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ISM comment: Ofsted confirms damage to music education

Today, Ofsted published a report looking at the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people in England. The results correlate with our recent research in The Heart of the School is Missing, which looked at the devastating impact of this crisis on music education in schools across the UK.

Based on 297 one-day visits carried out in November 2020, Ofsted found:

  • Most primary leaders had narrowed curriculum “to prioritise English and mathematics”.
  • Some school leaders are focusing on theoretical elements of music for some pupils, due to concerns about organising safe access to practical work – even though other schools have successfully adapted in order to overcome these problems.
  • Many primary schools were delaying teaching music in class until later in the year and a number were not offering it remotely.
  • A lack of access to equipment in the first national lockdown had affected pupils’ learning in music and where practical teaching was still not offered (often pupils in key stage 3) this problem has persisted.
  • Many key stage 3 pupils were doing less practical work, because leaders had prioritised key stage 4 and 5 to use music rooms.

Commenting on the report’s findings, the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ Chief Executive, Deborah Annetts, said:

‘Ofsted have confirmed what the ISM already found in its key report The Heart of the School is Missing , that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to music education provision being reduced in England. Our recent research showed that opportunities for pupils to make and create music are becoming more limited and now Ofsted have explained that this is due in part to the decision-making of some schools. However, it cannot be forgotten that the Department for Education published guidance at short notice, in some cases giving schools just a few days to implement safe practices.

'Every child deserves access to a quality music education and, thanks to the hard work of dedicated teachers, we are glad that so many schools are still providing that. However, we now need to see sustained and meaningful leadership at all levels of the education system, so that music education is not disrupted further. The DfE should now be actively encouraging teaching music as part of a broad and balanced curriculum, while providing reassurance that it is safe to do so. We also call on the DfE to publish the revised National Plan for Music Education without delay, otherwise less-privileged children will continue to go without and the heart of the school will be damaged for a long time to come.’