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Ofsted’s Subject Report for Music – Striking the Right Note

On the 21st September Ofsted published a subject report looking at how music is being taught in England’s schools.  The report draws on evidence from subject visits to 50 schools – 25 primary and 25 secondary – from across England.  All subject visits were carried out between December 2022 and June 2023.  Read the full report here –  ‘Striking the right note: the music subject report’

The report makes a number of recommendations to help schools ensure all pupils receive a high-quality music education, including:

  • Supporting subject leaders to develop a curriculum that deliberately and incrementally teaches all pupils to become more musical.
  • Making sure that all pupils can develop their musical talents and interests, by offering extra-curricular activities as well as instrumental and vocal lessons.
  • Ensuring that teachers provide ongoing feedback to pupils that improves pupils’ music-making in both technique and expressive quality.
  • Continuously developing teachers’ subject knowledge, including their musicianship skills and their understanding of what high-quality music-making should sound like for pupils in the age group they teach; this approach should align with the choices set out in the school’s curriculum.
  • Actively seeking the support of local music hubs or other sources of expertise when developing and improving the curriculum.

Leeds Music Education Partnership (LMEP), led by ArtForms Music, are the Music Hub for Leeds.  If you would like support with any aspect of your Music curriculum please contact LMEP@leeeds.gov.uk or Sam.Mercer@leeds.gov.uk  You can also click here to see our 2023-24 Music Connect programme of support that is available to all schools.

The Music subject report is further summarised by Ofsted below –


Music teaching too variable in quality and often not given enough time

The report found that there is significant variation in the quality of music education in both primary and secondary schools. Since Ofsted’s report into music education in 2012, many schools, particularly at primary level, have taken important steps to make music more prominent in the curriculum. We found that almost all primary school children had frequent opportunities to learn music in reception and music was taught weekly in key stage 1 and 2. The strongest aspect of the curriculum in primary schools was teaching pupils to sing.

 While many primary pupils now have regular opportunities to learn music as part of the curriculum, at secondary level, Ofsted’s research shows that too many schools still do not give music enough time. There was considerable variation in the amount of curriculum time allocated to music in key stage 3. In just under half the schools visited, leaders had not made sure that pupils had enough time to learn the curriculum as planned by the school. This meant that pupils were not adequately prepared for further musical study. Most secondary schools did not build on the strong progress and enjoyment that pupils had experienced in their singing at primary school.

 The sample of schools we visited showed that those with stronger musical curriculums focused on teaching pupils to get better at music rather than just having them ‘do’ music. Most senior leaders understood the critical role that extra-curricular music, both instrumental and vocal, played in complementing the curriculum. However, there are ongoing challenges re-establishing extra-curricular lessons as schools return to normal following COVID-19.

Many teachers, particularly in primary schools, reported lacking confidence in teaching music, including demonstrating high-quality work to their pupils.

 ArtForms now have both a choirs co-ordinator and an ensembles co-ordinator to support schools to set up or reinforce their extra-curricular Music activities.  We also offer bespoke advice and guidance sessions in your school with the Music Leader and/or SLT to help develop the Music offer in school with a specific focus on the curriculum if required.  Contact Lee.Muncaster@leeds.gov.uk or Sam.Mercer@leeds.gov.uk if you wish to find out more.