This year, like many schools we have been part of a real focus on curriculum planning within our departments. Planning a curriculum has always been something I have enjoyed, thinking about the students I teach and crafting a curriculum to inspire them and progress their musicianship. There are so many examples out there, but I truly believe the best curriculum is one where you have your own unique students and their needs at its core when you plan it.
So what is the purpose of a key stage 3 curriculum? I believe stage 3 music should stand in its own right, however it is an option subject and every student should have the right to access a relevant key stage 4 music curriculum should they wish. With that in mind you cannot ignore the need to plan a rich key stage three pathway to prepare students to access it. For true inclusion we have a responsibility to provide this pathway without the need for external support away from the classroom.
We are now told that knowledge is the new centrepiece of a good curriculum, but for music that is something that takes a little thinking about. On asking colleagues (and Twitter) I have thought a lot and focused this planning on ‘knowing how’ alongside ‘knowing that’, trying to balance the inherent skills that are needed for real musicianship. This balance of knowledge, theory, technical skill, practical aural music making and exposure to a range of musical styles is an art I’ll admit I am yet to master.
In music we have the joy of selecting themes from a vast range of musical styles to engage and inspire our students, broadly these are the titles of our schemes of learning. In our department we aim to view them as the catalyst through which musicianship is taught. Broken down throughout our schemes are then core musical concepts and these are threaded through the key stage 3 programme of study. In maths students teach core concepts this way: algebra for example is not just covered once but revisited year upon year securing and deepening understanding. This is similar to how we have crafted our music curriculum. Chords for example are introduced and explored through performance and composition in year 7, understanding primary chords and their function. Year 8 sees them identify them as major and minor as well as 7ths as well as understanding their role within accompaniments and ensembles. In year 9 students look at them as devices such as diminished 7ths and how chords can be used in diatonic and dissonant harmony. All under the umbrella topics of ‘Pachelbel’s Canon’, ‘The Blues’ and ‘Film Music’.
It is all a work in progress at the moment and will evolve further this year. I am keen to deepen theoretical knowledge and especially challenge in year 9. I’m very happy to share and discuss planning ideas as we continue this work so feel free to get in touch.