So tired, tired of waiting …..

by David Ashworth Freelance Education Consultant. Reproduced from the Teaching Music website by kind permission of David Ashworth.

It is proving to be a long haul, but you can sense the excitement mounting as we ‘eagerly’ await the publication of The National Music Plan. 
Following publication (probably next week?), there will be considerable commentary and discussion, on and offline, as we pick over the contents…

And then what?

Well I suspect nothing much. That will certainly be the case if the plan consists simply of a stripped down list of some of the recommendations from the Henley Review. Because lists change nothing. As with Music Manifesto, we may nod in agreement and we may even ‘pledge’ to do things. But if all that means is that we tweak our mission statements…..well, take a look at Emma Coulthard’s perceptive Guest Editorial last month (October 2011).

So the strategy interest me more than the contents.  This Plan needs to be something more - it needs to provide a formulated and detailed method by which a thing is to be done, as the dictionary says.

Usually there are two ways governments try to ensure things get done. Either shovel in money - or make things statutory.  I suspect neither options are likely. True, if the plan provides a blueprint for how Hubs should proceed, we may see some effective implementation. Let’s hope this is the case. 
Of course, for those who want to drag their heels re implementing effective change, there is always the excuse that we have to wait for the outcomes of the forthcoming Curriculum Review before we can do anything. A ‘compliance culture’ which, as Keith Evans suggests, has also led to centrally-dictated policy and advice which has seemingly ‘standardized’ the learning experience and the result is that good teaching is inclined to be judged as much by how far the lesson conforms to a predetermined format as its ability to engage and truly inspire the learner.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. As teachers, we don't always have to  wait to be told what to do. As David Puttnam says "We are the people we have been waiting for"

A highlight of this year’s NAME Conference was to hear Mark Phillips, HMI Ofsted National Adviser for Music, encouraging teachers just to ‘get on with it’.  There is nothing in the current National Curriculum to prevent teachers from teaching music musically and generally following their instincts to provide a rich and stimulating music curriculum. Yes, there are often whole school pressures of assessment/reporting/standards etc. but, as Ray Davies also tells us, to a large extent It’s your life – and you can do what you like. And in our best schools, I see senior leaders and music departments taking this approach, following their professional instincts. 

And I hope that somewhere within The National Music Plan there IS scope and opportunity for our more enlightened and experienced practitioners to provide the guidance and, yes, the leadership we need to make a difference.

David was the Lead Consultant on Music and ICT for the National Association of Music Educators and now works for them as Project Leader on . He is also a Regional Subject adviser for the New Key Stage 3 National Curriculum for Music.