Educators push to protect music lessons, following suggestions schools could sideline them in favour of ‘core’ subjects.
A campaign to protect music lessons in schools struggling with Omicron staff shortages is gathering momentum.
Music teachers, and bodies representing them, have reacted angrily to an education chief’s suggestion that schools with a high level of teacher absence could focus on ‘core’ subjects and suspend ‘specialist’ subjects like music.
Ofqual chair Ian Bauckham suggested the ‘emergency timetable changes’ on the Department for Education’s portal for headteachers.
Many teachers said the proposal reflected a wider issue: that some education ‘experts’ don’t view music as a ‘real’ subject.
Deborah Annetts, head of the Incorporate Society of Musicians, issued a withering rebuke to Bauckham’s proposal.
“The plan reinforces the view in some education circles that music is a ‘nice to have’, rather than an essential, part of a broad and balanced curriculum,” she says.
“Music is part of the national curriculum and, as such, it is required to be taught in our schools. Indeed, the government recognised a return of music as a ‘key priority’ in November’s recovery curriculum.
“Music education has been disproportionally affected by the pandemic, often cancelled during home schooling in 2020, and has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels in some schools.”
Insensitive and badly judged
Don Gillthorpe, President of the Music Teachers’ Association, says Bauckham’s comments were “insensitive and badly judged”.
“Music is part of pupils’ entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum and the pandemic does not alter this,” Gillthorpe says. “We must encourage schools to find solutions to these challenges which protects access to the full breadth of subjects.”
Bridget Whyte, CEO of the UK association for Music education, Music Mark, also criticised the suggestion.
“For anyone to even suggest the idea that music should be sacrificed is both outside the scope of providing a broad and balanced education and short-sighted when it has so many benefits to pupil health and wellbeing. This ongoing perception of a hierarchy of subjects is unhelpful when creativity is a vital skill for the future.”
Many music teachers took to social media to express views and push to protect music lessons using the hashtag #CanDoMusic. Others wrote directly to Ofqual at firstname.lastname@example.org.