A response to the Ofsted report, Music in schools: wider still, and wider
Musical Futures (MF) wholeheartedly supports the recent Ofsted report for its insight and ability to get to the heart of the issue facing all music educators: the need to improve the quality of music teaching and learning in schools.
The report provides a real breadth and depth of the understanding of what excellence in music teaching and learning should look like and this is well supported by the case study films. We are pleased that Flegg High School, a MF Champion School, was chosen as a best practice example of how MF underpins the work of an effective music department and this commitment to delivering high-quality musical learning exists in all our Champion Schools and many other music departments delivering MF nationwide.
The aspirations of MF and Ofsted are the same: to advocate for innovative music teaching and learning of the highest quality, particularly with regard to:
- musical sound as the predominant language for learning in music classrooms
- keeping engagement high
- balancing social, academic and musical skills
- balancing theory and technique
- finding effective and musical ways of reporting and assessing
- finding innovative ways to tackle the varied demands of musical genre
- making creative use of technologies
Most importantly to create an inclusive entitlement to high-quality, meaningful and relevant music-making activities for all young people, the many not the few. The MF website (www.musicalfutures.org.uk) is testimony to the work of so many teachers who have been sharing the resources and ideas they have developed within their classrooms to challenge themselves and their students to achieve these aims.
It is disappointing that it appears such an entitlement has not been improved upon or fully addressed since Ofsted’s previous report, Making more of Music, in 2009. It is particularly disappointing that achievement in Key Stage 3 is felt to be the weakest area with a focus on poor assessment procedures and overly planned lessons that lack practical musical content.
Ofsted identifies some strengths of MF of which we are very proud: notably that MF in schools has a considerable and beneficial effect on the engagement of young people and on their musical development.
However, it also highlights that MF is subject to variable quality of practice, with an example of poor practice provided in the report. MF is a ground-up initiative that has no quality assurance or regulatory procedure of its own. It relies on teachers and practitioners delivering a quality musical experience regardless of the approach that is chosen and on them ensuring that the secure pedagogy that characterises Musical Futures is central to all delivery. However, we are committed to making our own practice more consistent and to working alongside Ofsted and other partners to ensure this is the case.
Ofsted highlights the often poor access to music CPD for music teachers and practitioners and the professional isolation of the music teaching community. Musical Futures’ core work is a national, free CPD programme which focusses on MF approaches and provides an opportunity for networking and sharing ideas, resources and good practice. MF has also recently established an online networking site dedicated to the discussion of MF in practice (http://musicteachersnetwork.ning.com/). We are committed to constant evaluation of our CPD offer, especially in light of this report, to ensure that the courses we offer are fully meeting the needs and demands of the sector.
Ofsted’s seven priorities clearly set out exactly what is needed for improvement. Many of these have been long-standing problems and all of the Government support given to the sector appears to have done little to address these.
This powerful report delivers a clear message to the whole education sector – music education is still in need of dramatic improvement – and this message cannot be ignored. We look forward to working with Ofsted, along with the rest of the sector, to strive to improve music where it is universally available: in the classroom. This is not just a report, it is a call for action.
Musical Futures team
5 March 2012