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Primaries with little or no whole-class music lessons at ks2

(63 Posts)
teachingmusicquestion Sat 06-Dec-14 19:03:06

I've just seen it suggested that there are some LEAs in which as many as 40% of schools do not make adequate provision for classroom music (I don't mean peripatetic lessons). I'm in music ed and interested in improving it.

I wondered if any teachers or parents know of such a school.

If these schools are out there, I suppose what I'm wondering is how music education has failed so many schools so badly that heads don't consider it worth while spending time on it (even though it is an obligatory statutory subject).

I appreciate that schools are only tested on a narrow range of subjects but that doesn't, for me, explain a head finding a subject so useless as to disregard it.

teachingmusicquestion Sat 06-Dec-14 19:04:09

Sorry, that should be few not little in the header <winces>

TheEnchantedForest Sat 06-Dec-14 20:18:51

our children all have 1hr of music per week in KS2 but this is because it is done by a specialist teacher during our PPA time. The children also have 40 mins singing per week in hymn practice (also PPA time).

However, it isn't hard to see why it is a subject that may be missed. Right now the Primary curriculum is extremely crowded so many subjects are getting squeezed and, in addition, there are many teachers who don't feel confident in their (music) subject knowledge so don't feel they can do the subject justice anyway.

Bonsoir Sat 06-Dec-14 20:21:17

In DD's bilingual primary school (French NC), music is taught through English (English or American teachers) and mainly consists of singing. It is BRILLIANT - two birds with one stone!

Wellthen Sat 06-Dec-14 20:58:53

I think only being tested on English and maths completely explains it. When you are set unreachable targets in 2 subjects, why would you teach anything else?

I'll be completely honest: very few primary teachers know anything about music.

Most have done either geography or history at gcse and spend time on it at uni. Its also a much bigger part of the primary curriculum as most schools use it to hang their 'topic' on.

Art is fun to teach. The kids love it and its something everyone can have a go at. Its obviously better if you understand techniques but you don't need specialist knowledge or vocab to follow plans. Lower down the school its a useful way of teaching fine motor skills. Also, very importantly of course, it makes great displays.

PE again is fun and , imho quite easy to teach. Most people know something about games although gymnastics and dance teaching can be as woeful as music teaching.

Both ict and PE will have an impact on the children's future lives and current health and wellbeing. Ditto for PSHE although as a non stat subject there are schools where this isn't taught at all.

Please dont think I am condoning this; I do believe all subjects should be taught properly and regularly. But it just isn't a priority. I don't believe music at primary school will affect their future lives.

I know this will annoy you. My specialism is RE - I think vitally important but others think completely pointless. It is often taught sporadically and badly. So I do feel your pain.

TheEnchantedForest Sat 06-Dec-14 22:10:35

IMO wellthen has explained the situation perfectly.

teachingmusicquestion Sun 07-Dec-14 09:57:21

No, not annoyed at all. This is exactly the conversation we music bods need to be having. You should be speaking at music conferences!

May I ask, are you a primary teacher and do you teach music? If RE is your specialism, perhaps you are secondary?

I'm going to paste in what you say and respond a bit:

"I think only being tested on English and maths completely explains it. When you are set unreachable targets in 2 subjects, why would you teach anything else?"
Ok, so we need to think about song-writing, about doing rhyming, scansion, about luxuriating on the curious origins of spellings, but all with a light touch, not trying to be English teachers? How can we help?

"I'll be completely honest: very few primary teachers know anything about music. "
By knowing about, this means the ability to talk about pitch, rhythm, crotchets, quavers?

"Most have done either geography or history at gcse and spend time on it at uni. Its also a much bigger part of the primary curriculum as most schools use it to hang their 'topic' on. "
Hmm, yes, hanging a topic on music.... I've seen this done and it's not that impressive(a song chosen because it is "about" the topic of the week)

"Art is fun to teach. "
Is music not? Why not?

"The kids love it and its something everyone can have a go at."
Is music not? Why not?

" Its obviously better if you understand techniques but you don't need specialist knowledge or vocab to follow plans. Lower down the school its a useful way of teaching fine motor skills. Also, very importantly of course, it makes great displays."
Again, is this a contrast to music?

"PE again is fun and , imho quite easy to teach. Most people know something about games although gymnastics and dance teaching can be as woeful as music teaching". Again, a contrast?

"Both ict and PE will have an impact on the children's future lives and current health and wellbeing."
Hmm,whereas music as taught in schools doesn't seem as though it will?

