School music lessons: not enough music


There is not enough music in music lessons in many schools in England, say Ofsted inspectors.

In some lessons, teachers do not play or sing a single note, according to a report looking at music education as a whole.

Inspectors found girls were twice as likely as boys to take part in extra-curricular music in primary schools.

The study was based on evidence from inspections of 90 primary and 90 secondary schools from 2008 to 2011.

Out of these, 68 were rated "outstanding" for music education and 41 were judged "inadequate".

Didn't BFG (BFG for PM!) say something rather similar not long ago about GCSE music being... well, rather pants?

Is this the fault of inclusion policies? That we are so desperate to make sure everyone can access the lesson, that we'e dropped important, fundamental parts of the lesson such as the sounds of music?

YD (year 1) doesn't have music lessons as such, but they put on a nativity play with lots of singing.

In year 3 ED's class learnt the recorder and now in year 4 they are learning the clarinet. But it's a big class, and I really don't think the teacher can hear individauls.

She also has keyboard lessons in school, but they are paid for and there's only 5 or 6 in her group so the tutor does hear her play. And she's in the choir which is after school one day a week.

So, in short, I think my daughters' school does have music in music lessons, but there's more/better opportunities out-of-school. isn't this always the way?

In DD's primary school they do practise singing, and year six do an end of year play, which is usually a musical, often supported by some of year 5 in the 'chorus'.

There is an after school choir for the older years and I think violin and flute are taught, in separate lessons (out of school time) although these are limited and neither of my kids have had the opportunity to learn one.

Several of the teachers play piano, guitar and drums so they often are used in special assemblies, school masses etc.

Our school has no class music lessons. A few children in P6 and P7 have instrumental tuition in brass and woodwind instruments (parents pay £180 a year plus have to buy the instruments) but access to that is very limited (8 places each year). I think they used to have a retired music teacher coming in on a voluntary basis and she did a few weeks with each class tracing them some songs but that no longer happens.

In the primary school where I work, all the children have "choir" as a weekly lesson, and drama.  And every year puts on a show once per academic year which involves singing and some musical instrument playing.  The children can join the school choir and/or orchestra if they want to.  Peripatetic music teachers come in to teach lots of instruments, but that is charged for privately.  Apart from the recorder which all Year 2s learn.  They also do an annual Britain's Got Talent which may involve music!

At DD's senior school, music is compulsory in years 7 and 8. It can be dropped in year 9, although DD is still doing it.  Although the school has many different choirs, bands, orchestras etc I don't think they play instruments during lessons but DD is always talking about songs she has composed being played via a computer programme.  Sorry, can't remember the name of it but I believe it is fairly famous and DD says it is great fun.  She has also learnt about different styles of music, how to identify notes, the meaning of words such as sharp and flat.  her last piece of music homework which she asked me about was about a musical she had seen performed on stage in London.

The opportunities offered for music at her school are excellent but, because DD isn't interested, she doesn't take these opportunities up.

She didn't want to do music for GCSE.  I don't know if a student has to be a certain level on an instrument if they want to do music GCSE. Probably varies between schools.

A lot of my friends primary aged children have also been taught an instrument for free for, I think, one term.  They can then decide if they want to carry on with it privately and, if you do, you can rent the instrument rather than have to buy iy.

Daedy, does your Year 4 have to learn the clarinet?  I mean, is the teacher hearing thirty children all play the same instrument at the same time, or are they playing different instruments and you DD chose/was allocated clarinet?  I have never heard of this before, but it is an interesting idea!

My DDs both have music lessons that have included instruments as well as singing, they have also participated at different times in (free) lunch time, before and after school clubs in occarina, recorder, african drumming and choir. The school choir has participated in music festivals and the 'village' carol concert every year. They also offer paid for guitar lessons. KS1 has a Christmas nativity-type-show where every child sings (from R-2) and a summer musical where every child sings (from yrs3-6) They will be doing 'Oliver!' this summer and have started to include some songs from Oliver in music lessons

They're all learning the clarinet, just like they all learnt the recorder last year.

ED is proud that she hasn't yet broken her reed whereas some (boys) are on their thrid or fourth. I've tried telling her it's more important to practice and play than preserve the reed, but she doesn't believe me. I think we could have opted out of her learning the clarinet and there was a small insurance fee for the instrument rental, but I'm sure there were no other options.

As I say, I don't really think the teacher can hear her - especiciialy if she doesn't make a sound. But she practices occasionally at home and goes from silent to squeaky to three or four good notes.

Must be hard for the teacher if there are a lot of children.  Do they continue with clarinet next year, or all start to learn something else?

I don't know about next year - we'll wait and see!

To be honest/cynical, I would expect them to drop it for year 6 (got to focus on those SAT scores!).

Following on from a post I started about going to an American university, I started to look into it and came across a sample SAT test which US students sit before applying to uni.  It brought back so many Year 6 SAT test memories!!  DD used to bring home loads of those sample papers. Some parents were seriously stressed about it!  I think I would've preferred her to learn drums instead (as long as it was on school premises!).