Academics question competence and impartiality of DfE’s ‘model curriculum’ panel

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An open letter sent on 23 January 2019 by leading academics to the Department for Education (DfE) in response to the DfE’s recent announcement of the development of a ‘model curriculum’ for music calls for transparency about the initiative. 

The 30 signatories, who include Jonathan Savage, of Manchester Metropolitan University, and Anthony Anderson, of Birmingham City University, who have both worked as specialist government advisers, also express concern that ‘the constitution of the [model curriculum] group does not hold sufficient pedagogic knowledge to successfully complete this task in a way that will make a positive difference to music education in our state-funded schools’.

The letter draws attention to the potential confusion between the ‘model curriculum’ and the current National Curriculum for Music, which was developed after extensive and expert consultation, as well as highlighting ‘obvious’ conflicts of interest within the curriculum panel.


The letter in full

To whom it may concern

We are writing this open letter to you in relation to the recent announcement from the Department for Education that a ‘model curriculum for music’ is to be prepared by an expert panel for release this summer.

You may be aware that the current National Curriculum for Music, published in 2013, was developed and consulted upon widely before it was introduced. This document underwent expert and comprehensive peer review from across the music education community before implementation, particularly benefitting from the pedagogic expertise of many teachers and those working in primary and secondary initial teacher education. It is deeply concerning that a model curriculum could be perceived as replacing the National Curriculum, thus ousting something that has been subject to a democratic process with one which has not.

To our knowledge, there is no research highlighting any issue with the National Curriculum for Music document or its content. Therefore, it is intriguing to hear that the Department for Education intends to introduce a ‘model curriculum’. We ask you to share the research demonstrating that this proposed model curriculum is necessary. We are also keen to hear about any examples you have seen where producing a model curriculum of this sort has resulted in significant improvement in educational outcomes for pupils in music.

In order to support the implementation of the current National Curriculum, the Department for Education set up an Expert Subject Advisory Group for every subject, including music. As directed, this group was ‘representative of a broad range of stakeholders from across the education sector‘, bringing together expert teachers from across the spectrum of primary, secondary and special schools with pedagogic experts from higher education; specifically, including initial teacher educators and teachers with significant experience in teaching, assessment and curriculum development. We are curious as to why none of these people have been invited to contribute to this particular project.

We also note with some concern that the Department for Education has recently appointed a new ‘independent panel of experts’ to create this model curriculum and are concerned that the constitution of the group does not hold sufficient pedagogic knowledge to successfully complete this task in a way that will make a positive difference to music education in our state-funded schools.

Finally, we have concerns about the obvious conflict of interest between panel members who work for music services or music education hubs – the very recipients of Arts Council England funding that is flowing from these initiatives, as well as others involved with Arts Council funded work. We would question their independence as well as the limitations in their pedagogical knowledge in this curriculum context. Music education in the curriculum is the responsibility of schools, not music education hubs; the expertise in this area lies with expert teachers and those working in initial teacher education and schools.

In the interests of transparency, we are writing to ask you to supply further details about the way in which the panel members were selected and the criteria applied for their appointment.

Yours sincerely

Dr Anthony Anderson
Research Assistant in Music Education, Birmingham City University (Chair of Expert Subject Advisory Group for Music 2014)

Keith Armstrong
Lecturer in Education, Teach First Music Subject Lead, UCL Institute of Education, London

Ruth Atkinson
Lecturer in Music Education, Plymouth Institute of Education, University of Plymouth

Ian Axtell
Course Director: Professional Development for Educators, Birmingham City University

Dr Rebecca Berkley
Lecturer in Music Education, Institute of Education, University of Reading

Susan Bisatt
Primary Music Tutor, Faculty of Education, Manchester Metropolitan University

Professor Tim Cain
Professor of Education, Faculty of Education, Edge Hill University

Dr Christopher Dalladay
Senior Lecturer in Music Education, The Cass School of Education and Communities, The University of East London

Dr Ally Daubney
Senior Teaching Fellow, School of Education and Social Work, University of Sussex

William Evans
Senior Lecturer in Music Education, Faculty of Education, Manchester Metropolitan University

John Finney
Former Senior Lecturer in Music Education, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Dr Marina Gall
Senior Lecturer in Education (Music), School of Education, University of Bristol

Clive Grant
Lecturer in Music Education, Institute of Education, University of Reading

Dylan Gwyer-Roberts
PGCE Secondary Programme Leader, Institute for Education, Bath Spa University

Sarah Hennessy
Honorary Fellow (Senior Lecturer 1990-2016), University of Exeter

Fiona Hunt
Primary PGCE Programme Leader and Music Lead, Institute for Education, Bath Spa University

Kate Laurence
Lecturer in Education, UCL Institute of Education, London

Kelly Davey Nicklin
PGCE Programme Leader and Subject Leader for Music, Birmingham City University

Duncan Mackrill
Senior Teaching Fellow, School of Education and Social Work, University of Sussex

Chris Philpott
Reader in Music Education, University of Greenwich

Kip Pratt
Lecturer in Music Education, Plymouth Institute of Education, University of Plymouth

Jayne Price
Head of Division, Department of Initial Teacher Education, University of Huddersfield

Susannah Robert
Senior Lecturer in Primary Education – Music and Drama, Institute of Education, St Mary’s University

Dr Hermione Ruck Keene
Associate Lecturer ITE/Music Education, University of Exeter

Dr Jonathan Savage
Reader in Education, Faculty of Education, Manchester Metropolitan University (Chair of Expert Subject Advisory Group for Music 2013)

Gary Spruce
Visiting Lecturer in Music Education, Birmingham City University

Dr Ian Shirley
Senior Lecturer in Primary Music Education, Faculty of Education, Edge Hill University

Dr Mary Stakelum
Head of Postgraduate Programmes/Director of Research, Institute for Education, Bath Spa University

David Wheway
Senior Lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University (Chair of Expert Subject Advisory Group for Music from 2015 onwards)

Vanessa Young
Senior Lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University

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