ISM Column: Reviewing the MMC

Jodie Underhill, Kevin Rogers
Tuesday, June 1, 2021

ISM research associate Dr Jodie Underhill and music education specialist Kevin Rogers examine the Model Music Curriculum, looking at how music teachers can use it to help review and critique their existing music curriculum, and introducing the ISM's comprehensive review

Despite the largely negative landscape for music education that is the result of government policy in recent years, the publication of the Model Music Curriculum (MMC) is an important contribution to the debate about the role of music education in schools, and in particular the role of curriculum music for all students.

The specific purpose of curriculum music is often misunderstood. The MMC endeavours to spell it out, as well as make clear the essential links to instrumental learning/ensemble participation, and the breadth of collaborative opportunities beyond the classroom that make music so important to a school's overall health and wellbeing.

There is clear intent in the MMC that curriculum music should be a regular part of every student's learning. Also welcome is the very clear message that curriculum music for all is a distinct but hugely important strand within a school's overall music education provision. The only way to ensure access for all pupils and levelling up of opportunities is through classroom music.

Using the MMC

The ISM suggests that music teachers might use the MMC to help review and critique their existing music curriculum, which will no doubt have been developed over time in order to reflect a school-wide consensus on the values, purpose and functions of classroom music within the total curriculum provision of the school.

An important professional attribute is the ability to constantly question, review and enhance existing practice. Given the current Ofsted focus on curriculum intent, implementation and impact, and the return to more normal teaching after a year of online provision during the pandemic, the MMC could become part of an important ‘stock-take’. Teachers might, therefore, ask a series of questions using the MMC as a prompt to gauge whether it offers new ideas that could enhance previous and future curriculum music provision.


Possible questions

  • What key areas of learning do you currently use to frame your own curriculum around? Do the areas suggested by the MMC (defined as singing, composing, performing and listening) offer a different perspective on learning that you might want to explore?
  • Do you emphasise in your own music curriculum any additional areas of learning that are not included in the MMC? Do you remain confident that these are justified within your own context?
  • What strands do you currently focus on within the key areas of learning? Are there any consistent strands in the MMC that, on reflection, you think you might want to explore further in your own curriculum?
  • How do you define your expectations of progression in learning, and how do these compare with those described in the MMC – particularly with reference to continuity of learning across year groups and Key Stages? Does the MMC raise any questions about progression for learning within your existing curriculum, and how might you go about exploring potential developments?
  • What is your existing approach to creativity in the music curriculum (especially for composing activities), and does the MMC offer any new ideas over and above these?
  • Does your curriculum ensure that a good breadth of both new and existing music is used to stimulate learning; and is it clear how specific pieces can be used in different ways to develop different learning? Are there any aspects of the listening lists in the MMC that you might wish to explore?
  • How will you engage with your local Music Education Hub or other providers to promote the case for curriculum music in school, and to ensure that the links between curriculum music and other aspects of music education become a reality for all students?

Further analysis

The ISM team has conducted a comprehensive review of the MMC, which investigates the policy decisions that led to its creation, and provides a more thorough interrogation of the document to highlight areas that we welcome, as well as those which cause concern.

Read the full review at

As a subject association for music, the ISM is committed to supporting music education, and our sister charity, the ISM Trust, has produced a range of resources for music teachers to help you develop your curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.