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Looking ahead: Westminster Forum discusses music education of today and tomorrow

7th October 2019

Music Mark CEO Bridget Whyte

This past Monday 7th of October, Music Mark CEO Bridget Whyte took part in the Westminster Education Forum policy conference, dedicated to Music Education in England – designing the new “model” curriculum, the future for music hubs and looking ahead to the next National Plan for Music Education.

To a packed auditorium and following an update by Deborah Annetts from the ISM on the current state of Music Education, Bridget Whyte informed delegates on the design and development of the Model Music Curriculum. Since the announcement of the Department for Education’s project at the start of the year; a convened Expert Panel to support its development; and an original launch date of September 2019, Music Mark’s CEO, alongside other members of the Panel have demonstrated that the task isn’t simple and extended work means there is no indication of a revised timeline. Bridget Whyte informed delegates that nonetheless, Music Mark did consult its members back in April 2019 on what they thought a Model Music Curriculum should look like, and shared the key findings of this consultation with both the Expert Panel and DfE. You can read Bridget Whyte’s full speech from the conference HERE.

Attendees were then invited to hear from a number of experts from the music education sector, each in turn offering unique insights into their work. From headteacher Emily Crowhurst who has bucked the trend of falling school music provision with her ALevel offer at School 21 in London, to the young and inspiring Hannah Stell, Principal Trombonist at the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in 2018 and now student at the Royal Academy of Music. Hannah shared her journey as a young musician and offered some key recommendations for the room around breaking down access barriers to music for children and young people who cannot afford either private tuition or participation in extra-curricular activities.  Her comments were later echoed by BBC Young Jazz Musician from 2018, Xhosa Cole, who also condemned the lack on inclusivity in much of the music education offer he came across as a young school student.

Still, the conference also offered inspiring examples of work and partnership from across the country, including that of Kelly-Jo Foster-Peters, Music Lead at the Great Oaks SEND School in Hampshire, who is a passionate advocate for inclusive music-making, and also Susan Robertson, Service Manager at Tees Valley Music Education hub, who said her hub’s focus for the future involves supporting young disabled children; Early Years; more training for non-specialist music teachers and “singing, singing, singing!”. Indeed singing was referenced several times by speakers as a cheap but incredibly effective way of embedding the practice of music-making in schools.

Training and retention of staff; a curriculum that reflects the needs and interests of children and young people; the importance of partnership work and more effective messaging were also recurring themes throughout the day. You can view the Music Mark twitter thread on the event HERE.