The place of music in a semi-devolved system of school improvement - the English context

Martin Fautley*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In England there is a National Curriculum in place which is intended to outline what will be taught and learned in each of the required subjects in state schools, music being one of these subjects. However, for some years, a right-wing conservative government has been working on systemic change, which removes many schools from state control and lets them operate independently; these schools are known as “academies.” Alongside this academisation programme, there has also been considerable governmental intervention in the content of the of subject of music in schools. This governmental intervention needs to be viewed against a background of promotion of what the government’s own school inspection body has referred to as “cultural capital,” although this is far removed from Bourdieu’s use of the term, and is more concerned with the promotion of what can be seen as middle-class virtues, and bourgeois cultural views.
    This paper unpacks the ways in which music is being used as a front-runner in the culture wars that are taking place in England’s school music classrooms. Instances of government education ministers promoting high culture and the reading of music staff notation in ways which tacitly privilege the western classical tradition are discussed. The promotion of a misunderstood version of cultural capital as something which can be “given” to pupils is problematised, and ways in which hegemony and axiology are being weaponised in school improvement are discussed. Finally, lessons are drawn for an international audience as to why these issues are relevant for policy and practice in music education.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalArts Education Policy Review
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 17 May 2023


    • cultural capital
    • England
    • hegemony; values
    • music education
    • School improvement


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