Secondary schools that timetable music lessons in “carousel” with other arts subjects at key stage 3 may face questions from inspectors, a senior Ofsted official has warned.
Mark Phillips, the national lead for music at the inspectorate, said teaching the subject in only part of the school year and alternating it with other subjects could affect pupils’ “aural memory”.
Phillips told a Westminster Education Forum event this week this practice was “immediately…placing the brakes on increasing aural memory and increasing sophistication.
“You’re saying, if music is in a carousel in key stage 3, ‘let’s build your memory for a term and then pause for two terms without any more music, but we expect you to retain that knowledge without any loss when you come back to it in eight months time’.”
The national curriculum for music at key stage 3 states that pupils should be taught to “identify and use the inter-related dimensions of music expressively and with increasing sophistication”.
And the government’s supplementary model music curriculum states that the development of a reliable musical memory is a “valuable skill for performers and composers”.
Phillips said it was “always interesting to ask” schools teaching music and art in carousel at key stage 3 “why the other foundation subjects such as geography, history and languages are not taught in carousel”. He said the issue of choice at key stage 4 “may have something to do with that”.
Ofsted analysis earlier this year found that curriculum music teaching for most pupils in England currently consists of one period of 40 to 60 minutes per week in key stage 3, “although some secondary schools have reduced even this”.
Phillips said if the Covid pandemic had “taught us anything about learning, then surely it’s about the importance of regular, unbroken learning to build memory”.