Music Teaching Provision in Primary Schools

Exploring how schools interpret music education policy to assess the state of music education in primary schools.

Music in schools research project - primary


Research background

Despite music being a statutory subject in the National Curriculum since 1992, the value and place of music and the arts in schools has been in flux with recent policy changes influencing if and how music is being taught in schools. There is concern that music is not being delivered in all primary schools in England, meaning some children are being denied the music education they are entitled to. Another important aspect of music education in primary schools is that many teachers lack confidence teaching music as a classroom subject. This research investigated BCU’s trainee primary teachers’ experiences of music education in their placement schools.

Research aims

This research sought to better understand how schools are interpreting governmental music education policy by investigating the lived realities of trainee primary music teachers during their school placements. We devised the following two main research questions:

  1. What are trainee teachers’ experiences of music teaching in primary schools?
  2. Are there differences in the scale and scope of music provision in primary schools?

Research methods

Perspectives and experiences of classroom music teaching in primary schools were collected from 126 BCU trainee primary teachers in the School of Education and Social Work, drawing from a diverse range of primary school contexts. Participants were asked to share their experiences via an online survey.

Questions involved a mixture of open and closed questions collecting both qualitative and quantitative data. Thematic analysis was used to identify ‘patterns’ and ‘themes’ (Braun and Clarke, 2006) within the data. Quantitative data was viewed as a way to assess the extent of the issues raised and viewed as descriptive analysis indicating frequencies.  

Research outcomes

The findings were presented to BCU management internally and published in a written report. Five key findings were drawn from the research data:

  1. Trainee teachers did not have equal opportunities to teach music
  2. Confidence in music teaching ability varied
  3. Instrumental teaching and learning was prioritised
  4. Primary teachers need more support with music teaching during and beyond their training to help them develop agency and their own music teaching practice
  5. Trainee teachers care about music education, but they are concerned about the status of music as a subject in primary schools.

Read the full report.