landmarks of musical understanding pupils are expected to achieve, in addition to the range of musical styles and traditions that they are to experience
  • ensuring that different initiatives, including whole-class instrumental and vocal programmes, are planned as part of an overall curriculum vision for music for the school.

Improve pupils’ internalisation of music through high-quality singing and listening by:

  • taking every opportunity to raise standards of singing work in primary schools, including in class lessons and in whole-school singing sessions, by more effectively challenging the musical quality of pupils’ vocal responses
  • significantly improving the quantity, quality and diversity of singing work in secondary schools, particularly in curriculum lessons
  • making more effective use of vocal work in all aspects of music education, including to help pupils better listen to and analyse music.

Use technology to promote creativity, widen inclusion, and make assessment more musical by:

  • significantly improving the use of music technology to record, store, listen to and assess pupils’ work
  • placing greater emphasis on pupils’ musical development through the use of technology – with the acquisition of technical skills and knowledge supporting, rather than driving, musical learning
  • making more creative and effective use of music technology to support performing and listening work.

Strengthen senior leadership of music in schools by:

  • increasing head teachers’ and senior leaders’ knowledge and understanding about the key characteristics of effective music provision, including the appropriate use of musical assessment and the importance of teachers’ musical preparation, so that they can more effectively observe and support music in their schools.

The Department for Education should support sustained music-making opportunities for pupils in schools beyond national advocacy, structures and strategies by:

  • rigorously and independently holding all publicly funded music education initiatives, including music hubs, to account for the quality and effectiveness of their work
  • ensuring that head teachers are better informed about funding and organisational arrangements for the delivery of additional music education provision, particularly through local music hubs, and that they are encouraged play a full part in evaluating and challenging the quality of this provision.

Notes to editors:

To request further comment from Deborah Annetts on behalf of the ISM please contact [email protected], 07834 431 007

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is the UK’s professional association for musicians providing a distinctive range of services to its membership of performers and music professionals. The Incorporated Society of Musicians aims to promote the art of music and champion the interests of musicians, raising professional standards, and providing legal advice and other benefits to its members. Its members include performers, composers, music teachers and industry professionals. The ISM has over 100 corporate members including all the music Conservatoires, university music departments, Trinity Guildhall, ABRSM, Association of British Orchestras, Federation of Music Services, Jazz Services, Music for Youth, Oxford University Press, specialist music schools including Chetham’s School of Music and the Yehudi Menuhin School, as well as music industry and trade organisations such as PPL, the Music Industries Association, Yamaha Music, and the International Artist Managers’ Association.