Summary only. See the full paper on the Music Trust website.

Following the Australian government’s most recently revised curriculum for the arts in 2014, this reassessment describes the basic expectations for a quality school music education, outlines the obstacles to its realisation, and proposes four strategic initiatives to improve music teaching.

The basic expectations for children to receive a quality music education are:

  • Start at the Foundation (K-2) years and continue through primary school
  • Offer all students at least one 40-minute class per week
  • Include vocal and instrumental performance as well listening and contextual understanding
  • The teacher is musically competent (one test of this is that Year 6 students can sing songs in several parts).

The paper lists numerous “quite enormous” obstacles, centred on a lack of musically trained teachers but aggravated by other problems including a general preoccupation with test scores based on literacy and numeracy. These factors currently outweigh several positive indications:

  • Music and arts are now on the official agenda
  • Media increasingly report on the value of the arts as an expected part of life
  • There are many musically active primary school principals
  • Digital learning packages are being developed to assist generalist primary school teachers
  • There are more workshops for children and in some cases also for teachers
  • Many parents are actively promoting a music program, and offer their active support.

The paper describes a program of four strategic initiatives aimed at (1) principals, (2) parents, (3) tertiary institutions, and (4) research support. In an appendix it adapts the “Hong Kong model” (all primary school teachers are specialists) to Australia.


Richard Letts with assistance from the field. 5 February 2015. Full paper published on the Music Trust website. This summary was written by the Knowledge Base editor, 11 February 2015.

Dr Richard Letts AM is the founder and Director of The Music Trust, founder and former Executive Director of the Music Council of Australia (now Music Australia) and Past President of the International Music Council. He has held senior positions in music and culture in Australia and the United States, advocated for music and music education, conducted research, written policy documents, edited four periodicals, published four books and hundreds of articles.

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