It’s instrumental

It’s instrumental


First day of term after the summer holidays. The Head of music is greeting a peripatetic music teacher, whilst also getting his lessons preped for the day.



Mr./Ms. Peri: A hard-working and very able Music Subject Leader

Mr./Ms. Peri: An instrumental music teacher who has been visiting the school to work with learners there for 12 years



(Cheerfully) Morning there Ms. Peri – and how was your summer holiday, may I ask?



Oh, not too bad thank you Mr. Music. You know – nice to have those little luxuries. . .



Like ice-cream you mean?



I was thinking more of a comfortable room to sit in, a light that works, heating that comes on and space to swing a cat! (chortles at her own joke)



(slightly awkwardly) Ah yes, about that Ms. Peri. . .



Oh no, what is it this time? I haven’t got to teach in the boiler room again, have I?



No, of course not! [Pause] I’m afraid you’ll have to teach in the toilet this morning.



In the toilet?!



Yes, yes, I know. Sorry about that. It’s just that languages are using the boiler room for their oral exams and I’ve got ensembles to record in the other practice rooms, so I’m afraid there’s not many other choices this morning. It’s only for today. You do understand, don’t you?



(Sighs) Yes, yes, I suppose so. You are trying to do your best the same as me and I don’t suppose you’d ask me unless you really had to. Did you manage to get that message to Julie about the change to her lesson time?



Ah yes, about that. I think we might have to come up with some creative solutions there.



Creative solutions?



Yes. . . It’s just that the school has got this new interventions policy and it means that every Monday there’s going to be a spotlight on student creativity in a formalised model of simultaneous engagement.



A revision class?!



Well. . . yes.



At least it only affects Monday and not the rest of the week.



Um, well, actually it affects quite a few other days as well. Er, sorry.



Which ones?



Oh, you know. . . Tuesday to Friday. . .



That’s every day, Mr. Music!



I know, I know. I was thinking we could do a rota-thingy or something.   You’d be alright putting something together for me, wouldn’t you? It’s just that I’m trying to work out what I’m going to teach them all today and we’ll. . . I mean you’ll. . . need to get a message to Julie, eh?



I’m sure I’ll work it out somehow.



By the way, did you manage to find something that would work as an ensemble for Maisie? I know she’s doing her grade 9 soon, but we do need to get something ready for her GCSE exam – it’s worth rather a lot of marks, you know.



That was the didgeridoo, euphonium and electric guitar ensemble, wasn’t yet?



(Excitedly) That’s the one! I knew you’d remember!



Well, I haven’t quite got to it yet, but don’t worry, I will. When do you need it by?



Oh, you know, yesterday. But anytime before tomorrow lunch would be great.   You will be able to play the electric guitar part and conduct at the same time, won’t you?



Sure, sure, no problem. . .Well, I’d better get everything sorted – I’ve got Archibald first and you know what he can be like!



Ah, yes, Archibald. Might have forgotten to tell you that he’s on a school trip today.


Mr. Music!! Where to?









Yes, yes, but don’t worry, I think he’ll be back by next month.



Right, okay, I’m sure I’ll manage. Which way to the toilet then?



The toilet? Oh – you mean your studio of musical miracles – right along the corridor, first door on the left. Watch out for the djembes. Had to put the drumming choir in the corridor outside your ‘room’.   Hope that’s okay? It’s only for the first hour!



No, no, that’s fine, honestly! Anything for a musical education!



That’s just what I thought, Ms. Peri, that’s just what I thought. . .




Curriculum Sonata

It’s become so very trendy

To curriculum education;

And discuss just what we mean by it

It’s almost a vocation.

And we all have an opinion

On the shades of what we mean;

Curriculum as a concept . . .

Is a rich and endless seam.


So we mine it and discuss it

Wringing from it all we can;

But remember to assess it –

There has to be a plan.


There’s a right way and a wrong way

And it has to be enabling.

A curriculum as a model –

Has got to mean timetabling.

We’ve got to tell the students

And they’ve got to know the stuff;

Even if the journey there becomes a little rough.


So measure, don’t evaluate

Don’t permit them just to forage

The aim that we are seeking –

Is intellectual knowledge.

Iron out variety

Don’t talk and don’t think twaddle

The answer to the riddle?

One overarching model.

This is the way to do it

There is only one intent

No hidden implication

Do exactly what is meant.


Music isn’t about making.

You’re a learner, not a sculptor!

It isn’t about experience,

And it isn’t about culture.

Music isn’t about learning

From the mess of contradiction.

