Curriculum Intent: Music at Key Stage 3


To equip all pupils with the knowledge, skills, dispositions and understandings to make music well.

To induct pupils into existing cultures of making-music as a source of creative and critical engagement.

 To enable all children to become unique individuals, subjectively enriched and able to know a sense of personal freedom, even emancipation through music made well.

By the end of Year 9 pupils will have songs, melodies, riffs, rhythms and the character-feel of much music in their heads and bodies. They will be able to recall this music at will. It will be an integral part of their learning how to make music well as shown in their technical know how, fluency, expressive control and in their musical relationships with others.

This will be achieved by introducing contextually rich music/musical material which keeps offering fresh insights and challenges. Pupils will explore unexpected pathways into deeper learning, responding with flexibility to follow new turnings.

The pupil’s music making will always reach a musically meaningful standard. When this is achieved there will be value in assessing the work.

Pupils will be able to reflect on their music making and the music making of others through talk, reading and writing about music.

They will come to understand how music functions in the world, why and how it is made, how music is used and how music is given meaning. There will be a recognition that music has ‘human interest’; social, cultural and political.

Classes will work as a community of music makers and critics where the relationship between pupil, teacher and what is being learnt creates an open musical discourse.


Some examples of practice:



Musical genre, ‘music is music is music’ and sameing

Have you noticed how the use of language changes through our ongoing discourse? I am thinking of the ways in which we talk about music and music education and the case of the term ‘genre’. It seems that classical music has become a genre, for example! I have come across this quite a lot lately.

In this case pop and rock and world music would be genres too. And we see something like this in a CD store or in the revolving focus of the Music Teacher Magazine. Large categories make for a less complicated life.

But I thought that musical genre, an idea derived from literature, was something rather more specific than this global reductive approach.

In literature we might usefully distinguish between say, the 19th century Welsh Industrial Novel, Dystopian Late 20th century fiction and Contemporary South American Magical Realism.

Once we think of genre in this way we encounter the richness of difference. And no doubt we can investigate sub-genre and even micro-genre that would take us from genre to differences in musical practice and the uniqueness of the lived experience of those who are reflected in them.

So what about the practice of 1890s Paris Organ Grinders; Contemporary Manitoban Line Dance; 12th century Notre Dame Polyphony; 2018 Chair Drumming? We can think of these as genres and practices. And thinking in this way would disturb the aculturalism [1] that comes with the sentiment that ‘music is music is music’ and the pervasive tendency towards sameing [2] that can so easily lead to reducing genre to global categories.

We need to keep an eye on the discourse that is music and music education.


I have invennted two words above.

[1] Aculturalism – conceiving of music as living outside culture, as reified.

[2] Sameing –  a process of abstracting that minimises difference.






A music education reality check

In my previous blog (scroll down), a keynote address at Newcastle University, I noted the recent expansion of sponsorship and philanthropic support of music education in our schools. Of course, I have little idea of the extent of this, only some knowledge of high-profile examples. I suggested that while such cases provide shining lights of what music in the school is capable of, this trend simply underlines and exacerbates inequalities of provision. The shining examples are ready to hand for government to point to as the way forward. Is this the way forward?

Well, it would be perverse to prohibit any form of sponsorship or philanthropic support. However, such support should stimulate some kind of reflection within the music education sector, shouldn’t it?

Understanding this trend involves understanding the fragmentation and quasi-marketisation of the education system and which is ultimately hostile to a national system of music education where there would be some semblance of ‘one equal music’.

Here I am thinking of equality of provision as an entitlement for all children and young people having access to a regular encounter with music making and thinking until the age of 14 as part of a general education. This would require attention to the education and training of new music teachers where there is currently a deficit. It would require serious attention to what the idea of a broad and balanced curriculum implies and calls for. It would require some release from a performance-based, instrumentalised education policy.

Any ideas!