I see you clicked on my provocative title! Well done! I look forward to receiving the Twitter comments from all the people who just read the title and then went nuclear! We can all have a little giggle at their expense over the next few days I’m sure… At every music education event that I go to, and almost every time I open Twitter, someone is complaining that ‘most primary schools don’t teach music.’ As someone who spent three years of their life as a researcher, this immediately concerns me as I know that there is as yet no empirical evidence to support this theory. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence about schools who don’t teach music, but there are no underlying reliable nationwide figures to ‘prove’ that this is the majority of schools. I also hear regularly the cry of alarm ‘most schools don’t even have a music specialist’ as if this were a bad thing. However, not having a music specialist does not mean music is not being taught, or that it is not being taught well. And conversely, having a music specialist does not necessarily mean that music is being taught well, since there is no agreed set of criteria to become a ‘music specialist’ beyond simply calling yourself one. Even if you have a great music specialist, this is not the most sustainable model for music teaching. It relies on the budget to pay for this specialist teaching being available every year, and it also results in the rest of the staff becoming de-skilled with teaching music. If the budget is squeezed too far not only do you lose your specialist provision, but also you don’t have the skills to replace it in-house. So ‘not having a music specialist’ might actually be a good thing if you have committed and enthusiastic class teachers including music in their timetable instead. I think what I find most disturbing about the above suppositions is that they are often delivered in a tone which suggests that schools are somehow at fault for ‘not teaching music.’ However, it is important to remember that schools don’t ‘avoid’ teaching music out of malice, or a desire to harm our children’s education! There are two key external factors which have caused some schools to abandon music teaching.
- Inadequate training in ITE / ITT
- A lack of attention from Ofsted / DfE