Quality of music education should affect a school's Ofsted rating, says report

Failing to provide a high-quality music education should have an “adverse impact” on a school’s Ofsted rating, an influential parliamentary committee has said.

The all-party parliamentary group for music education said inspectors should “make it clear” that delivering only the academic subjects prescribed under EBacc will affect schools’ inspection outcomes.

The cross-party group of MPs and peers also called for a “culture of singing” to be encouraged in all schools, and said the government should include a “sixth pillar” in the EBacc, requiring pupils to take at least one creative subject.

Department for Education statistics show a 17 per cent drop in the number of entries to GCSE music since 2014. At the same time, the number of secondary music teachers in schools has fallen by 1,000.

Ofsted should make it clear that delivering only the narrow curriculum prescribed by the EBacc will have an adverse impact on inspections

The APPG’s report, which is backed by the Incorporated Society of Musicians and University of Sussex, also urges the government to be clearer about the responsibilities of its music hubs, and find “more effective ways” of measuring their impact.

If comes after the government appointed an expert panel to develop a model music curriculum for schools, amid concerns that access to a good music education has become patchy.

The new report blasts the impact of the EBacc, a GCSE accountability measure focused on five “core” academic subjects, on the status of music in school curriculums, and makes a number of recommendations, particularly for Ofsted.

The inspectorate’s draft inspection framework, which is out for consultation, states Ofsted will be checking what schools are doing to “prepare” to meet the government’s goal for 75 per cent of pupils to sit the EBacc suite of subjects by 2022. Ministers want 90 per cent of pupils to sit the subjects by 2025.

The IPPG report urged Ofsted to “drop” that proposal, warning the “failing” EBacc policy is causing “untold damage” to music and other creative subjects in schools.

Instead, the inspectorate should mark schools down for having too narrow a focus on the EBacc, and look for evidence of “sustained and high-quality” music learning at all key stages.

The government should also give its music hubs – set up to spread best practice in music teaching – clearer responsibilities, the report said, arguing that the way the impact of music hubs is measured should be changed to focus on quality of work rather than basic levels of activity.

Schools Week has previously revealed huge regional variations in the coverage of the government’s music hubs programme.

The report also recommended that secondary music be considered a shortage subject eligible for financial incentives, such as bursaries, to attract high-quality teachers.

Primary trainees and newly qualified teachers must also have access to high-quality training on how to teach the music curriculum, it said.

The Department for Education was approached for comment.