A Model Music Curriculum?
Cambridge Online Dictionary online
A person or thing eminently worthy of imitation;
a perfect exemplar of some excellence.
Also: a representative specimen of some quality.
Oxford English Dictionary
As an example of a curriculum that can be replicated in schools across England, the Model Music Curriculum (MMC) provides references to repertoire that might be covered across the key stages. The historical context and introductory analysis provided in the Foundation Listening Lists (Appendices 3 and 4) are helpful and certainly makes for an interesting read.
The ‘what’ you might teach of the MMC is quite clear and could prove to be helpful to many a Music Head of Department (HoD), Music Lead, teacher, or non-specialist. What appears to be missing is more of the ‘how’ you might teach the ideas and suggestions of the MMC.
The Model takes me back to my probationary NQT year (Newly Qualified Teacher). The desire to have ideas and frameworks for ‘what’ I might deliver in my new department. Having a blank page to fill and limited experience of being in the classroom flying solo, a Model is a gift! Something that you can interpret, tweak and shape to suit the various learners in your classroom.
In this respect, the guidance of the MMC has much to offer.
If I transport my thinking to year 2 of teaching, in a diverse school where Gospel Choir, Dhol Drumming, Intermediate Level Mixed Ensemble and GarageBand workshops formed much of our extra-curricular provision, I might have found the MMC less helpful. Honestly, this for me was a time of learning the value of adjusting my curriculum to appeal to my KS3 learners. The Model Music Curriculum might at that time have left me feeling limited and lacking ideas, if I were trying to apply it.
By year 10 as a secondary school HoD, the curriculum jointly devised with my team in a school where students’ interests included a lot of top 10 pop chart music, music of Black origin, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and orchestral instrumental music using skills developed in Whole Class Instrumental Teaching (WCIT) programmes during years 5 and 6, bore little resemblance to what I’m seeing in the MMC. For right, or wrong. Was ours a curriculum that inspired our learners? Yes. Was it a curriculum that developed the skills required for the ability to access the KS4 qualifications we offered (GCSE and Btec Music)? Yes. Could we have stretched the students even further, requiring them to demonstrate a higher-level knowledge of music theory? Possibly, on reflection, taking on board what I’ve learnt since and responding to the introduction of the 9-1 GCSEs. You see, this is the thing. As teachers we are always learning.
Curriculum development is a process. Learning to write an effective curriculum takes time, experience and an understanding of several factors.
A Model that provides more of the how (long, medium and short term planning), than the what, might be the ‘perfect’ appendix to the National Curriculum in music.
Missed opportunities in the MMC included a far more diverse list of Repertoire in Context, increased and meaningful suggestions for incorporating technology and increased consideration for the needs of primary non-specialists.
At KS1 and KS2, a more consistent approach would be welcomed. The welcomed inclusion of a Kodály approach at KS1 seems to then be less prevalent at KS2 in the MMC and again, I wonder how we might support those who are to deliver the broad range of singing suggestions, in developing the necessary skills to do this with confidence?
Perhaps we need a range of Models that reflect best practice in music making happening in a wider spectrum of schools across England. Let’s provide something that everyone can dip into and make use of.
The provision of short, medium and long term planning as suggestions of the ‘how’ to deliver the Model(s).
An accessible Model CPD programme to support those delivering the music curriculum. This would be very helpful for senior teams and those overseeing staff development.
With thanks to Katie Miner and Tolu Ijiti for their time is discussing the MMC and for their valuable perspectives on the delivery of Music in primary settings.