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Parents want more than exam results for their children, says new survey

Over three quarters of parents think the current school exam system needs to be more dynamic and innovative to account for each child’s way of learning, according to a new survey by Rocksteady Music School.

Over three quarters of parents think the current school exam system needs to be more dynamic and innovative to account for each child’s way of learning, according to a new survey by Rocksteady Music School.

The research by 4Media was commissioned last month from over 1000 parents across the UK and comes as Rocksteady and Trinity College London roll out their new Ofqual regulated music qualifications for primary school students.

The survey results suggest that 78% of parents have altered their perspective on schooling and assessment with 65% concerned about the mental impact of exam pressure on their children.

The profound and often destabilising effect on children’s learning and assessment during the pandemic has made many parents question the balance of exam-based and life-based learning It also showed that over 90% of parents believed studying and experiencing music in schools had a positive impact on a child’s confidence, happiness and well-being.

Yet music teaching at GCSE and A Level is in decline across the country and UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin warned in the summer that, without urgent support, music departments could vanish from schools within a decade. 

Rocksteady is the largest independent music school for 4-11-year-olds in the UK. It commissioned the survey as part of its on-going work with Trinity College London to create a new and flexible assessment system for the many thousands of young musicians who do not fit the traditional learning and examining system.

The new Ofqual regulated qualification they have developed together assesses progress and performance throughout the lesson system, unlocking the qualification once a threshold of different skills is achieved, rather than pinning one’s hopes on a single exam.

‘For some children, the pressure surrounding traditional exams can be a significant barrier to both learning and enjoyment,’ said Rocksteady’s founder, Mark Robinson. ‘Our new and progressive method, awarded by Trinity College London, allows more children to gain a qualification in music. It opens up music to a new generation of children who can enjoy learning and developing without the fear of failure.’

This fear, the research says, leads about a third of children to have a negative first experience of trying to play, saying music lessons neither fun nor inclusive. Rocksteady and Trinity believes this can change, increasing the number of young people playing an instrument without lowering standards.

Nik Preston, the Group Director at Trinity College London, added, ‘With the advancements of modern music education in a band setting continuing at pace, and with forward-thinking, accessible providers such as Rocksteady ensuring increased opportunity across a diverse section of the schools’ sector, Trinity is delighted to have developed this new qualification designed to support inclusive, group-based learning and skills development.’

Since it launched in 2007, Rocksteady has offered hundreds of thousands of free music experiences to primary school children and provided its 30-minute music lessons to tens of thousands of school students every week. It gives one free bursary to a child in every school as well as supporting thousands of disadvantaged children and refugees.