" But it just isn't a priority. I don't believe music at primary school will affect their future lives." And presumably advocacy about Mozart Effects and The Entertainment Industry isn't helping to convince anyone.....:;

"I know this will annoy you. My specialism is RE - I think vitally important but others think completely pointless. It is often taught sporadically and badly. So I do feel your pain." Yes I have noticed that about RE.

18yearstooold Sun 07-Dec-14 10:34:19

The school my dd goes to has junior and senior choir, orchestra and free individual lessons, including free instrument hire

But I've never known them have a whole class music lesson

They have singing assembly of 1 hour every week but its not something that is done in class time

1 hour of maths a day + 1 hour of English does not leave a lot of time for science, history, geography,ICT, pe, art, re, foreign language or music

Wellthen Sun 07-Dec-14 10:37:47

I am primary and I don't teach music but have in the past.

Not knowing anything about - yes the terminology, what 'proper' instruments are called and how to play the more primary instruments (tambours, glocks, drums, bells) - my partner is a percussionist (not professionally but he has grade 8) and can get an amazing array of sounds out of almost anything! I can't which I think makes practical teaching dull.

In practice this lack of knowledge and interest means teachers look at a learning objectve and go 'what does this mean?' - schools that teach good music often teach a scheme that talks the teacher through step by step. Most classes have kids that are learning an instrument. Its embarrassing for teachers when their kids know the terms better than they do so they shy away from them.

The kids love music when they get to play and perform. Everyone can have a go although the performance element means some are very reluctant. More use needs to be made of recording so they aren't having to stand up in front with everyone watching.

When they aren't playing, they think its dull.

A minority of people have danced, sung or played an instrument in their lives. By comparison I think many have done some form of sport/exercise. PE therefore is much more within a non-specialists grasp. The children usually aren't as good as the teacher as they lack the coordination. With music the children are often much better! How do you extend them?

Ultimately a lot of this could be solved by teachers taking time to revise a little knowledge, read a plan carefully and give it a go. But as I said, many think its pointless, it isn't a priority and it doesn't interest them.

Think of it like this: grammar is dull. Its difficult and many teachers were never taught it. Few adults could explain a gerund, adverbial phrase or dependent clause. And yet primary teachers are pulling out their grammar books and revising. They are finding fun new ways of teaching it and in same cases, actually enjoying it! Because we HAVE to.

However, the curriculum could be improved. Playing and composing is great. my favourite lessons to teach are 'stomp' style where there is no right or wrong and the kids can make any way they like. They learn about rests and crochet and quavers. But how do you teach melody? Is this too advanced for primary? Percussion every year becomes boring.

We also need analysis and imitation of modern songs. The only ones I can find are of old classical music. This is important to study but the kids find it boring. But how does a non specialist analyse a one direction song? So we're left with the same old stuff.

AsBrightAsAJewel Sun 07-Dec-14 10:39:25

Thinking back a few years we had a set time budget per subject. Five hours per week English, two hours science, one hour RE, etc. The total number of hours came to well above the number of hours children were in school. Each week something had to give, no matter how creative we were with timetable and curriculum planning. Each week we dropped a different subject from RE, PSHE, music or French.

I get the emphasis on English and maths, surely they are the core subjects for a reason and to miss out on basic English and maths skills for a music lesson is worrying. With the concern abut the number of children leaving school with inadequate standards of English and maths surely no one can begrudge the priority placed on those subjects?

I assume you are a secondary school teacher? Primary teachers are expected to be master of all trades, plus all the pastoral and social aspects of the job. Yes, in an ideal world we would be music experts, but it is the same frustration every subject leader and every local authority subject advisor feels; desperately trying to boost their subjects. We, as teachers, come out of staff meetings and training sessions pulled in all directions with each leader wanting their subject to have priority.

I agree children have a right to high quality lessons in all subjects, including music. Maybe if the government put money into, like they have with PE, it would solve the problem.

To respond to some of your comments about other subjects:
PE there is a national expectation to teacher at least two hours PE a week. Not so in music, so why not champion that with the government?
Art can also be seen as improving fine motor skills to improve handwriting, plus it can be tied very closely to the topic being covered. E.g. much of my history and geography are very closely linked and thus extend the learning in that area.
ICT its place in the curriculum is vital to the future employability of children and again has very close links to other subjects, e.g. researching in science, history, maths activities, writing and redrafting writing.
RE have you seen the emphasis on preparing children for life in multi cultural Britain, the governments expectation to look at religion, school's role in preventing radicalisation?

Please don't think I'm anti-music. I love teaching the subject, I am just trying to explain why it can so easily become the poor relation. It is not just teacher skill, it is time and finances that impact on its profile in schools, to avoid the damming of all primary school teachers!

