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Ofsted Webinar - Mark Phillips National Lead for Music

Blog Post - Mark Phillips OFSTED - London and National Lead for Music

Dear All,

This is a blog post related to a Music Mark webinar I attended at which Mark Phillips, national OFSTED lead for music presented. The webinar took place last Thursday, 14 January 2021.

His main focus areas were on the curriculum and related to the new OFSTED framework as well as online teaching. There are a number of important points which would be useful to share with everyone.

I have included his key ideas and statements as follows:

  1. Acknowledgements

  • A '‘big thank you’' to all music practitioners….’'your creativity and commitment are stunning. Throughout lockdown you have engaged, entertained and raised spirits.’'

  • Teachers of music across the country must be feeling proud in terms of their students who have moved onto making music in the community and the generosity they have shown with fantastic free lessons and online performances.

2. Music Curriculum

  • In these very difficult times, as music educators, we must all continue to collaborate, following the guidance and ‘'hold firm to the principles for a good music education’'.

  • ‘'Music as you remember it will return, so we must not lose our commitment and passion and be ready for this return’'.

  • The OFSTED education framework is very clear; all students in maintained schools, academies and free schools must receive a curriculum offer that is broad and has ambition.

  • Inspectors will be alert to a narrowing of curriculum, including a short KS3 curriculum.

  • N.C. requirements are for music to be studied from KS1 to the end of KS3 (Year 9)

How to advocate this:

  • Colleagues should be careful not to overly focus on reinforcing the message that music has many benefits within the curriculum (e.g. developing self confidence, a sense of discipline, good listening and aural skills, communication, team work, supporting academic performance in other subjects etc.) as other foundation subjects: drama, PE, Art to name a few - can also make similar claims.

  • The most important reason for having music on the curriculum is '‘Music for Music’'. ‘'Providing quality opportunities for children to master sound and manipulate sound is of the highest importance above all else’'.

  • It is therefore important to ensure a good curriculum that builds knowledge and skills incrementally. The opportunity to be musical is a ‘'unique dimension in one’s life’'.

3. Curriculum Planning Linked to ‘Intent’

  • ‘'A planned curriculum must be extremely well sequenced with skills and knowledge being developed and built on’'.

  • Care needs to be taken when thinking through the National Curriculum as the statements are based around activities rather than progression. Simply ‘'doing composition, performing, notation’' etc is not interpreting the statements of curriculum intent and ‘'will not lead to a good musical education’'.

Below are the NC statements for KS2:

Play and perform in solo and ensemble contexts, using voices and playing musical instruments with increasing accuracy, fluency, control and expression

Listen with attention to detail and recall sounds with increasing aural memory

Develop an understanding of the history of music

  • It is important to incrementally build skills in these areas (shown above in bold) to ensure progress from Year 3 - Year 6. Again stating that this is the curriculum intent.

  • Teachers/subject co-ordinators need to understand how to plan each step in order for students to achieve strong musical outcomes.

  • Students require a clear understanding of each NC component, and this needs to build incrementally if they are to be successful in Year 7. These areas of performing, composing, listening and appraising run in parallel to the musical dimensions.

‘'Incremental sequencing is at the heart of a strong curriculum.’'

For NC KS3, highlighting the statements below:


  • Play and perform confidently in a range of solo and ensemble contexts using their voice, playing instruments musically, fluently and with accuracy and expression

  • Identify and use the interrelated dimensions of music expressively and with increasing sophistication, including use of tonalities, different types of scales and other musical ideas

  • Listen with increasing discrimination to a wider range of music from great composters and musicians

  • Develop a deepening understanding of the music that they perform and to which they listen, and it’s history

  • The key words here when thinking about progression are ‘fluency’, ‘accuracy’ expression’, sophistication, ‘discrimination’ and ‘deepening’.

  • Teachers should reflect carefully on how they are planning their curriculum to progress these areas in terms of skills and understanding. There can sometimes be a danger of just covering a range of activities rather than building and developing skills and knowledge.

  • There is a danger that each key stage can become a ‘string’ of topics/subjects/styles rather than a progression of skills, knowledge and musical understanding.

  • When OFSTED look at subject curriculum overviews (on a school website), these may appear to be covering the NC, however, raises many questions for OFSTED inspectors.

  • E.g. Singing might be a focus for a Year 7 unit of work but how is this then being developed/progressed at other points in the KS3 curriculum? There may of course be an additional focus on melody writing or functional harmony, so how are these areas of knowledge/musical understanding also progressed at different points in the curriculum as they are revisited.

  • Sometimes genres such as Rock ’n’ Roll appear in Year 9 - is this appropriate e.g. if the focus is harmony and the learning centres around ‘3 chords’?

  • When advancing skills in notation, is this appropriate for a Blues Unit of work (a genre where there is a strong aural music tradition)?

  • OFSTED deep dives take place to observe, ask questions and listen to examples of work. To see how effectively a curriculum is sequenced and how skills and knowledge are incrementally advanced across a Key Stage/Key Stages.

4. Remote Education


  • Remote Education is another way of delivering the curriculum i.e. the curriculum you would deliver in school.

  • Keep it simple, focus on the basics and make sure the learning is aligned to your curriculum.

  • The online teaching still needs to be a carefully sequenced curriculum and goals need to be explicit.

  • Think of the possibilities of keeping music making as practical as possible: considering singing, percussion, use of music technology and listening within this.

  • When students are back in school, focus on the areas that have been missed (according to your curriculum).

  • A final message: knowledge about music is not as important as musical knowledge e.g. knowledge about harmony - scales/chords/tonality also relate to playing an instrument. Knowledge and skills being the same.

E.g. playing a C major scale requires skills to perform with accuracy on an instrument, though also musical knowledge about where the notes are, how many notes there are in a scale etc.


I am sure that these messages are ones that really resonate with you, though it is important to keep reminding ourselves of the key principles and framework of a strong curriculum.

Please refer to the Resources button on the Blog and the Secondary Curriculum Resources. In the Resources area are the key documents Kevin Rogers developed in collaboration with teachers in Hampshire that form the Hampshire Framework for a challenging and ambitious curriculum. There is key thinking here about planning for progression and age related expectations and detail about the planning process linked to musical understanding with documents and templates to support this.

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