The UK Association for Music Education – Music Mark – is the ripe old age of 10 this year! When two membership associations came together in 2013 one of the knotty questions they had to answer was what to call the new one! What they came up with is quite a mouthful so of course it has been shortened. Unusually for music education, not to something which results in a three-letter abbreviation, but to Music Mark.
Music Mark supports a membership of music education organisations, schools, the industry that provides resources and products to music education and individual teachers and workshop leaders. We help them to connect with each other and we also try to connect with the wider music and education sectors to enhance the support we can provide. Then we do what we can to shout about music education – in partnership with others where appropriate – to influence policy and practice, to champion the great work our membership and the wider teaching workforce are doing to provide a great music education for all children and young people across the UK.
In our 10th year, we’ve been awarded significant funding from Arts Council England to increase our work to support the sector. The main impact that funding has had on Music Mark is that we are now a team of 12, when in 2013 there were just 4! Planning a larger staff team was a bit like trying to decide what to buy with a book token or amazon voucher! The possibilities seemed endless but of course there isn’t an endless supply of funds so how to make the right choices which will expand and transform our work?
A key element of our expansion was to increase our teams focused on our events and communications and we’ve also brought in some further leadership posts. All of these roles are providing much needed capacity to do what we do. What’s particularly exciting though is the addition of two new ‘lead’ roles.
There is a wealth of research into the value of a music education and over the years Music Mark has worked hard to share significant reports and link these to our resources such as 10 Things Every School Should Know about Music and Get Playing. Of course, a music education subject association would say music is important, but by linking statements to academic research we hope what we are saying can be backed up by peer reviewed evidence. To date though, we have only been able to scratch the surface of championing the research which can help argue the case for musical learning. It is therefore really exciting that a key appointment we have made this year is that of a Research Lead – Sarah Whitfield. Not only is she going to be supporting our membership to love data and use it to tell the stories of how musical learning is transforming lives locally, but she’s also helping us to highlight more useful research we can use to advocate at a regional and national level. Check out her regular column Research Shorts on our website!
Music Mark is one of three subject associations and we work together with the other two – the ISM and the MTA – to ensure that classroom teachers have the support they need to provide a great music education for children and young people in and out of the classroom. Exciting news about how the partnership is working together is coming soon, but one of the ways we provide that support ourselves is our Music Mark Schools.
Now, this is where we have to go back to the naming of the association back in 2013. Why the name was chosen at the time isn’t documented, but Music Mark is a recognised brand now. However it’s also slightly challenging for us as a name… we do not currently run a scheme to award a kite mark to schools, we are not encouraging schools to work through the process to gain a qualification similar to Arts Mark. However, we do want to work with and support schools and so we have the Music Mark Schools offer. Recognising that schools gain support as part of a local music education ecology which in England is a partnership called a Music Education Hub and across the other nations includes (and is often lead) by the work of the Music Service, we ask our Member Hub Lead Organisations/ Services to invite schools to the programme that they feel are putting music at the heart of what they do. Each year we welcome a growing number of schools who can access our resources, attend events and training and we aim to celebrate the work they are doing too. But with such a small staff team in the past our support has been limited. It is very exciting therefore to also have (this week!) appointed a Schools Lead – Abi Marrison. Once Abi is in post we very much hope that she will supercharge our support for classroom teachers, help them connect more with each other and with the wider workforce and we’ll be keen to listen so we can influence – in partnership with our colleagues within the other subject associations where appropriate – those who are responsible for music education at a national level.
The 10th Birthday year has already been an exciting one for Music Mark, but as we head towards the end of 2023, it is very likely that there is more excitement to come as we turn 11! And that name… well, we’re keeping it and celebrating it in the work we’ll continue to do to support, connect and influence!