Ministers turn to musicians to design new 'model curriculum'

A new model music curriculum for schools will be drawn up by an independent panel of experts, the government has announced.

A group of teachers, education leaders and musicians, including renowned cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, a recent critic of the government, will develop a curriculum for key stages one, two and three, which is due to be published this summer.

However, the document will be for guidance only, and schools won’t have to adopt it if they don’t want to.

Schools minister Nick Gibb has also announced a further £1.33 million in funding for the Department for Education’s music hubs programme.

It comes amid mounting concerns about the future of music education in England, prompted in-part by a drop in the number of pupils taking exams in the subject.

Last summer, 35,531 pupils sat the qualification, down from 38,376 the year before, and the subject went from representing 0.8 per cent of all GCSEs taken to 0.7 per cent.

In 2012, 41,511 took the subject at GCSE, and it represented 0.9 per cent of entries.

Gibb said studying music “isn’t a privilege, it’s a vital part of a broad and balanced curriculum” and all pupils should study it until at least the age of 14.

“This new model curriculum and the new money for our successful music hubs will make sure the next generation of Adeles, Nigel Kennedys and Alex Turners have all the support they need in school.”

Lloyd Webber, who recently made headlines when he attacked the decline of arts subjects, said: “Engaging children in music and ensuring they receive a rich and diverse music education is key to growing pupils’ creativity and continuing the UK’s pipeline of future musicians.

“I am delighted to be playing a part in shaping a model music curriculum which will support teachers in delivering an inspiring and high quality music education.”

The additional funding for music hubs is on top of the £300 million allocated to the scheme for the four years between 2016 and 2020. There are now 120 hubs across the country, set up to support music teaching with initiatives like whole-class ensemble tuition.

However, Schools Week reported in November that there are huge regional variations in the coverage of the hubs, causing concerns about a “postcode lottery” of provision.

The government’s new panel will start work immediately, and aims to publish the model curriculum online by the summer.

The panel

  • Veronica Wadley (chair), former chair of Arts Council, London, council member of the Royal College of Music, governor of the Yehudi Menuhin School and co- Founder of the London Music Fund
  • Carolyn Baxendale, head of Bolton Music Service and lead for Greater Manchester Music Education Hub
  • Karen Brock, head of the Tower Hamlets Arts and Music Education Service
  • Michael Elliott, chief executive, ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music)
  • Peter Garden, executive director of performance and learning, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
  • Naveed Idrees, headteacher, Feversham Primary Academy
  • Julian Lloyd Webber, cellist,conductor and principal, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
  • Professor Linda Merrick, principal, Royal Northern College of Music
  • Paul Roberts, national council member, Arts Council England
  • Ian Rowe, principal, Bromley Youth Music Trust
  • James Thomas, head of Hackney Music Service
  • Simon Toyne, executive director of Music, David Ross Education Trust and president-elect, MMA Music Teachers
  • Ed Watkins, director of music, West London Free School
  • Bridget Whyte, chief executive, UK Association for Music Education – Music Mark