BetweenTwoLungs Sun 07-Dec-14 10:57:24

Because the amount I'm supposed to teach does not fit in my timetable. At all. It just doesn't fit, no matter which way I try to organise it. Something has to give! I'm rubbish at teaching music anyway, and so the kids don't enjoy it because I don't know anything about it and can't stretch them.

Luckily for my kids, they have 50mins music with a specialist teacher for my PPA. However, those that aren't musical still hate it and I know he has a lot of behavioural issues to contend with through lack of motivation.

I teach Y6. I think you either are musical or you're not. I don't have a musical bone in my body and no amount of teaching would change that. Not knowing these things has not impacted on my life at all. I feel the same for some kids, and those that are talented can get lessons in an instrument or whatever and those that are not can avoid wasting their time.

I quite like the schemes where a whole year group plays an instrument for a year, because you could identify some skilled children who have gone under the radar or can't afford lessons and provide opportunities for this. However these schemes are expensive and we don't have the money, to be honest.

spanieleyes Sun 07-Dec-14 11:06:58

I quite like the schemes where a whole year group plays an instrument for a year, because you could identify some skilled children who have gone under the radar or can't afford lessons and provide opportunities for this. However these schemes are expensive and we don't have the money, to be honest.

We do. In KS2 each child studies a different instrument for a year so, over the four years in total they have learnt percussion ( world music), brass ( either french horn, trumpet or trombone, ) strings ( currently ukelele but previously violin) and woodwind ( clarinet, flute and saxaphone) for 45 minutes a week. We also offer private lessons in piano, saxaphone, violin ( free to pupils on pupil premium) and a quarter of our children have these lessons. This is in a relatively deprived rural area. Music is a priority in our school.

teachingmusicquestion Sun 07-Dec-14 11:24:28

No-one sounds anti-music. This is just brilliant stuff.
Would love to hear more unvarnished truths.

I think changing the music curriculum seems a better way forward than just competing with other subjects.

Between, for what it's worth, is there any music you like/prefer to other music?

Thatssofunny Sun 07-Dec-14 12:14:28

I have to admit, I haven't taught much music this year. I teach Year 6. I tried to keep up with at least an hour a week in the first term and it worked ok. This second term is full of Christmas stuff and I don't get enough core teaching time in as it is. That said, my class will be doing whole-class music for 1 1/2 hours per week for the next two terms, taught by a specialist music teacher, while I stay in the room. They will get their music lessons, but there is simply so much else to cover and so little time.
I teach in one of the lowest performing LEAs in the country, so my focus is and will remain with the core subjects. However, I try to balance out some of the pressure on my class and I have done the best I can to protect their afternoons. For the past two terms, they've done Art one afternoon a week. This will switch over to Music after Christmas.

When I have taught music myself, I have generally used and adapted planning and resources from friends, who are music specialists at KS3/4 or lead music at secondary level. We've got a primary music scheme we are meant to use, apparently aimed at the non-specialist. It's one of the most dull and incomprehensible resources I have ever come across. I'd rather do my own. Mine have covered classical music and the orchestra, studied the history of music and its value during the first and second world war, done quite a bit of singing as a class and when it came to composition, they used our iPads and the music apps I had asked for. (We don't really have many instruments.)
They will go into secondary school with a relatively broad general knowledge in music. They will not, however, have much awareness of notation and technical music vocabulary. I leave that to their KS3 teachers. grin

teachingmusicquestion Sun 07-Dec-14 12:37:38

James Rhodes the pianists did a high profile campaign recently called Don't Stop the Music.
He has followed that up by campaigning for a rule that a school can't be considered outstanding unless it gets at least a "good" in music. Something tells me not many people on this thread feel that's the way to go.

teachingmusicquestion Sun 07-Dec-14 12:38:23

We've got a primary music scheme we are meant to use, apparently aimed at the non-specialist. It's one of the most dull and incomprehensible resources I have ever come across.

LOL.

beautifulgirls Sun 07-Dec-14 12:56:53

Until 2 years ago DD2s Junior school (so only KS2) didn't do any music other than "singing assembly". A parent started to volunteer with music in the school and finally talked the school around to having a better attitude to music. She is now employed by the school part time to teach music and is making a very positive impact with her efforts. She is one of the few teachers there who is motivated and enthusiastic about her work though. It is clear some children really enjoy the music on offer. I think however as with so many things the attitude of the children is very much led by the way it is presented to them. Get the right person doing the job and the children will enjoy their work for the most part.

