School Music for All? Tensions in the Classroom.

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This presentation will focus upon concepts relating to musicianship and a tension identified between the notion of ‘music for all’ and student gate-keeping of the subject area in a secondary school. The message of ‘music for all’ has a strong presence within the music education literature (for example, Green, 2002; Wright, 2008; Elliott, 2012), and student inclusion was an underlying motivation for Green’s (2002, 2008) model of informal learning (IL) in music education. Implementation of Green’s model of IL provides the context for the findings focused upon in this presentation. Green proposed five principles of IL based upon how popular musicians learn in an informal realm. Green guided and investigated the transfer of these principles across to 21 secondary schools through an action research project. The IL model was later funded, promoted and continues to be advocated by the Musical Futures organisation.

Striving for inclusion in music has not always been seen as desirable. Elliott (2012) traced the separation of Western Art music from ‘other’ music present in society back to the Enlightenment movement. The establishment of ‘high’ and ‘low’ musical cultures has continued to remain an inherent value of the dominant ideology, resulting in a state where many students are alienated from school music. However, Green (2008) believed that her model of IL was more accessible to a wide range of students due to the self-governing nature of informal practices and value placed upon student choice. In addition to widened inclusivity, it was also found that Green’s IL model had a positive impact upon student motivation and uptake of KS4 music (Hallam et al., 2008; Hallam, Creech and McQueen, 2011). However, a critique of the approach argues that a potential tipping of the scales could occur in favour of popular music genres and IL methods, alienating students who have previously learnt through more traditional, formal music education routes (Georgii-Hemming and Westvall, 2010). Thus, it was believed that the IL approach would benefit from further exploration in attempt to gain a greater understanding of such gaps in knowledge.

This presentation will draw upon findings generated from a three-year study. The wider project aimed to develop increased understanding of how Green’s model of IL was understood, implemented and experienced. A qualitative, interpretative methodological approach was adopted and the research was conducted in two phases. Phase one included semi-structured interviews with three figures who had played a key role in the research, development and dissemination of the IL approach. Phase two involved four English case study secondary schools – their music teachers and students, who were implementing and experiencing Green’s (2002, 2008) IL model. An advantage of the case study approach was that large amounts can be learned from a particular case (Stake, 1995). This presentation will mainly focus upon a Year 9 class of students who had selected to study music as an option based at Redwood School (pseudonym), although wider findings relating to musicianship will be drawn from across all four of the case study schools. Methods used to collect data included: lesson observations; semi-structured teacher interviews; semi-structured student group interviews; document sources; and informal discussions with students. Data was analysed thematically (for example, Braun and Clarke, 2006).

It was in the Year 9 class at Redwood School where tensions relating to inclusivity were identified. The class music teacher spoke with great enthusiasm about ‘music for all’ and increasing participation and motivation within her music lessons. Her IL practice had appeared to attract a wider range of students to select music as a Year 9 option – those described as ‘non-musicians’, who had not received lessons on a musical instrument outside of the classroom. Despite being welcomed by the teacher, this sense of inclusion was not valued by a core group of ‘musician’ students who had received lessons on a musical instrument outside of the classroom. This presentation will explore findings that question concepts of musicianship and the loss of exclusivity in music that a core group of ‘musician’ students lamented at Redwood School. It will be proposed that through Green’s (2002, 2008) attempt to make school music more accessible and inclusive to some groups of students, other problems have arisen. As the views explored will challenge notions of inclusivity and have implications for practice, it is believed that this presentation will be of interest to researchers and practitioners both within the field of music and beyond, where similar tensions relating to inclusivity versus exclusivity are problematic.

BRAUN, V. and CLARKE, V., 2006. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology [online]. 3 (2), pp. 77-101. Available from: [Accessed 25 May 2018].

ELLIOTT, D. J. 2012. Music Education Philosophy. In: G.E. MCPHERSON and G.F. WELCH, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Music Education: Volume 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 63-86.

GEORGII-HEMMING, E. and WESTVALL, M., 2010. Music education – a personal matter? Examining the current discourses of music education in Sweden. British Journal of Music Education [online]. 27 (Special Issue 1), pp. 21-33. Available from: [Accessed 15 February 2016].

GREEN, L., 2002. How popular musicians learn: a way ahead for music education. Ashgate: Aldershot.

GREEN, L., 2008. Music, informal learning and the school: a new classroom pedagogy. Ashgate: Aldershot.

HALLAM, S., CREECH, A. and MCQUEEN, H., 2011. Musical Futures: a case study investigation. Final report from Institute of Education University of London for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation [online]. Available from: [Accessed 16 September 2015].

HALLAM, S., CREECH, A., SANDFORD, C., RINTA, T. and SHAVE, K., 2008. Survey of Musical Futures. A report from Institute of Education University of London for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation [online]. Available from: [Accessed 16 September 2015].

STAKE, R., E., 1995. The Art of Case Study Research. London: Sage Publications.

WRIGHT, R., 2008. Kicking the habitus: Power, culture and pedagogy in the secondary school music curriculum. Music Education Research [online]. 10 (3), pp. 389-402. Available from: [Accessed 29 September 2015].
Period13 Sept 2021
Event titleBritish Educational Research Association Conference 2021
Event typeConference
LocationUnited KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational