Happy Friday, everyone! Apologies for posting something so heavy today – it won’t always be this big! This is my attempt at summarising the differences between the approach taken by the Department for Education in their Model Music Curriculum (2021), and the approach behind the Hampshire Music Education Framework. It is not my intention to devalue the MMC, nor to simply sell you the Hampshire Framework, but to offer the perspective of somebody who believes that Key Stage 3 Music should allow students of all backgrounds and abilities to access the curriculum equally and be given fair chances to make progress.
“We expect all primary and secondary schools to embed high-quality music education either by adopting the Model Music Curriculum, or implementing a curriculum that is at least comparable in breadth and ambition.”
– p.23, ‘The power of music to change lives: A National Plan for Music Education’, June 2022.
We are in the fortunate position of having access to a rigorous, effective framework for music provision in the county. The Hampshire Framework has evolved over the years, and its very nature allows teachers to choose how best to plan and deliver the curriculum for their students, but the fundamentals remain:
The Hampshire Music Education Framework aims to ensure that all pupils acquire musical understanding. This is the outcome of creative engagement in practical activities (making music and thinking musically, in context).
The Model Music Curriculum is over 100 pages long, and the DfE collaborated with representatives from ABRSM and Music Mark, as well as a host of professionals from a variety of music industries, to put the MMC together. Having input from these worthy sources is clearly a good thing and the DfE have demonstrated admirable ambition in involving so many in its creation. However, the resulting model is not one that would be easy for any music department to directly adopt, as suggested in the quote from the National Plan at the top of the page. By looking at the sheer volume of ideas and approaches in the Key Stage 3 model, one might imagine that Music would need to be taught daily rather than weekly in order to meet expectations.
It is not just these practicalities that make this a difficult curriculum to implement. After setting out its aims at Key Stage 3 (elaborations on what is already stated in the national curriculum), the MMC outlines detailed ‘sequences of learning’ for Years 7, 8 and 9. Each year is split in to 4 areas; singing, listening, composing and performing. Within each area are examples of activities, pedagogy and repertoire, based on a range of styles and backgrounds. It is right that music departments should consider these areas when planning their curriculum, and it is very useful to have ideas on how they might be delivered at different stages.
The difficulty comes in finding a thread of incremental musical understanding through the Model Music Curriculum.
There are examples of contextual listening and a tick list of notational functions across the three years, but how do you know if a learner is making progress? What should they fundamentally understand at each stage of development? I would argue that a curriculum which is based upon musical understanding ensures that the subsequent planning of activities, pedagogy and repertoire can be tailored far more suitably to the needs of individual schools, departments and students.
Take Babethandaza, a traditional South African song of worship, for example. The MMC suggests this as a Year 9 level piece, which it absolutely can be (linking well to singing in homophonic and polyphonic textures, which it suggests earlier as a feature of Year 9 singing). This approach to planning doesn’t demonstrate how this (or any) piece of music can be used at any level of development, if sequential planning of musical understanding is in place. I use Babethandaza near the start of Year 7, as it provides a good way in to understanding how melodic patterns can be layered to create harmony, among other things. It’s not wrong to use Babethandaza in Year 9, of course, but listing it solely as a Year 9 piece is reductive. Beginning your curriculum planning with skills, pedagogy and repertoire is unnecessarily restricting, especially at a time when we need to be as flexible as possible.
“Overall, 93% of respondents said that the EBacc and/or Progress 8 had caused harm to the provision of music education, with three themes emerging: a decline in the uptake of KS4 and KS5 courses, an impact on option choices, and the devaluing of music as a subject.”
– p. 10, ‘Music: a subject in peril?’, ISM, March 2022
As the ISM reports, music is under pressure from a variety of directions. In many ways, hope can be found in the pages of the refreshed National Plan, but the Model Music Curriculum presents a narrow and restricted version of what Key Stage 3 Music could look like. The National Curriculum is designed for 100% of a cohort, not the 6%* who will go on to study it further. The Hampshire Framework is underpinned by musical understanding, designed in a way that can be engaging for students of any previous experience or ability.
The Model Music Curriculum is definitely a very useful tool to give ideas on topics, delivery and activities, but I don’t believe it is a particularly useful starting point for curriculum planning. As ever, I would love to hear your thoughts on this and whether you have taken anything particularly useful from the MMC. If you would like to read any of the materials referenced here, click on the link below.
Thanks for reading!
*percentage representing an average of students opting for Music at Key Stage 4 (Cambridge University Press & Assessment, 2019).