At the recent Music Mark conference, I had a slot to talk about current issues in music education. This blog entry is based on that presentation.
For me, one of the big issues that’s facing us is the reduction of curriculum time in secondary schools. This is across the board, from KS3, via KS4, to A level. I am also hearing of schools where music teaching is being removed from the curriculum, for example this.
At MM I presented some facts I had extracted by trawling through DfE statistical data. At the same time Alison Daubney and Duncan Mackrill at Sussex University are conducting a detailed piece of research into respondent views of music teaching in their school. I must emphasise mine is solely secondary data analysis using DfE extant datasets. All the statistics I cite in this piece come from these, and so there is no nuance from the DfE, therefore I am only able to provide my interpretation of the numbers I have here
These make for quite salutary reading. Let us take first the numbers of music teachers employed in secondary schools over the past three years. These have been reducing steadily at the rate of about 200/year:
In chart format this reduction can clearly be seen:
With a reducing workforce there is clearly going to be a reduction in the teaching time available too. This is clearly shown in the next chart, which shows the total number of classroom music hours taught in secondary schools:
This again shows a reduction over time, with the dataset for this being:
Total music curriculum hours taught
|Music hours taught||loss|
The speed of reduction is interesting here. From 2013 to 2014 we lost 2,300 hours of teaching, from 2014 to 2015 we lost 3,100. It is too early to tell if this accelerando is a trend, so I’ll be watching the details this time next year, when the 2016 stats are published.
A similar exponential loss can be seen in the time loss at KS 4 and 5:
The linear reduction shown in that chart is a simple excel function, so please don’t place too much statistical weight on it, but it does show that time is reducing. Again, there is an increasing rate of loss of hours here. First of all KS4:
Even at KS3, which may be thought of as being ‘safe’ because of its status as a National Curriculum subject, music is losing the number of hours being taught:
Again, the dataset:
The KS3 loss is somewhat galling in the light of Nick Gibb’s statement here that:
Through our curriculum review, music remained a statutory subject in the national curriculum, so every child in maintained schools must study it from age 5 to 14.
It seems the case that every child is not studying it up to the age of 14!
So, these are the bald stats, why is this happening? Well, as I say, all I can do is put my personal interpretation on these bald numbers. The data itself cannot tell us why this reduction is taking place, so what follows is solely my view. I think that it is a combination of factors.
- the EBacc. Despite what we are told, I think the EBacc is biting into take up at KS4, with a knock-on effect at A-level
- School accountability measures. Music is increasingly seen “not to matter” in accountability terms. (I get a lot of unsolicited mail to this effect, it’s not just me being awkward!) and, when push comes to shove, SLTs are putting their efforts into subjects that “matter”.
- The telescoping of KS3 into 2 years instead of three. I am hearing of these time and time again.
- Staffing issues. Teachers who leave cannot be replaced, there are just not enough “warm bodies” to put in front of the classes, so SLT has no choice but to do something else for contingency purposes.
I think that there is a “perfect storm” brewing, and music hubs will feel the chill winds soon. With fewer music teachers in schools the hub-school liaison will suffer, numbers playing instruments will drop, schools will be more and more reluctant to let kids miss lessons for peri teachers, and the base level of the house of cards will start to totter. We need to be very vigilant indeed.
Sorry not to have better news for this season of Cheer!