It’s really very simple

All you’ve thought ‘til now is fiction.


Curriculum for learners, hmm. . .

In music – you need sacks!

Stop playing now and pile them full

With lots of different facts

There’s crotchets and there’s quavers

There’s sharps and flats and notes

There’s metre, tempo, harmony

And lots of anecdotes

About music education and what it meant for me

The proper education

Of 1933.


Curriculum, curriculum is causing me despair!

There’s really so much talk of it,

I’m pulling out my hair!

But it can be so powerful

Unlocking the potential

On the journeys of young people;

The knowledge rain –


For when they come together

Musical identity

Isn’t just a concept,

It’s a wonderful complexity.

They’re learning from each other

It’s messy and exciting

Curriculum exploring

And fresh ideas igniting!


It’s very hard to document

Can’t quite get it down –

Which when I tell my manager

Sometimes can cause a frown.

It isn’t neat and tidy.

But it can open doors!

Perhaps it’s just too dangerous

Just like wild applause.


Music and curriculum;

Perhaps it would be wiser –

Forgetting all about it.

Use a

Knowledge Organiser.








Music as Education

Presentation that I gave on Tuesday 20th March 2018, at:


Westminster Education Forum: Assessing the Impact of A-level Reform – issues for schools and colleges, the future position of the AS level and preparation for HE and work.


In 2014, Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford said:

An education bereft of either music or maths would rob children of a lifetime of learning, cultural and creative opportunities.

 Since this time, an education bereft of music has begun to seem less remote that it once did. The educational landscape in the UK remains a challenging one for arts education and the position of musical learning at Key Stage 5 is no less precarious than in Early Years learning, for instance.

For example, in an article entitled Total Eclipse of the Arts, published at the beginning of March, the Economist drew attention to the declining state of play that Music is occupying in our schools and colleges. It stated:

the share who . . . sat the music GCSE rose every year this century until 2007, since when it has fallen in most years, from 8% in 2008 to 5.5% last year. Meanwhile, fewer pupils are studying music at A-level.

Music could increasingly become the preserve of the rich.

 Support for music education for all has been challenged by Wrexham Council in Wales where a public consultation recently took place in a bid to deliver 13 million pounds of savings across all of its services. This included almost entirely ceasing to fund the music service. Wrexham Council approved its budget proposals on 21st February. In response, Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians stated:

Without music services augmenting and supporting what should be going on in every school, music education will become the preserve of those children whose families can afford to pay. This is unacceptable.

Music therefore continues to be under pressure in the curriculum and this includes the post-16 sector, where young people taking A-level Music courses has witnessed a dramatic decrease. A-level Music candidates have declined by 37% since 2010. Although A-level reform and the decoupling of AS level from A2 has undoubtedly had a major impact on the AS Music qualification, the figures here are even more stark with a decline from around ten thousand candidates in 2010 to around three and a half thousand in 2017 – a fall of 67%. (See DfE statistics)

There no doubt multiple causes for the examples I have cited, and I have no wish to oversimplify complex issues, but it would seem that there has been little shift from when Keith Swanwick, retired Professor of the Institute of Education wrote to the then Secretary of State for Education, Kenneth Clarke in 1992 and stated that:

Music is a subject already restricted to a small corner of time in the school curriculum.

Despite, and perhaps because of, this educational climate and the pressures which exist in Key Stage 5 study, Music should remain an essential part of mainstream classroom education in the UK. Music from Early Years through to Key Stage 5 is an entitlement as a pathway for young people and is of critical significance in our diverse society. Music education should not be reduced to an extra-curricular annex, in which those who chose, opt in. Rather, Music should be conceptually understood to occur as education and not only in education. Music is about far more than a transfer of summative knowledge statements.

The musical model is far more complex, far more significant and far more enriching. Music in the curriculum does not need to be justified by secondary benefits. Music as education speaks for itself and its voice is a distinctive and transformative one.

Music as education model

Our curriculum field is too narrow. The curriculum is more than a set of validated subjects, more than a way of measuring standards and more than an approach to institutional timetabling. Curriculum is an interactive and dynamic process as well as a conceptual structure. John Finney, retired Senior Lecturer from the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge has offered the following definition:

The music curriculum can be defined as a dynamic set of musical processes and practices framed within historical and contemporary cultural discourse and dialogue that comprise the material musical encounters of pupils and teachers.

 I can think of no better preparation for higher education and work than opening up the pathway for young people to think and create, and Music as education is at the heart of such a dynamic.