Striking the Right Note: The Ofsted Music Subject Report

Music education plays a crucial role in shaping the artistic and cognitive development of our youth. It extends beyond playing notes or singing in tune; it fosters a lifelong appreciation for musical expression, cultivates teamwork and provides enrichment while instilling a sense of dedication. Music also helps to build confidence and self-esteem and is known to have a calming effect, reducing stress and anxiety. As a previous Music co-ordinator myself, and someone who focused at university on the impact and benefits Music can have on pupils in school, I've seen first-hand what an essential aspect of the curriculum Music truly is.

The recent Ofsted subject report on the quality of Music has generated quite a buzz, shedding light on the state of Music in schools across the UK and raising critical questions about its effectiveness and accessibility. As a school leader or Music co-ordinator subject leader or department lead, you'll want to have a good understanding of the findings from this report, so what do you need to know?

The three pillars of progression

You’re likely to have already come across the three pillars of progression in Music that are discussed in the report, but as a reminder, these pillars interrelate and can support you in structuring your curriculum to produce high-quality musical outcomes:​

  • Technical – the accurate physical production of sounds and the ability to use staff notation and other systems for the communication of Music.
  • Constructive – the knowledge and understanding of the musical elements in performance, composition and listening, and the components of composition.
  • Expressive – the consideration of musical quality in performance, composition and listening, and the knowledge of musical meaning and culture through history and across the world.

    It's worth Music subject leaders and leaders with responsibility for the curriculum to consider how these are woven through planning, teaching and assessment.


    What are the key findings from Ofsted's Music subject report?

    • Music teaching is too variable in quality and often not given enough time.​
    • The weakest aspect of the curriculum is composition in many schools with the focus on covering activities rather than making sure content is learned to a high standard. ​
    • Few schools had considered the underpinning knowledge or development of skills pupils need to learn how to construct and deconstruct music.​
    • Leaders know some staff don't have the confidence or knowledge to teach aspects of the Music curriculum well but lack a training plan for professional development.​
    • There's disparity in the range and quality of extra-curricular opportunities with many schools still in the process of re-establishing the provision they had previously offered.

     Do any of these statements feel familiar?

    Sometimes, doing some quality assurance on your current curriculum offer to spot areas for improvement can be a really beneficial process, particularly when key findings like these appear from nationwide research. If you're considering this, conducting an internal deep dive can be extremely useful and our Music Deep Dive and Subject Knowledge Audit Bundle supports that process from start to finish.

    Music Deep Dive and Subject Knowledge Bundle by Honeyguide School Leader Support

    What do Ofsted recommend to make improvements in Music?

    • Ensure pupils have enough curriculum time to develop their musical knowledge and skills incrementally.​
    • Check the curriculum identifies precise endpoints in performance, composition and listening work.​
    • Ensure the curriculum builds pupils’ knowledge of the technical and constructive aspects of music.​
    • Provide ongoing feedback to pupils that improves the quality of their music-making.
    • Model what high-quality musical responses sound like, and the processes for achieving those outcomes.​​
    • Seek the support of expertise when developing and improving the curriculum.​
    • Design a curriculum that deliberately and incrementally teaches all pupils to become more musical.​
    • Develop teachers’ subject knowledge and build their confidence in teaching all aspects of the Music curriculum.
    • Offer extra-curricular activities and instrumental and vocal lessons to support the development of pupil musical talents and interests.​

    How can Honeyguide help you to develop your Music offer?

    While we can’t plan your curriculum for you, we have created several supportive guidance packs to help you on your curriculum journey.

    Initial Information Exploration - New to leading music in a school and unsure where to start when monitoring? This pack walks you through how to rapidly gather information about your subject so you can plan to make relevant changes and improvements.

    Monitoring Teacher Subject Knowledge - Designed to be time-efficient and work around your classroom commitments, this pack supports busy subject leaders who want to quickly assess, enhance or improve teacher subject knowledge in their setting.

    Evaluating Impact and Planning Ahead - Explore subject self-evaluation and the crucial next steps, including cyclical improvement, action planning and how to develop staff in your setting.

    Music Deep Dive and Subject Knowledge Bundle - As mentioned above, this bundle, which is tailor-made for Music subject and department leaders, helps you to consider intent, implementation and impact questions across the breadth of Music, allowing you to consider areas of strength and weakness so you can plan for improvement and (if you feel you need to) prepare for Ofsted.

    Music Deep Dive and Subject Knowledge Bundle by Honeyguide School Leader Support

    We hope these help you to reach the high notes. (Terrible joke, couldn't resist!)

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