RSL Awards CEO, Tim Bennett-Hart, responds to the refreshed National Plan for Music Education.

Tim Bennett-Hart, CEO RSL Awards

With the publishing of the refreshed National Plan for Music Education we wanted to offer our initial reflections and thoughts.

The length of the plan, to 2030, lines up with wider education plans from the Government, and this broader thought around education policy is welcome. However, there is a danger that we perceive the goals of this refreshed plan as static. Given the rate of change in technology and the adaptations we have all made during the pandemic, it is difficult to see music education as remaining static for the next 8 years. As such, we should view the plan and its goals as a starting point.

The focus on inclusion and opportunities for all children is very welcome. As an organisation that is centred around providing recognition to styles of music that may otherwise not be formally recognised, we know how impactful it can be to recognise the achievements of a wide range of young people. As the world’s first regulated assessors of music technology, we also welcome the increased references to technology within musical learning.

With many references to the non-statutory Model Music Curriculum throughout the plan, we are reminded that there is still a lot of work to do in order to create a variety of curricula that speak to the varied interests of young people.

There has been an opportunity missed to consult more broadly with music educators and students on the published plan. The inclusion of case studies does provide useful exemplars, and we are delighted to see a close contact of RSL Awards, SupaJam, included as a case study. We have worked with SupaJam for many years and it is great to see them recognised in this way.

Following the release of Pop Music Education in the UK 1960-2020 written by our Chairman, Norton York, it is very important to note the reference to Vocational and Technical Qualifications (VTQs) whenever GCSEs and A-Levels are referred to. We have campaigned for several years for wider recognition of VTQs and an acceptance that whilst GCSE and A-Level numbers fall, the take up of VTQs has increased and more than filled the gap left by more traditional qualifications. It is important that the Department for Education ensures that VTQs continue to be available for all schools and colleges to build on the momentum we have made.

There are several mentions of the BRIT school as an example of excellent practice. They have used RSL graded exams and VTQs for many years, and we are proud to associate with them. This highlights the huge disappointment that we feel following the news from the Department for Education that the RSL Level 2 qualification taught at the BRIT School will no longer gain progress 8 points.

As with any major piece of policy work, the real efforts start now. We agree that measuring the success of the implementation of the plan will made more valid by looking at the progress that young people make within their study, not just the engagement in activities. Our final call would be that the appointment of the monitoring board referred to in the document is a transparent one which brings together all areas of music education.