The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) have produced comprehensive guidance expanding on the curriculum that we recommend reading

The National Curriculum in England for Music in force from September 2014 is reproduced below. Additional guidance from the CLA curriculum consultations and the ISM is included in italics followed by questions you can ask about your school curriculum.

Purpose of Study

Music is a universal language that embodies one of the highest forms of creativity. A high-quality music education should engage and inspire pupils to develop a love of music and their talent as musicians, and so increase their self-confidence, creativity and sense of achievement.

Music enables young people to become independent and collaborative learners,, decision makers, problem-solvers and to gain key social, moral, spiritual and cultural life skills.

Music is inclusive and offers all young people opportunities for active and meaningful participation within, across and beyond schools, in a variety of types and size of settings/groupings.

A high-quality music education should enable all pupils to develop as musicians, developing increasing proficiency as creative, expressive composers, singers, instrumentalists and audiences.

As pupils progress, they should develop a critical engagement with music, allowing them to compose, and to listen with discrimination to the best in the musical canon.

The range of music should represent a wide range of types, styles and genres, enable them to experience music they would otherwise not encounter.  


The national curriculum for music aims to ensure that all pupils:   

  • perform, listen to, review and evaluate music across a range of historical periods, genres, styles and traditions, including the works of the great composers and musicians

children should develop a sense of personal, national and global identity through experiencing and exploring music from a wide range of genres, styles, traditions, cultures and historical periods, learn with and from a wide range of music and musicians and use music to explore links between home, school, the wider community and the rest of the their world.

  • learn to sing and to use their voices, to create and compose music on their own and with others, have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, use technology appropriately and have the opportunity to progress to the next level of musical excellence

Children should have the opportunity to create music individually and collaboratively within, across and beyond schools, in a variety of types and size of settings/groupings.

Work should be developed drawing down expertise from a range of partners including Music hubs, artists in residence, and music organisations. A range of technology should be used musically. Your local music hub can provide advice and support.

  • understand and explore how music is created, produced and communicated, including through the inter-related dimensions: pitch, duration, dynamics, tempo, timbre, texture, structure and appropriate musical notations.      

children should develop musical knowledge, skills and understanding by using, analysing and interpreting these dimensions as an integral and unified element of making, reflecting and evaluating.

Questions for school leaders and governors:

1. Why is music important in your school? 

2. Where does or can music provision:

a. contribute to the ethos and cultural offer of the school?

b. contribute to children’s social, moral, spiritual and cultural development?

c. involve and motivate children so that they develop as expressive, creative and confident young musicians through composing, improvising, singing, playing, listening and analysing music?

d. involve children in active learning, with opportunities for independent learning, making music with others, problem solving and decision making?

3. How do you assess the quality and the impact of the music offer on children’s learning?

Subject content

Key stage 1   

Are children learning actively, joyfully and critically through and about the full breadth of music?

Do they have an opportunity to create and perform music?      

Key stage 2                                     

Are children learning actively, joyfully and critically through and about the full breadth of music?

Do they have an opportunity to create and perform music?

Are they learning about the provenance of music?

Key stage 3

Are young people experiencing and critically evaluating a wide range of live and recorded music?

Are young people developing an understanding of:

  • the need to make creative choices?
  • musical ownership and intellectual property?
  • the music industry and the creative economy?
  • context of their music making and its place in the wider musical industry and economy?

Are you using appropriate partnerships with professional musicians, music and cultural organisations and other key delivery partners?

Are young people critically evaluating and making choices about a wide range of music?