Thursday, October 6, 2011

Developments over 2011

Shape of the Australian Curriculum: The Arts

Successful discussions have occurred with representatives from the Victorian government regarding a developmental action plan for the future development of music education in schools around the framework of the National Curriculum.

sMAG will be looking forward to opportunities to work further with the Victorian Government in addressing the requirements that all children should experience music as a stand alone subject within the five Arts as outlined in the draft document of the ‘Shape of the Australian Curriculum: The Arts’.

Most Australian States and Territories will be seriously challenged in addressing the deficit in the present provision and quality of music education in primary and secondary schools due to a long history of gradual privatization of the industry leading to a significant lack of equity, where country Australia is particularly marginalized.

sMAG would like to continue to offer the professional knowledge and support to the VCAA in the formation of future policies and offer our thoughts and recommendations on the following discussion points. In addressing these three points we have listed relevant references (in the side bar of this blog – just click to read the full documents) that have informed our understanding of the issues relating to the provision and quality of music education in schools.

1. Provision and quality

2. Curriculum and programs

3. Teacher provision / pre-service and in-service professional education / registration

We are encouraged by the reception from the Victorian Government with regard to the research listed here on the sMAG blog and hope that future discussions can be empowered with the focus on the valuable work already being achieved in some schools. We are hopeful that an advisory board will be established over the coming months to work effectively with government.


The development of a strategic action plan for the future development of music education in schools and the community for the implementation of the National Curriculum

Presented by the Victorian Music Action Group (sMAG)

Essential Elements that need to be addressed in the delivery of the National Curriculum

1. Arts are not mainstreamed in education at this time.

2. The new National Curriculum for the arts will be requiring schools to offer the five arts forms. This will present an enormous challenge for each of the States due to the lack of trained teachers in all the five areas to deliver the curriculum. The balance of time allocated to each of the art forms will also be a challenge for schools. For an effective music education, there is a need for it to be continuous, sequential, and developmental and this is particularly important for students in lower primary levels

3. Presently in Victoria there is a gross inequity in the percentage of schools that offer a continuous, sequential and developmental music education (as recommended by the National Review of School Music Education (1995)). Research suggests that 80% of independent schools have such programs compared to 23% of government schools. It is believed that Catholic schools are on a par with government schools

4. In Victoria, secondary level music education is delivered by specialist music teachers. Some primary schools also employ a specialist music teacher. However, the majority of primary schools rely on the generalist classroom teacher to deliver music instruction and for most of the other art forms

5. Victorian regional and country schools are seriously marginalized when it comes to music education. Recent statistics on music education provision in primary schools in country Victoria suggests that the provision and quality of music education continues to decline. The statistics show that a large percentage of country primary schools (40%) do not have music at all, principally government schools, with most schools only offering a token program

Providing all children with a broad music education, which includes performing, composing, listening, reviewing and evaluating.

6. The acknowledged best model for Music Education includes a combination of classroom teaching, instrumental and vocal music tuition and performance, input from professional musicians, and partnerships between community and professional music companies.

7. A performance based music curriculum requires a continuous, sequential, and developmental program as no other art form does, perhaps even dance

8. Music educators strongly believe participation in choral and instrumental ensembles as fundamental to the individual’s music skill development at all levels. This in turn results in the future quality level of ensembles, orchestras and choirs – and the hope of quality outcomes for year 12 music studies which, in Victoria is a component of the VCE course design

9. Singing is an important part of every child’s school life from early years through to the end of secondary schooling. U.K have ‘Sing-up”, (a song bank and web-site). A similar program could be make possible through the new National Broadband and made available to schools to use on an on-going basis

10. The inclusion of aural development, composition, reviewing, listening, analyzing, and music technology are essential components of a quality music education

11. Offering children the opportunity to learn an instrument, through class instruction should be introduced in primary schools, with musical pathways created for students to progress to more challenging ensembles and develop high-level skills

12. Victoria should continue to provide and prioritise its most highly valued Regionally provided instrumental music program in government secondary schools. As the present funding of this service does in no way meet demand, there needs to be an increment in the number of teachers provided to each region

13. We need to ensure there are pathways for the musically gifted and talented by the re-establishment of Music Specialist Schools throughout its Regions to accommodate their needs at their various levels of development. This model was initially established in the 1970s and a small number of the original designated schools are still providing excellent music training to our students, many of who go onto to become music teachers in schools and professional performers. We advocate that more of these schools should be created in each of the Regions and be provided with instrumental teachers to service the immediate area with instrumental lessons and ensembles. These schools could also act as area hubs for the provision of professional development for teachers, and consultancy

14. Music education in schools and out of school should continue to be funded through a mixed economic model

15. There is an urgent need for the appointment of someone in the government sector who can represent the Education Department in relation to music education. This person could not only facilitate the implementation of the music curriculum to be developed by ACARA, but also undertake a liaison role with the independent and Catholic school sectors and coordinate community music providers such as the MSO

16. Victoria establishes a School Music Advisory Group who can support a music curriculum officer and more broadly the Education Department with expert advice as required.

Teacher education

17. We need an over-hall of existing pre-service training for arts and music education must be a priority.

18. The consideration of other modes of delivery such as the system operating in Hong Kong model needs investigation.

19. There is a serious need for the training of a music leadership team to provide on-going training to music teachers in schools.

20. For a generalist teacher to deliver the National curriculum, and a continuous, sequential and developmental music curriculum, there would need to be a substantial increase in time given to the music in pre-service undergraduate courses. Research shows that the time allocated at the present time ranges from zero to the average of 17 hours of a four-year course.

21. There is no doubt that in order to deliver a quality music curriculum we need specialist music teachers in our schools. In Queensland 87% of primary schools have specialist music teachers. Handing music education to generalists has been given decades to work, and whatever its theoretical merits, it has failed in all states. Most generalist classroom teachers in Victoria do not have the skills and confidence to implement a National Music Curriculum. The notion of using generalist teachers to deliver the curriculum is a weak and poor fallback position.

22. Recent research shows that nothing much is happening in most classes where the generalist teacher is left to take responsibility for the music curriculum. A recent study showed that over seven years about 60% of students did not have any music instruction from their generalist teachers with the remainder having music instruction for only 1 or 2 years. Seventy five per cent of students had never had instruction from a specialist music teacher. Less than one in four has ever sung at their primary or lower secondary schools with the singing experience of most students limited to the singing of The National Anthem.

23. In order to up-skill the music teacher force in Victoria, we recommend the following: -

(i) There be a significant increase in the time allocated to music education in Victorian Universities

(ii) That the VIT have a special provision for music teachers applying for ‘Permission to Teach’ to cover the shortfall in the training and availability of music teachers in the State in line with this provision for language teachers

(iii) That competence to teach music or one or more of the Arts be a requisite for VIT registration.

(iv) That Victorian Universities significantly increase their provision of pre-service primary music education programs country Universities in line with research showing that country trained music teachers predominately preferred country appointments

(v) The provision of short courses for the generalist primary teacher with a music background as a beginning place, with a view to proceeding towards providing specialists to create a Prep - 12 continuum of sequential learning

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