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Thank you for the Music

All subjects need to be taught equally and with passion even if it isn’t ‘your’ subject. Cate Knight explores how music needs to be promoted in all schools.

Working as a supply teacher is an eye opener. I get to see first hand the disparity in approaches in British schools. One thing that has shocked me is the provision of Arts curriculum in primary schools.
I am aware that, for many primaries, it is very difficult to find someone confident in taking on this remit. Music, especially, is a tricky subject to teach as a non specialist but I have seen some beautifully creative ways of balancing this.

  • Bought in music programs of curriculum. Whilst these aren’t perfect they do offer a breadth of subject and most address the fundamentals of music theory, composition, performance and listening.
  • Well subscribed and subsidised peripatetic instrumental tuition. This makes the teaching of curriculum music so much easier as you have learners who are already getting to grips with the elements of music.
  • Enthusiastic amateurs!! YES! This IS so much better than nothing! Music is about joy, engagement and passion. Watching an adult demonstrate this at an early age instils an affinity with music that will see learners through until they meet a specialist.

The worst kind of schools are the ones where music is a drudgery or so scarce that learners don’t even recognise it as a subject.

  • Just singing. Yes, singing is marvellous. It can be incredibly versatile if thought out well. If it is just a case of singing a quick song in each lesson as your “nod” to a music curriculum then you are possibly doing more harm than good. You are reducing a complex and magnificent subject area to a “plenary”.
  • Over using keyboards and ICT. It is amazing that some schools have access to music software. It is wonderful that learners get an opportunity to learn using technology. Boredom thresholds will be met very quickly if music isn’t heard, physically created and shared at some point. It is hard to replicate something electronically when your understanding of it has had no practical application.
  • Bored/Indifferent non specialists. Sad to say it but there are those teachers in existence that believe their first subject is far superior to any other. Never mind that learners should receive “broad and balanced” curriculum. They see music as a waste of time and an impediment to timetabling that could be done without. This apathy, or even antipathy, towards an Arts subject will kill enthusiasm and motivation in a young learner!

In short, you wouldn’t leave learners in English reading the same poem over and over for a whole year. You wouldn’t give them a maths teacher who loathes maths.
You are the first point of passion for some learners. Be brave! Ask people for help (ask me if you like!)! TRY and find a solution and MOST importantly, inject LOVE and enthusiasm into the teaching of this super special subject! When you do you will see such heartwarming results it will make it all worth it!
To all those schools, nurturing music and doing their utmost to include it and promote it’s importance, I say….
Thank you for the music!”

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The author

Cate has been a teacher for 20 years. She has worked internationally and across all key stages in the UK. Her secondary specialism is Performing Arts with a keen interest in PSHE/RSE. Cate is recently married with two cats who keep her busy and an allotment that requires more time than she can give it!

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