On 21st September Ofsted released their most recent music subject report, Striking the right note. The report is written in response to findings from research visits carried out in primary and secondary schools between December 2022 and June 2023, as well as evidence gathered from routine Ofsted inspections.
“The report evaluates the common strengths and weaknesses in music education and considers the challenges that music faces.”
As the Lead Organisation for the Kent Music Hub and a major music delivery organisation in the region, we feel it important to break down and respond to the report. We would also encourage all those interested to read and analyse the full report themselves.
The key strengths and weaknesses identified by Ofsted are:
- Curriculum music in reception classes prepares children for Key Stage 1 music
- Singing is noted to be the strongest aspect of primary music curriculum
- Curriculum leaders at KS3 strive to provide pupils with a range of musical opportunities
- Trainee primary teachers have very little training in music
- Vocal work in secondary schools was much rarer than in primary schools
- In many schools, the weakest aspect of curriculum music was teaching pupils to develop composition skills
- In many primary schools, teachers lack the confidence and expertise to deliver curriculum music
- Drop in the number of schools that provide instrumental and vocal tuition for their pupils
- Significant disparity in the range and quality of extra-curricular activities for pupils
- There is still a difference in the opportunities available for children and young people based on their family’s income.
Sadly, we recognise that many of these points are prevalent across the county of Kent and we are working hard to make positive change in and out of schools.
It can’t be denied that the creative arts in schools have suffered in recent years. Initiatives such as the introduction of English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and Progress 8 measures have in some cases resulted in a reduction of lesson time at Key Stage 3 for creative subjects. As a result, the number of pupils taking up GCSE and A level music has also been negatively impacted. As well as standstill or reductions in funding pose the greatest challenges, the Independent Society of Musicians (ISM) found in 2021 that 61% of respondents said their music department budgets were not enough to give their students the opportunities they want.
Your Music Hub
With the help of our delivery partners and music teachers across the county, Kent Music is funding and supporting a huge amount of musical activity in 2023-24. This includes:
We are helping more than 50 schools train their music leads. Through bespoke support we support them in creating and implementing excellent music curricula and provision in their school. Working with Kent Medway Training’s primary trainees also provides a brilliant foundation for teachers about to enter the profession!
We are also proud to offer financial assistance to support those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Our financial assistance scheme reduces financial barriers to instrumental tuition and instrument hire. Our scheme is open to applicants of ages 5-18 and they can be having tuition from any provider in Kent.
As an individual, it can feel like there’s not much you can do – this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is so much that everyone can do to support the musical ecosystem in Kent!
- Find out what opportunities are happening around you and join in!
Supporting the local offer is crucial to ensuring it carries on being there for everyone. Join a local band, group or choir, or attend a concert to make sure music continues to thrive in your area.
- Help us advocate for the importance of music education.
The ISM has written a fantastic document that supports everyone to advocate for music in schools. Have a look through for plenty of ideas on how to advocate for music in your local school.
- Use your voice!
Contact your local MP or councillor and tell them why arts in schools really matter. There is a handy template in the ISM document, or head to https://www.writetothem.com/ to find out how to contact them.
At Kent Music, we believe that high quality music education is a fundamental right for children and young people in schools everywhere. Not only does music provide students with useful transferable skills, but it’s also incredibly valuable to learn in its own right – for the joy of it.
What Ofsted’s report doesn’t show is the passion, dedication and love for music of thousands of teachers, students and other stakeholders in music education across the country. As your local Hub Lead Organisation, we’re privileged to meet people like this every day! Together we can empower change and ensure that children and young people in Kent and nationwide access high quality music education.