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If this plan works, it should be the last one we need

Richard Jones hopes this is the second and last National Plan for Music Education


For nearly a century government and subject association reports on the parlous state of music in English Schools have been largely ignored, and with the NPME 2 and national plans in Scotland and Wales Northern Ireland now the only devolved administration without a “plan for music”.


But let’s focus on England. Haddow (1931), Newsom (1963), Music Education of Young Children (1970-1977), Music in the Secondary School Curriculum (1973-1980), The Arts in Schools (1982), The Music Manifesto (2004 – 2006), the NPME1 (2011), The Music Commission (2017), ISM (2020) and quite a few Ofsted Reports have all demonstrated that music in schools is suffering AND IT STILL IS! Yet this suffering is despite the National Curriculum which has statutory programmes of study and attainment targets for music at key stages 1 to 3. The website (National curriculum in England: music programmes of study - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) says, “They are issued by law; you must follow them unless there’s a good reason not to. All local-authority-maintained schools should teach them.” Yet we know the Academies programme and accountability measures such as the EBACC and Progress 8 are barriers to musical progression in many schools.


No–one could disagree with the vision and the aims of NPME2 and until the competitive bid process is outlined, Hub Leads will be musing on how their current programmes will be adapted to fulfil the five functions.


It could be said that after the prescriptive NPME1 the new plan is very open ended and in the plan itself there is little on monitoring and governance so Hub boards may also be wondering what their status is and how they can assist in the bid process - and for that we wait.


It may well be that Ofsted and not Hubs will be the catalyst for an hour of music as part of the school curriculum but the proof of the pudding will only come when there is a recognition of the importance of music in the early years and a well-qualified and respected workforce in primary schools. This is where the focus should be, then progression will be built on a strong foundation.


Back in 2006 Kathryn Deane, former Director of Sound Sense mused on the concept of a music faculty with the child at the centre. Whilst many of the surrounding programmes have ceased to be, the aim must still be true.


Whatever one’s thinking, this is a ten year plan. With fixed-term parliaments there will be at least two general elections at some stage through its life and, whatever the hue of government, a longer funding period will allow Hubs the time to ensure that they have the time to incrementally build musical capacity on their patches without having to worry where the money is coming from.


I hope this is the second and last National Plan for Music Education!


Richard Jones, July 2022



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