Policy and assessment in lower secondary school music education – Don’t do what the English have!

The policy context of secondary school music education in England is in the process of shifting. This presentation explores the policy background to these changes, viewed through the particular lens of assessment. From a policy perspective, the legislature, in this case the UK government, passes acts of parliament and other legal instruments which are then enacted by schools, but policed by the nonministerial governmental arm of Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education).

In 2014 Ofsted wrote to all schools in England, saying that they would be looking at pupil work in order to determine what progress they are making. To address this, many schools are therefore continuing to teach music (and other subjects) according to National Curriculum requirements, even though there is no legal requirement for them so to do, as schools feel that what this Ofsted utterance has done is to focus school attention away from attainment, and onto progress instead. Clearly, the two are linked, but by concentrating on progress what Ofsted are signalling is that they are concerned with the speed at which attainment takes place, rather than just noting that it has taken place.

This paper questions the role of policy makers, and asks where policy-making rests in England, with the legislature, or with Ofsted – the judiciary and police rolled into one. It recommends that international music education does not follow the lead that England has taken in this regard! Professor Martin Fautley is director of research in the school of education and social work at Birmingham City University. He has a wealth of experience in music education, both in terms of pedagogy, and of music education research. After enjoying many years as a classroom music teacher, he then undertook full-time Doctoral research working across the education and music faculties at Cambridge University, investigating teaching, learning, and assessment of classroom music making, with a focus on composing as a classroom activity. He is widely known for his work on researching assessment in the classroom, but also researches understandings of musical learning and progression (especially in the novice stages), composing, and creativity.

He regularly undertakes research and evaluation projects in the field of music education. Professor Fautley is the author of eight books, including “Assessment in Music Education”, published by Oxford University Press. He has written and published over fifty journal articles, book chapters, and academic research papers on a range of aspects of teaching and learning, and regularly presents the fruits of his researches at international conferences. He is co-editor of the British Journal of Music Education. Click here to Register.