Ofsted’s failure to visit any special schools as part of their recent report Music in schools: what hubs must do undermines the vision laid out in the National Plan for every child and continues the historical problem of special schools being omitted from the big discussions and decisions over music education.
This oversight is surprising given the general ‘mood music’ within the music education sector in recent years that has clearly been shifting towards a wide recognition of the need to do much more to boost provision for disabled children.
Ofsted’s last triennial report into music (March 2012) stated that inclusion still needed to be fought for. They found that having SEN had a significant negative impact on access to extra-curricular music. They also recommended that music technology should be used to widen inclusion.
Progress was also evident in the language of the National Plan for Music Education (November 2011) which created an agreed framework to better ensure “equality of opportunity for all pupils regardless of… special educational needs or disabilities” and the entitlement of SEN/Disabled pupils to “high quality music provision”.
Drake Music’s Consultation into Disabling Barriers to Formal Music Education (2011) took evidence from a wide range of teachers, parents and disabled young people. One finding was that many special schools felt disappointed by the provision offered by their music services, particularly the lack of communication about opportunities.
One of the most striking aspects of the recent Music Mark conference held in Manchester was the number of sessions and debates relating to young people who have least access to quality music education opportunities. The conference organisers made a conscious effort to shine a spotlight on the musical needs of ‘hard to reach’ and disadvantaged children including those with SEN and/ or disabilities.
Many music hubs are making steps to improve their offer to special schools. If we are to support them to increase inclusion, the reporting of this progress itself needs to be increasingly inclusive. Ofsted must prioritise the visiting and reporting on special schools if we are to move forward in this respect.
Drake Music looks forward to sharing our knowledge and experience about the SEND ‘sector’ with Ofsted and working towards a clearer understanding of what quality participation and progression in music looks like for young disabled musicians.