I recently conducted a survey to see what music teachers thought their ideal Key Stage 4 for music would look like. There was a modest number of responses (seven) but the results are still interesting to see. Teachers were given fourteen options to choose from in the survey, which were:
- AQA GCSE
- Edexcel GCSE
- Eduqas/WJEC GCSE
- OCR GCSE
- RSL Music Practitioner
- NCFE Music Technology
- NCFE Performance Skills
- Graded exams (e.g. ABRSM, Rockschool, Trinity, VCM)
- Early entry AS/A-Level Music
- Early entry AS/A-Level Music Technology
- No examinations of any kind
- Making music compulsory at KS4
I found it particularly interesting that none of the respondents chose ‘no examinations of any kind’, suggesting that music teachers genuinely do place value in qualifications. Whether this is to achieve parity with other subjects, motivation for pupils, external verification of assessment or some other reason remains to be seen.
Similarly, no one chose to make music compulsory at Key Stage 4. I wonder if this is due to the potential impact on results if large numbers of pupils with no prior musical experience were to take the subject. If we didn’t have our current accountability system and if staffing were not an issue, then would teachers would feel differently about this one?
Another point of interest was that every respondent included a GCSE in their ideal Key Stage 4. Edexcel took the lead in the choice of board but the sample of respondents was far too small to draw any meaningful conclusions as to which board music teachers prefer (this previous survey about the draft specifications draws from a larger sample). Only one respondent indicated that (s)he would GCSE Music on its own, all others combined GCSE with at least one additional qualification at Key Stage 4.
Again, the sample was too small to identify trends beyond all doubt but it does appear that graded exams are popular as a combination with GCSE. Similarly, there was a clear indication that teachers value the vocational qualifications that are on offer when they are combined with the GCSE.
Here’s a brief summary of all responses:
I was heartened to see one teacher’s written response, which cited “more freedom for students to explore and develop their own musical interests” as his/her ideal Key Stage 4. (S)he goes on to suggest that the GCSE is valuable as it provides “structure and security” for students but that (s)he questions whether or not “it is really a ‘musical’ course”, implying that it’s not something this teacher would offer if left entirely to his/her own devices.