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The results are in! Music Provision in NI Primary School Teachers' Survey

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

During the month of June I sent out a small informal survey to primary school teachers in

Northern Ireland to garner information on the amount and type of music provision that was taking place in primary school classrooms and also to gauge teachers' attitude and feelings towards it as a curriculum area.

I followed this up with a survey of primary school principals and have collated and briefly analysed the returns from both surveys, the teacher survey in this blog post. Click the link here to read the Principals' Survey blog:

Google drive link to the Teachers' Survey:

Google drive link to the Principals' Survey:

I was absolutely delighted to get such a high return from teachers which made for very interesting (and encouraging!) reading. Sending the prinicpals' survey during Sept amidst a global pandemic, however, was ambitious and I was very happy with the number of returns I got, considering the additional pressures on the shoulders of school leaders at this time. I appreciated each and every individual taking the time to make the return.

Using a free survey app, I could only retrieve a maximum of 100 returns per survey.

Music Provision in Primary Schools - Teachers' Survey

Link to full survey results document:

Of the maximum one hundred returns I received, I was really heartened to find that 70% of class timetables had music included on them. This is an important starting point to getting music regularly included into the currciculum. If you already have a tightly packed timetable without music, it will be even harder to try and work it in. Most music was scheduled to take place after lunch which confirms the commonly held view that either music is a treat or it receives lower priority. As a former music speicalist in a primary school who worked to a timetable, I taught

kids music at all the times of the day and the teachers who had classes taught earlier in the day agreed that there were definite benefits to early music time. Certainly my first timetabled classes of the day never tired of it and looked forward particularly to those days. For children who were nervous about school or found written school work a challenge, this practical start to the day was particularly beneficial in giving the day a positive springboard. Many classes, of course, go to a different teacher for music as their afternoon class.

Moving on to music being a priority within the school day, just under half of teachers stated they taught it regularly but from time to time left it off the schedule. Nearly 20% considered it more of a treat to do music or when everything else had been completed; in other words, it would be the first activity to be dropped from a tight schedule! Only 6% considered music to be just as important as literacy and numeracy....a topic I will absolutely be covering in a future blog! But for now, check out this school in England that chose to prioritise music, and the effect it had on literacy and numeracy, personal development and also the turn around effect it had on its special measures status:

Enlarge the graphic from the survey below to read the additional comments:

From experience of working with teachers and moving between schools, my guess was that lack of confidence was one of the main barriers to teaching music on a regualr basis. Through the survey I wanted to find out first how enjoyable teachers found the subject to teach and second how confident they were.

I was particularly encouraged to find that the majority of teachers enjoy teaching music with a very small proportion not enjoying it at all.

Equally encouraging was the returns about confidence (excuse the mislabelling due to a temporary lapse in concentration while compiling; I can confirm the numbers are correct!) as the majority feel confident enough, however on the flip side there was significant portion of teachers who felt under confident compared with those who just didn't enjoy it.

I wondered was resourcing another barrier to regular music education. Although singing and listening are valuable aspects of the curriculum, just like any other curriculum area, physical resources can enhance the experience and enjoyment of the lessons and are often the foundation of many schemes and resource books. I focused particularly on percussion instruments because in my ten years of music specialist teaching in the classroom, there was never a week the rolling of the percussion trolley into the room didn't create excitement. It turned into my absolute favourite aspect of classroom music teaching and would probably now consider planning for it my speciailism! Noisy, but so much fun, particularly once the kids get to branch out into creative work.

Percussion instruments are particularly expensive, however, and hard to keep track of if shared by multiple classes and even year groups.

Next I was interested in the support for music within schools. I am well aware that in terms of EA support currently there is very little free support and also very much dependent on where you are. I was heartened once again to read that most teachers (two thirds) felt they had support from within the school.

It was encouraging to see teachers keen to teach music more and open to the idea of a wide variety of support and development, including increased knowledge of resources in music and pointers and planners to point them in the right direction, but again time constraints seem to be the main barrier to regular music education in the classroom.

My favourite return! A whopping 81% of teachers want to teach more music! My fear when I first sent out this survey was that being an advocate for music education was feeling like fighting against the tide, one of them being complacency and a need to persuade but this return confirms the fact that with a little encouragement, support and education in terms of why it needs moved up the priority list, music could become more prevalent in our primary classrooms.

Finally I invited general comments to complete the survey which I will just leave here for you to read at your leisure. If you were a teacher who contributed - thank you! And watch this space :) I am keen to support music in any way I can and will use the survey to inform what I offer and develop for schools and teachers going forward.

If you are interested in reading the Principals' Survey returns blog, click here!

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