Ofsted calls for more 'active music-making'

Written by: HTU | Published:

Inspectors have reported “wide differences" in the quality and quantity of music education, and said that in some cases there was simply “not enough music in music lessons".

Inspectors have reported “wide differences" in the quality and quantity of music education, and said that in some cases there was simply “not enough music in music lessons".

Music in Schools, published this week by Ofsted, found that out of the 90 primary schools visited, just over a third – 33 – were rated as good or outstanding for their overall music provision.

The three-year study said that in too many music lessons, there was insufficient emphasis placed on “active music-making" with too many written exercises or too much talking.

The report also claimed that while most schools recognised the importance of promoting a diverse range of musical styles, far fewer struggled to show a clear understanding of “how students should make good musical progress".

The report states: “The most effective schools recognised that regular, sustained experiences were essential to secure good musical progress. Schools where curriculum provision was weaker showed limited understanding about musical progression or did not give enough time for music."

Other areas highlighted by inspectors included a lack of focus on achievement in singing in some schools, and also the use of music technology, which the report said was “inadequate or non-existent" in 60 per cent of primary schools.

The report recommends that schools ensure musical sound is the “target language" in lessons, with writing and speaking used to support this, while more emphasis should be placed on vocal work and using music technology.

Inspectors also pointed to very different participation rates between boys and girls, with one in three primary girls taking part in extra-curricular music compared to one in seven boys. The report calls for schools to develop strategies to improve participation by boys and also those with SEN and students on free school meals.

The publication has come alongside the launch of six best practice videos on the Ofsted YouTube channel which show what inspectors consider to be exemplary music provision in six case study settings, including John Scurr Primary School and Churchfields Junior School, both in east London.

Chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said: “Inspectors looking at music teaching in nearly 200 schools (primary and secondary) saw quality ranging from outstandingly good to extremely poor. Too often, inspectors simply did not see enough music in music lessons.

“Too much use was made of non-musical activities such as writing without any reference to musical sound. Too much time was spent talking about tasks without teachers actually demonstrating what was required musically, or allowing the pupils to get on with their music-making.

“Assessment was often inaccurate, over-complex or unmusical, particularly in secondary schools. All this limited time for practical music, detracting from pupils' musical improvement and enjoyment."

The report follows the Department for Education's (DfE) National Plan for Music Education, published last year, which has paved the way for the creation of area-wide music hubs from September.

Ofsted said the DfE should rigorously and independently hold all publicly funded music education initiatives – including the music hubs – to account for the quality and effectiveness of their work.

A DfE spokesperson said: “(The Music Plan) addresses many of the issues raised by Ofsted and ensures that in future every child will have the chance to experience a high quality music education and the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and sing.

“We are also recruiting top music graduates into the profession, expanding the highly successful In Harmony scheme in deprived areas, protecting the Music and Dance Scheme for the most talented pupils and improving teacher training for music teachers."

The best practice videos can be found on Ofsted's YouTube channel.

To read the report itself, visit the Ofsted website.

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