Image: Caleb George, Unsplash 
This summer, the Government published its National Plan for Music Education, known in Music Education circles as the NPME. Its full, bold title is ‘The power of music to change lives: a National Plan for Music Education’ – but can it live up to this ambition?  
As schools head back after the summer holidays, how might the NPME for England influence their thinking and their planning? And crucially, do they have the resources to put it into action? 
Maria Thomas, MWC’s Artistic Director, gives her view.  
The NPME builds on the Government’s first National Plan for Music Education, ‘The importance of music’. Published just over a decade ago in 2011, the plan was in need of a refresh, and the update has been long-awaited since the Government put out its Call for Evidence in early 2020 to help develop the plan. 

What’s in the plan? 

The NPME needs to be understood within the national and local context. The NPME, a national document feeds down into Local Plans for Music Education, many of which are being developed by Music Hubs. Where relevant, Academy Trusts should have a Music Development Plan and then each School will have its own Music Development Plan. 
The new NPME sets out 3 key goals: 
1. For all children and young people receive a high-quality music education in early years and in schools. 
2. For all music educators to work in partnership, with children and young people’s needs and interests at their heart. 
3. For all children and young people with musical interests and talents to have the opportunity to progress their interest and potential, including professionally. 

Is the NMPE achievable? 

These are 3 great pillars for Music Education – but schools will require time, resources and funding to be able to deliver them. 
It is vital that children and young people have access to high-quality music education, and it’s great to see this ambition clearly laid out in the plan’s first goal. Unfortunately, due to a lack of resources such as time, skills, money and equipment, some schools currently struggle to deliver music education. The second goal will help schools by utilising networks, both local and national – but again, developing these contacts takes time and paying for services takes money. 
The third goal is something that I am passionate about – giving young people access to pathways into music – whether performing, creating, educating or working behind the scenes. But many schools do not have the resources and specialist knowledge to introduce the wide range of careers available, and then support young people into their chosen pathway. 
Schools are under a huge amount of pressure, particularly after the last couple of years, and adding another requirement without sufficient additional funding means it is unlikely that all schools will be able to meet the demands of the NPME. This is summed up well on the Ramblings of a Teacher blog
Image: Jens Thekkeveettil, Unsplash 

Should schools embrace whole-class sessions? 

One key part of the NPME is a discussion of Whole-Class Ensemble Tuition (WCET), something I have mixed views on when it comes to learning to play an instrument. Most of MWC’s workshops do take place as whole-class sessions, but the workshops we offer are very different to regular music lessons. MWC offers an introduction to composition, playing in a Samba band, taking part in a drumming circle and other activities. These one-off sessions are designed as a basic introduction, or perhaps to build on participants’ knowledge, but they do not offer the opportunity to develop technique and musical understanding over a long period, as is needed in learning a musical instrument. 
Playing an instrument is a very personal thing and finding the right instrument for each learner is key – this can mean instruments that are suitable for learners of different sizes and abilities, instruments that are matched to learners’ natural abilities, instruments that suit the learners’ preference and more. All of this can be difficult to provide in a whole-class environment. 

Schools need funding – or the NMPE won’t succeed 

Once again, finance is a key element in all these discussions. Learning an instrument has costs – the instrument, elements such as reeds and strings, sheet music, a space to practice in. And of course there are teaching costs – the cost of the teacher, a space to teach in, teaching materials. While some schools will have the funds to support the development of music in their schools, others will not. 
Without additional funding for schools and music hubs to implement the NPME, it is difficult to see how music education can be “levelled up” with equal opportunities for all children and young people. 

Resources to help 

While we at MWC can’t solve the funding challenge for schools, we can offer some resources that may help: 
• For some free resources, check out our top tips page, our other blog posts or take a look at our playlists for some inspiration. 
• Our workshops can cover a range of skills identified in the NPME including ensemble playing (e.g. African Drumming and Samba), Composition, and Singing, as well as wider musical skills such as listening and critiquing. 
• Value for money is important for MWC – many of our primary school workshops can be designed to work with 7 classes in a day, meaning workshops can cost under £2.50 per child (based on an average of 30 children in a class) or 5 classes for secondary schools, meaning workshops can cost under £3.50 per participant. 
• We run INSET / Twilight sessions for teachers too – developing skills for music specialists or confidence for non-specialists. These sessions can be for staff from one school or multiple schools. Get in touch to find out about our CPD offering. 

Further Reading on NPME 

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