22 December 2010

Prof. Susan Hallam's paper delivered at Music Education Conference on 9 Dec

Intended and unintended consequences of proposed government policies

Professor Susan Hallam, Institute of Education, University of London

We are currently in a period of great change. During this time we should not underestimate the considerable threats to music education. The aim of this conference is to enable those involved with every aspect of music education to share their concerns and explore collectively what we can do and how we can maintain and enhance what we already have in spite of the challenges.

You should not assume that the title of this presentation means that I am able to distinguish between the intended or unintended consequences of proposed policies. This would suggest insider knowledge that I don’t have but I am confident that some consequences will be intended and others not. My intention is to provide a brief overview of what we know about proposed policies in relation to different areas of music education and to consider some of the consequences.

Adult and community music: Budget cuts for adult learning are at an average of 16% but in some Local Authorities are as high as 20%. The Adult Learning Grant (ALG) is to be abolished. These changes will impact on programmes offered in music. Arts council cuts are also in train and these are likely to impact on a wide range of community music provision.

Higher Education: A cut of 80% is proposed in the higher education teaching grant. There will be no state funding for study in the arts, humanities or social sciences. Students will pay the full cost of their tuition with fees expected to be between £6,000 and £9,000 per annum. In addition they will have to cover their living costs. This may deter young people from studying music in the UK. Some young people may go abroad to study where there are no or low fees. This may impact on the music profession and the creative industries in the UK. University music departments and the conservatoires may also face a reduction in overseas students because of the tightening of the visa regulations. It is not unthinkable that some university music departments may close as a result of these changes.

Further Education: The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is to be cut. This may lead to a reduction in the numbers of students staying on in education until age 18. There is to be a much greater emphasis on apprenticeships as a means of delivering training. This may have consequences for the music industries.

The government is ending the disparity in funding between schools and colleges for 16-18 year olds. Funding will be at the previous level of colleges which were the most efficient. This reduction in funding for school sixth forms is likely to lead to rationalization of their curriculum offer. Subjects with small numbers of students may no longer be offered. This may mean that ‘A’ level music may not be able to be sustained in some schools.

Schools: The aim of current policies is to give schools more autonomy. The intention is that, in time, all existing schools will become Academies. Academy chains, multi-school trusts and federations are already developing. There is also provision for the setting up of ‘Free’ schools by parents or other groups. Schools will be able to determine the targets that they set, choose what forms of external support they want and determine how to evaluate themselves.

It is difficult to interpret what the White Paper ‘The importance of teaching’ says about the curriculum. Academies and free schools will be able to depart from aspects of the National Curriculum where they consider it appropriate but will be ‘required by law, like all schools, to teach a broad and balanced curriculum.’ Schools will be encouraged to offer a broad set of academic subjects to age 16 but they will also have the freedom to innovate with the curriculum. There are plans to review the National Curriculum, including that for the early years. The revisions should ‘set out only the essential knowledge and understanding that all children should acquire and leave teachers to decide how to teach this most effectively.’ The new National Curriculum will embody children’s ‘cultural and scientific inheritance’. There is also reference to ‘traditional subject disciplines’. The proposed new curriculum is described as ‘slim, clear and authoritative for all parents to see what their child might be expected to know at every stage in their school career.’

The English Baccalaureate will be awarded to students who secure good GCSE passes in English, maths, the sciences, a modern or ancient foreign language and a humanity such as history or geography. The arts are not included. This is a cause for concern as the Baccalaureate is likely to become the vehicle by which the performance of schools is judged.

Funding will largely be devolved to schools through a single funding stream called the Dedicated Schools Grant. A fairer national funding formula is proposed with increased transparency. Ring fencing of funding for specific activities is to be removed as a principle. This could have a profound impact on some musical activities. There is to be a pupil premium for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, there is considerable controversy about whether this is ‘new’ money or the redistribution of existing monies. This source of funding could be used to support the musical activities of disadvantaged children. Individual schools will take decisions relating to the use of such funding.

Accountability: Information on expenditure in education will be in the public domain so there will be greater accountability. Ofsted will retain responsibility for assessing the quality of education in schools but will refocus inspection on schools’ core educational purpose and spend more time in the classroom observing teaching. Outstanding schools will be released from all routine inspection.

Education Endowment Fund: An Education Endowment fund of £110 million will be set up to fund innovative projects to raise the attainment of deprived children in underperforming schools. Applications will be invited from schools, Local Authorities and others. There may be opportunities here for proposals relating to music.

Teacher education and Continuing Professional Development: More places will be provided on the Teach First Programme to encourage high performing graduates to enter teaching. There will be no funding for students with less than second class honours in their first degree to take a Post Graduate Certificate in Education.

Teacher training will be focused on classroom practice. More time will be spent in the classroom with a focus on observing existing teachers. Teaching schools will lead training and offer professional development opportunities. University Training Schools will be set up. The focus on training in schools may present some problems for music particularly at primary level, where there is sometimes limited musical expertise. At secondary level, while there is some outstanding teaching, this is not always the case. There will be a competitive national scholarship scheme to support Continuing Professional Development.

Extra-curricular activities: Funding cuts at Local Authority level are impacting on Music Services with some staff already in receipt of redundancy notices.

The Henley Review: The White paper ‘The importance of teaching’ states that children should expect to be given a rich menu of cultural experience. For this reason Darren Henley has been commissioned to explore how music education can be improved and how more children can learn to play an instrument. The Henley review is also expected to inform the government’s broader approach to cultural education.

The assumptions underpinning the Henley Review include a commitment that every child should receive a strong, knowledge based cultural education and should have the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument and to sing. The government recognises music as an enriching and valuable academic subject with important areas of knowledge that need to be learnt including how to play an instrument and sing. This suggests that there is a commitment to ensuring that children have opportunities to engage in music making despite the austerity measures currently being implemented.

Endnote: I would like to try to end on an upbeat note by quoting from a recent article in the Times Higher Education in the ‘Off Piste’ series where people are invited to write about something other than their own subject. Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford concluded his article:

‘we should do away with the entire school curriculum and have one long music lesson instead. That way we would cover pretty much everything in the national curriculum, all within an overarching themed structure – and have a great deal more fun doing it. I sometimes wonder whether we haven’t missed the point of education.’


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