Covid squeezing music out of curriculum, Ofsted report confirms

The Covid pandemic is forcing music teaching out of schools even though it is a legal requirement, a report published by Ofsted today confirms.

The report chimes with recent research by the Incorporated Society of Musicians, The Heart of the School is Missing, which highlights a crisis in music education across the UK.

The ISM research finds that most primary heads have narrowed the curriculum to prioritise English and maths; some heads are focusing on teaching music theory only for fear that working with instruments might not be safe; many primary schools are delaying music teaching until later in the year; learning has been affected by lack of access to instruments; and many key stage pupils are missing out on practical lessons because teachers are prioritising key stages 4 and 5.

“‘Ofsted have confirmed what the ISM already found in its key report The Heart of the School is Missing , that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to music education provision being reduced in England” said the ISM’s CEOI, Deborah Annetts. “Our recent research showed that opportunities for pupils to make and create music are becoming more limited, and now Ofsted have explained that this is due in part to the decision-making of some schools. 

“However, it cannot be forgotten that the Department for Education published guidance at short notice, in some cases giving schools just a few days to implement safe practices.’

The ISM report shows that 10% of primary and secondary schools are not teaching music at all, despite it being a curriculum requirement; 68% of primary and 39% of secondary teachers say music provision is being reduces; and extra-curricular activities, on which much music teaching depends, are no longer taking place in 72% of primary schools and 66% of secondary schools this year.

“The Department for Education should now be actively encouraging teaching music as part of a broad and balanced curriculum, while providing reassurance that it is safe to do so” Annetts said. “We also call on the DfE to publish the revised National Plan for Music Education without delay, otherwise less-privileged children will continue to go without and the heart of the school will be damaged for a long time to come.”

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