New music curriculum for KS1-3 announced by Department for Education

Harriet Clifford
Friday, March 26, 2021

Originally set to be published in 2019, the new model for music has been described by the Music Teachers' Association’s president as showing ‘a curriculum pathway that will lead to further study at GCSE and A Level’.


The Department for Education (DfE) has today published the Model Music Curriculum for KS1, 2 and 3, promising a ‘rich variety of music’ and a £80m investment in music education.

Long-awaited and originally expected in the summer of 2019, the curriculum model comes as the National Plan for Music Education remains on hold due to COVID-19. 

One hour per week

Calling for a ‘musical renaissance’ across England’s schools, the non-statutory guidance expects a minimum of one hour’s classroom music per week from Year 1 to Year 9 and is hoped to reduce workload for teachers by providing a ‘structured outline’ and case studies. 

It has been developed by ABRSM under the guidance of an expert panel of 15 music specialists, led by Baroness Fleet Veronica Wadley. 

As part of the announcement, the DfE has committed to £79m in the 2021/22 financial year for Music Education Hubs and £1m for charities In Harmony, National Youth Music Organisations and Music for Youth. 

This sees the injection of funds into Hubs remain at the same level as announced for 2020/21. An ‘enhanced’ Hub support programme was announced by Arts Council England last week.

'Rich and diverse'

Aiming to ensure that all pupils are introduced to key elements of music from Year 1 before progressing to ‘more technical aspects’ in secondary school, the DfE is emphasising the ‘rich and diverse’ range of genres, composers and musical styles on the new curriculum. 

Simon Toyne, president of the Music Teachers’ Association and on the panel of experts, has praised the new model for ‘shining light on the intrinsic qualities of music as a subject in its own right’ and for providing detailed guidance for primary school classroom teachers. 

Schools Standards minister Nick Gibb said, ‘A rich variety of music should be part of the daily life of every school. We want all schools to have a rigorous and broad music curriculum, that inspires their pupils to love music, and stands alongside high levels of academic attainment.

‘I know music lessons will have been challenging during remote education, and while there is rightly a focus on academic catch-up, it is also important for children and young people to experience music, sport and arts for their wider development.’

'Substantial difference'

Julian Lloyd Webber, who sat on the panel, said: ‘We should never underestimate the power of music, it knows no boundaries of language, race or background. It is the universal language – everyone has a soundtrack to their lives.

‘The new Model Music Curriculum will provide children with a wealth of knowledge about music – and it’s fun too.’

Toyne adds: ‘For children and young people to grow as musicians, they need to experience the world of music in all its richness and depth, with their musical knowledge and skills steadily growing over time. This cannot be achieved through short soundbites or teaching on a carousel system.

‘The curriculum’s expectation of a minimum of one hour’s classroom music per week from Year 1 to Year 9 - with first access instrumental tuition, and musical ensembles in addition to that one hour – could make a substantial difference to the musical lives of our children and young people, and to the country at large.’

The panel which developed the model included:

  • Carolyn Baxendale, head of Bolton Music Service and lead for Greater Manchester Music Education Hub
  • Karen Brock, head of the Tower Hamlets Arts and Music Education Service
  • Michael Elliott, ABRSM chief executive officer until Dec 2020
  • Peter Garden, executive director Performance & Learning, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
  • Naveed Idrees, head teacher, Feversham Primary Academy, Bradford
  • Julian Lloyd Webber, cellist, conductor and Emeritus Professor of Performing Arts, Birmingham City University
  • Professor Linda Merrick, principal, Royal Northern College of Music
  • Paul Roberts, National council member, Arts Council England
  • Jimmy Rotheram, head of music, Feversham Primary Academy, Bradford
  • Ian Rowe, head of performing arts, Farringtons School, Chislehurst
  • Simon Toyne, executive director of music, David Ross Education Trust and president of Music Teachers’ Association 
  • Veronica Wadley (Chair), co-founder and chair of the London Music Fund, council member of Royal College of Music, governor of Yehudi Menuhin School
  • Ed Watkins, director of music, West London Free School
  • Bridget Whyte, chief executive, UK Association for Music Education – Music Mark
  • Observer: Hannah Fouracre, Arts Council England

The Model Music Curriculum can be viewed here

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