The place of music in a semi-devolved system of school improvement – the English context

Fautley, Martin (2023) The place of music in a semi-devolved system of school improvement – the English context. Arts Education Policy Review. ISSN 1063-2913

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In England there is a National Curriculum in place which is intended to outline what will be taught and learned in each of the required subjects in state schools, music being one of these subjects. However, for some years, a right-wing conservative government has been working on systemic change, which removes many schools from state control and lets them operate independently; these schools are known as “academies.” Alongside this academisation programme, there has also been considerable governmental intervention in the content of the of subject of music in schools. This governmental intervention needs to be viewed against a background of promotion of what the government’s own school inspection body has referred to as “cultural capital,” although this is far removed from Bourdieu’s use of the term, and is more concerned with the promotion of what can be seen as middle-class virtues, and bourgeois cultural views.
This paper unpacks the ways in which music is being used as a front-runner in the culture wars that are taking place in England’s school music classrooms. Instances of government education ministers promoting high culture and the reading of music staff notation in ways which tacitly privilege the western classical tradition are discussed. The promotion of a misunderstood version of cultural capital as something which can be “given” to pupils is problematised, and ways in which hegemony and axiology are being weaponised in school improvement are discussed. Finally, lessons are drawn for an international audience as to why these issues are relevant for policy and practice in music education.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number:
24 March 2023Accepted
17 May 2023Published Online
Uncontrolled Keywords: school improvement, music education, England, cultural capital, hegemony, values
Subjects: CAH22 - education and teaching > CAH22-01 - education and teaching > CAH22-01-01 - education
Divisions: Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > Centre for Study of Practice and Culture in Education (C-SPACE)
Depositing User: Martin Fautley
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2023 10:06
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2023 13:21

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