In which a worry about progress in music education at KS3 turns out to be a worry about lack of CPD

Like the idée fixe running through Berlioz’s symphonie fantastique, the notion of progression in music education at KS3 keeps worrying me. And maybe, a bit like Berlioz’s hero, it is turning me a tad loopy in the process! I am worrying at the moment about a recent conversation I had with a teacher. It ran something like this:

Teacher: “My school has stopped being concerned with attainment, and is only looking at progress”
Me: “How do they look at progress without taking attainment into consideration?”
Teacher: “They just want to know how far the children have come”
Me: “But…”
Teacher: “So I have to show progress in all my lessons”
Me: “How do you do that, without taking attainment into account?”
Teacher: “By making sure they can do more than when they came in”

Now, that teacher may well be reading this blog, and so I don’t want to be too disparaging, but even if I were, I don’t think those comments should be aimed the teacher concerned, but at whomsoever it was on their SLT that passed on this gem! I think that what we are seeing now is a focus onto progress as the be-all-and-end-all, that a few months ago was occupied by attainment. And I think this is a result of some twisted version of Campbell’s law (and in this blog here) which results from a minute scrutiny of Ofsted documentation and pronouncements. Just as the ancients used to pore over entrails and such like, so people pore over Ofsted utterances in the same way.

In this case, I think it came from this: Ofsted have said they will “spend more time looking at a range of pupils’ work in order to consider what progress they are making…” (Ofsted, 2014)

This means that immediately the wind has changed. Progress matters. Maybe it always did, but now it REALLY does! But the other part of the Ofsted-Oracle utterance “…looking at a range of pupils’ work…” seems to have got lost amongst the gizzards, or whatever, and work in music now seems to equal writing. A range of work in music does not, for me at least, mean writing alone. A) that’s not a range, B)It’s not musical, and C)In order to write, music stops.

But all of this is a long way from progress in KS3 music. What is progress? What progresses? How?

The same bit of me that worries about the “Cook’s Tour” approach to KS3 music, worries that not much progress happens over KS3. I don’t wish to be rude, but I have seen whole KS3 schemes which basically look like this:

Curriculum naffness

What I worry about here is the question ‘what is progressing?’; which leads to another question ‘how is it being legislated for in planning?’. Again, this isn’t the fault of the teacher who designed it. As part of my job is in ITE, I know that the government lays the fault for everything at our University doors, but writing lesson plans is something we do on the PGCE and BA, as is writing schemes of work. But the student teachers we have are essentially responding to what schools tell them is on the syllabus for the time of their TP. When teachers leave ITE they could really do with something a little way down the line that picks up on how to write developmental schemes of work, and I am afraid this really does need to be subject specific. I hear of very little CPD which addresses this issue, and certainly whole-school focussed training is unlikely to.

So my worry about progression turns out to be a worry about planning for progression, and of how teachers can be helped with this. Our current system is very good at pointing out the flaws in teachers, how about doing something to help them address them for a change? This would after all impact on learning very considerably indeed.

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6 Responses to In which a worry about progress in music education at KS3 turns out to be a worry about lack of CPD

  1. misswerry says:

    Hello Martin

    I am going to be writing a resource for Music Teacher mag in the next few months on planning SoW for music, which I hope might be a positive contribution in this area!


    • drfautley says:

      Thanks Jane, that’s really good to hear. And one day soon I’ll try and get to your school, honest! But in the interim, I am becoming increasingly convinced that planning lies at the heart of many of the issues we are facing in music education at the moment. And so, as a plug, Jonathan Savage & I wrote a book on it,, which really does serve to focus the mind.

    • HSherwood says:

      Hello Martin. In preparing for the coming term and thinking ahead to September, I have found your blog very insightful and thank you for your wise contributions, that enlighten a relative newbie such as myself!

      Jane – is there any progress on your article for the Music Teacher mag? I would be very keen to read it! Thank you also for your regular comments on music teaching that I know come from a place of current practice and experience.

  2. Jason says:

    Hi Martin

    Have you come across any good examples of planning? If so, what was good about them? Agree, that planning was never a major topic when I did my PGCE (a long time ago now…) I’m interested in the one-genre approach @tallgirlwgc blogged about from her experiences observing Musical Futures schools in Melbourne.

    My students all look forward to music lessons, motivation is high and progress is evident, but to be honest, I worry that my SoW are a bit of a Thomas Cook tour and so any recommendations or links you can share would be gratefully recieved.

    Many thanks

    • drfautley says:

      Thanks Jason, I’m thinking about a follow-up blog at some point, but that would be about principles of planning, rather than content specific. In one of the presentations I give I talk about “what would a 7/11/14 year musician in my school look & sound like”, and for me that’s important, so content has to be down to the teacher/pupil/school/area/context. I have a PhD student at the moment who is a HoM looking at KS3 curric organisation, so his research may prove fruitful. And I’m sure Jane Werry’s materials for music teacher mag she mentions in her comments will be helpful too. I also know my colleague Alison Daubney’s work in this area is significant.

      But I do think music-specific CPD on curriculum planning would be really useful.

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