I think leaving music at KS2 would be a big mistake - so much young talent could be overlooked and starting early is the key to a bright future for those who may have a musical career ahead of them. Yes, I know that core subjects are really pushed these days and time is tight, but school can be a very dull place without the mix of other subjects. Balance this right and it will help to improve the concentration in the core subjects too.

debjud Sun 07-Dec-14 12:59:27

One of the main problems is that there is no primary music specialist qualification, so musicians who would like to teach at primary, are put off. The route into primary music teaching for a specialist would be either: a) qualifying as a secondary music teacher and then convincing a primary that you can do the job or b) qualifying as a primary teacher teaching the whole curriculum and then at some point applying for a music only job. A post-grad route for primary would mean more musicians in primary schools I think.

A lot of people doing music degrees are 'musos' - ie. they're not really interested in the rest of the curriculum - music is their passion.

debjud Sun 07-Dec-14 13:01:43

I mean a post-grad primary music only

JennyBlueWren Sun 07-Dec-14 13:38:30

One of the (many) things picked up on at our recent inspection was that there were few classes who had music on their weekly timetables. I've always found music the hardest area for me to teach as I have little knowledge and no skill in this area.

teachingmusicquestion Sun 07-Dec-14 14:29:19

debjud, that is a really interesting idea.

jenny, so what do you end up doing in music? I confess I shudder at the idea of teaching art or pottery so I feel your pain.

Ferguson Sun 07-Dec-14 16:06:07

As a TA in primary, I ran a lunchtime recorder club, from Yr2 onwards, for ones who wanted to continue.

Twenty-five years ago when I started as a 'parent helper' I had an after school keyboard club for Yr6. Children brought their own keyboards in, and I encouraged VERY simple improvisation, and also used a primitive MIDI sequencer. Occasionally we hooked a keyboard up to the school's Clavinova.

(to be continued . . .)

Ionacat Sun 07-Dec-14 16:22:22

A lot depends on the attitude of the head, if they are keen then it really does make a difference. We offer FREE projects to schools where they can learn an instrument (whole class) for 2 terms in year 3 or 4 and although most primaries take us up on this, there are still a number that aren't interested.
Lack of resources and rooms are also another issue, pens, pencils, paint and paper come cheap. Musical instruments are very expensive. The subject is not a cheap one to run and playing instruments in class can be very distracting for the class next door.
Subject knowledge among primary teachers is an issue as well and quality of provision. I'm not sure there is an inspiring scheme of work for non-specialist primary teachers, music express is not what I call inspiring. Singing and if taught well can be a great introduction to music and to be honest not enough is made of it. Quality singing an hour a week is probably much more beneficial that some of the so called music lessons that go on. If taught by specialists you can then link to other areas of music e.g. notation, context etc.
There is this issue that you are either musical or not, I beg to differ. Having taught secondary music for a significant period, there are lots of pupils who won't go onto to study music but have benefited in a number of ways. Teaching piano now, I have some that are definitely musical others that really aren't but enjoy making music, and others somewhere in between.

Ferguson Sun 07-Dec-14 17:21:45

(sorry about that - a break for coffee, and £10 Sainsbury's cake reduced to £2.49 ! )

When computers first started to come into primary schools, most teachers were terrified of them; even today, though I am now retired, I'm not sure if full and proper use of 'tech' is achieved in all schools.

Music is another 'mysterious' subject to many people. It is also ironic, that although there is now so much music everywhere (TOO much, and a large proportion rubbish) that so many people consider it beyond their knowledge and ability to become involved in it.

As a teenager, in the '50s, I played piano 'by ear' but refused mother's entreaty to have lessons (the 'dots' looked just too daunting!) but my younger sister and brother did piano and violin; sister was in the Ernest Read junior orchestra. At 16 I bought a trumpet and tutor book, but only mastered the basics. During National Service in the RAF, I did get into the station band; they were that desperate. However, I knew nothing about repeat signs, first and second time bars, sign and coda, etc. So, playing from the little music card clipped to the top of my cornet, I ran out of music, while everyone else kept going. I was too shy to ask why, and just busked along a bit.

I hope you might have seen the Channel 4 'Don't Stop the Music', site here:

www.dontstopthemusic.co.uk/

teachingmusicquestion Sun 07-Dec-14 17:32:15

Thanks Ferguson, every school needs someone like you x. I think you've hit the nail on the head whe you say that:

"Music is another 'mysterious' subject to many people. It is also ironic, that although there is now so much music everywhere (TOO much, and a large proportion rubbish) that so many people consider it beyond their knowledge and ability to become involved in it."

Absolutely.

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