My personal wish list for music education in Wales

It’s been three months since the Welsh Assembly Government published their review of music education, and I’m just about to start talking to a few people involved in the sector to get their views.

It’ll take me a while to write the article – which will be published in Sounding Board, the community music journal and possibly elsewhere – so in the meantime, I wanted to post something that might prompt some comments or even discussions.

Here are some of my sketchy thoughts – few if any are original, most of them are what people in the field have been saying for years.  Some of my views may reveal my lack of specialist knowledge or understanding of some aspects of music education and the practicalities involved. But I’m happy to be corrected, proved wrong, or helped to become better informed! Please comment or email me direct if you have any thoughts or feedback.

My wishlist:

For each primary and secondary school to provide, for pupils aged up to 14, through a local music education hub:

•    in the classroom – the chance to take part in a different types of music making – involving different genres, instruments, musicians, and ways of learning, as part of the curriculum

•    outside the classroom – after school music clubs – inclusive, participatory music making – playing, creating  and performing for children of all abilities, led by their  needs/interests/hopes and dreams, and providing (volunteering) opportunities for young music leaders

•    outside the classroom – the  chance to ‘try out’ small group tuition in different instruments/genres

•    outside the classroom – small group tuition in the pupil’s choice of instrument/genre for those who want more sustained involvement

•    outside the classroom – music groups – ensembles, groups and bands in a variety of different instruments/genres/traditions

For each local authority to:

•    support the development of local music education hubs bringing together everyone (or representatives of everyone) working in music with young people in a local area. These might include classroom teachers, music teachers, youth services, independent practitioners including community musicians, social enterprises and charities, voluntary organisations. They would find out what’s happening, what young people want, and what the gaps are – and develop and deliver a co-ordinated plan for their area, securing funding from a range of different sources, and linking to professional development and networking opportunities. Work for the hub would be included in people’s job descriptions to avoid hubs becoming just a talking shop

•    encourage music services to ask more questions, to listen to children and young people (and parents), be more learner-led, take into account needs of learners and what’s relevant to them not just what they can currently deliver. Ultimately requiring them to look into new partnerships and ways of working

For the Welsh Assembly government to:

•    acknowledge music education as essential for all children’s wider development, not just a cultural bonus
•    acknowledge the value of a diversity of providers (genres– including folk, rock, pop, urban and world music – and ways of working – participation vs being taught, learner led and teacher led; peer learning) in delivering music education
•    invest time and involve more people in developing a strategy/plan for music education in Wales
•    commit ring-fenced funding for music education, managed centrally and devolved to hubs not just music services
•    encourage stronger partnerships between formal and non-formal music education
•    acknowledge that the purpose of music education is not just to produce talented instrumentalists, nor musicians skilled and trained through classical music and traditional delivery
•    acknowledge the potential for music in creative learning and cross-disciplinary approaches, not just as simply part of the music curriculum or instrumental lessons

•    ensure that music is given equality with other subjects in primary teacher training
•    support and promote a variety of progression routes for future music leaders (including developing young music leaders in and out of school)
•    include music funding in some of the funding initiatives for specific groups (eg areas of economic disadvantage, Looked After Children, SEN), but make it longer term – at least 3 years
•    commit to extending C^nSing to all schools in Wales in some form (through music services/hubs, cascading learning through clusters/professional learning communities)
•    provide funding for an independent organisation (new or existing) to:

  • support and advise hubs
  • help to secure additional/wider funding for music education
  • co-ordinate professional development and networking opportunities online (a website) and offline – including events and information to encourage sharing of good practice, innovative ways of working, and mutual, collaborative learning amongst all practitioners working with young people in music
  • help with advocacy/lobbying activities to promote the value of music education and encourage/enable music leaders to align their services to wider LA/WAG strategic goals, as well as, importantly, to school heads and education leaders
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