Ofsted has today revealed that school inspections in England will no longer focus on exam results and grades, but instead the substance of what children are being taught will be examined.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the attention on performance data is coming at the expense of what is being taught.

She said: ‘We want to make this change because our inspections, our curriculum research, as well as a vast amount of sector feedback are telling us that focus on data is coming at the expense of what's taught in schools.’ She also said that ‘room should always be made in the curriculum for creative subjects.’

Ofsted’s announcement follows yesterday’s (10 October) crucial developments in music education: the publication of new research by the University of Sussex (which revealed music education at significant risk of disappearing from schools altogether) and a significant APPG for music education meeting in Parliament which heard widespread concerns from Parliamentarians across all political parties about the marginalisation of music and creative subjects in our schools, all ahead of a debate in the House of Lords on 18 October.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said: ‘We welcome the news from Ofsted that they want to reform their inspection frameworks and rebalance their school league tables by ensuring there is a broad and balanced curriculum in schools, particularly at Year 5 and 6 and at Key Stage 3. This is especially good news given the concerning research released by the University of Sussex yesterday where the EBacc, other performance measures and a squeeze on funding were revealed to be driving the disappearance of music education in our schools. However Ofsted’s new approach is only part of the solution. Accountability measures need to be reformed. Under the EBacc, subjects including music are being squeezed out of schools. And this is despite the Government’s Industrial Strategy explicitly recognising the contribution of the £150 million ‘UK’s world-class creative industries’ to the UK economy. Amanda Spielman is correct in saying that there should always be space for creative subjects in the curriculum. When schools teach creative subjects, the whole of our society and economy benefits. The music industry in Britain is worth £4.4bn a year to the economy and should be at the heart of any Government post-Brexit strategy. So we urge the Government to review and reform the EBacc before any further damage is done.’

Headlines from the University of Sussex research (released 10 October)

An increasing number of schools reducing or completely removing music in the curriculum for year 7, 8 and 9 students, resulting in some schools now not offering music as a curriculum subject and in others taught only on an ‘enrichment day’ once a year.

The EBacc specifically as having a negative impact on the provision and uptake of music in schools (within and beyond the curriculum) with some schools discouraging top set students from taking music at KS4 because of the EBacc, whilst in others lower ability students were prevented from taking music so they could concentrate on core subjects. A decline in the number of schools offering GCSE music and other Key Stage 4 qualifications with some schools only offering it outside of school hours if at all.

15.4% fewer centres offering A Level music in 2018 compared to 2016, and a reduction of 31.7% in A Level music technology. This is likely to be reflected in the decreasing number of candidates sitting these qualifications in 2019 and 2020.

An increase in music teachers teaching outside their subject area – over 70% cited often doing so since 2016, and a potential rise in redundancies for music teachers in the next academic year, with some responses noting that music teachers were not being replaced when leaving or retiring.


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