My thoughts in response to the Richard Evans article:
“NAPLAN Results tell us there’s a major problem. But we may already have the solution.”
The ACO’s work in St Mary’s North is a great example of how music enhances learning as part of a rounded and inspiring education. As Richard Evans’ words highlight, the benefits of engaging in music have been proven time and time again.
The current structure of the curriculum provides myriad excuses to marginalise or exclude music: other curriculum priorities; lack of time in the school day; lack of resources; lack of expertise. Principals understand the benefits of music. It’s true that some Principals are more motivated than others and this is often a key factor in whether music is part of school life. The Principal of St Mary’s North who embraced the ACO project is to be congratulated.
The lack of teacher training in music exacerbates the issue of musical expertise (or even a willingness to have a go) in the classroom. This only gets worse the further you reach into regional, rural and remote Australia where music teachers and practicing musicians willing to engage in music education are few and far between. The shortage of music leaders across Australia is part of the systemic issue facing music education and is a key reason why children living in, for example, regional NSW (1/3rd of the population) have even less access to music and music education than their urban counterparts.
However, we know that regional communities invest considerably in music education/activities outside the public school system because they value it as part of their young people’s education. There is no doubt the demand for music is there.
We know, through our work in Regional Conservatoriums across NSW that initiatives such as the National Music Teacher Mentoring Program is working to address the skill level of classroom teachers to deliver music. Our work in schools tells us that even in under-resourced, regional schools, programs based around singing and percussion can be delivered effectively and can greatly enhance learning as well as make a positive contribution to the culture of a school. The ACO and St Marys North have proved this and Regional Conservatoriums are doing the same every day of the week in schools across NSW through constant adaptability and tenacity.
The science is clear. Let’s validate music and the arts as an essential part of learning in the public school system in order to deliver great educational outcomes. We need a balanced, well-rounded curriculum which, by including music and the arts, produces balanced, well-rounded citizens, wherever they reside.
President of the Association of NSW Regional Conservatoriums and CEO of Wollongong Conservatorium.