Skip to content

Questions from Music NQTs

NQT questions from Middlesex University - teacher and musician

I’ve just arrived at Middlesex University to talk to their outgoing cohort of PGCE Music students.  I always enjoy talking to new teachers.  It’s great to catch some of their enthusiasm and to go some way to easing their worries about the ‘realities’ of their first few years in the job.  With such significant numbers of teachers leaving the profession within the first five years of their careers, opportunities like this seem like a teacher-focused transition project.

Below are some of the questions I was asked and an outline of how I answered them.  Would you have answered differently?

The questions

A reasonable chunk of my presentation was spent discussing Musical Futures, so most of the questions sought to zoom in on applying the various MF approaches to specific environments.  Another question looked at coping with large class sizes at Key Stage 4.  
I should highlight that what I am writing below is not official Musical Futures policy.  Please remember that on this blog ‘opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent those of any organisation I am affiliated with’.  

How would you implement Musical Futures in a school that already has a strong music department?

You do not want to break a successful department and it’s important to remember that Musical Futures can look different in every school.  You don’t want to build a Musical Futures department for the sake of it, you want to build it because it’s the right thing to do.  With that in mind, the first action I would take would be to review the quality of the existing provision.  What is working well in the department and where are there areas of concern?  Is there provision that is ‘good enough’ but could clearly be better?  Take the time to get this right.  
Once you know what needs to be improved, you can focus on these areas with a Musical Futures ethos, which gives you the opportunity to embed informal learning and non-formal teaching into your existing provision.  As teachers and pupils become more comfortable with this it will be easier to introduce more Musical Futures ideas later on.  
I’d encourage reading the Musical Futures guidance for training and recently qualified teachers, which can be downloaded here.  

As a secondary school music teacher, how would you encourage primary feeder schools to take up Musical Futures?

First of all, see the advice above about identifying if it’s the right thing to do.  You should also consider if it’s appropriate or not to do this.  I’d suggest focusing on the benefits of Musical Futures and to have a look at non-formal teaching in particular.  
Musical Futures Australia has had a lot of success with introducing Musical Futures principles to primary schools, so it’s well worth looking at their website.  Similarly, the Musical Futures Transition Project provides some great resources for making links with feeder schools through music making.  
Translating it into non-musical currency that primary school senior leaders might value (in addition to valuing music, of course!), it’s worth highlighting that Musical Futures can be a low cost way of augmenting existing First Access provision and would certainly be seen as a great contribution towards British values.  
Finally, I’ll just say that it’s worth keeping an eye on the Musical Futures webpage for announcements linked to this.  In particular, have a look at the programme for the Music Learning Revolution.   

I’m keen to implement Musical Futures but I’m often told that it only works for Key Stage 3.  How can I respond to those teachers and show them the value of it at Key Stages 4 & 5?  

When hearing this, I would check what this person means by the words ‘Musical Futures’.  It’s important to remember that Musical Futures approaches are much more than the ‘In at the Deep End’ unit that many teachers are familiar.  It’s worth checking that they’re aware of:
  • Informal learning
  • Non-formal teaching (including classroom workshopping and band carousel)
  • Find Your Voice

I would argue that Musical Futures works best at Key Stage 4 when it is continually moving between non-formal teaching as a model for students’ understanding/ability and informal learning as a vehicle for them to put that model into action.  

I would certainly advise that this teacher has a look at the new Composing and Improvising course, which will be particularly useful with the new specifications.  
Finally, remember that Musical Futures isn’t content driven.

I’m about to start in a school where the GCSE class sizes have tripled.  How would you avoid decreasing the quality of provision in this environment?  

The short answer: ensure that staffing and funding is increased accordingly.  Capacity needs to increase in response to demand and your senior leadership team should be keeping this in mind.  
I would suggest planning lessons that aren’t really limited by scale.  Informal learning can be difficult with very large class sizes due to space limitations but I’d suggest having a look at my old blog posts about classroom layouts to help with this.  
This is another situation in which I would recommend looking at classroom workshopping where the focus is very much on whole class lessons with teachers and students co-constructing material.  Since most of the ideas were developed with Key Stage 3 class sizes in mind, it can adapt nicely to large class sizes at KS4.  
Of course, resources will become a factor when it comes to creating scores and recordings for coursework (or ‘controlled assessment’, or ‘non-exam assessment’, or whatever we’re going to call it next).  It’s important to plan your units so that resources are rotated in a manner that doesn’t decrease the depth of learning.  This is easier said than done but is well worth the effort.