Just a few days ago, the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) released the Arts consultation curriculum, which is the proposed Australian Curriculum for the Arts, including music.
The Australian Curriculum in its current form has been in place since 2015, so a process to review it began in 2020, which is a normal process. Curriculum documents are reviewed every few years, so it is a sensible time to review it.
Right now the consultation curriculum has been released, and teachers have an opportunity to provide feedback. The timeline published by ACARA suggests that the feedback will be considered, final content changes will be made, and it will be ready for endorsement by the education council in October 2021, and then the new Australian Curriculum will be ready to go live by the start of 2022.
Here at the Fun Music Company we used the Australian Curriculum as the starting point for our own Fun Music Company Curriculum program- which means that our content is very closely aligned with the Australian curriculum.
Therefore we are immediately undertaking a major review of our curriculum program, to make sure that it meets the content statements exactly and meets the needs of teachers.
When you first look at the changes published by ACARA, the changes can look very daunting to teachers, however we have done the hard work for you and summarized the changes as they affect music teachers particularly.
At first it seems like a lot has changed, but once you dig a bit deeper and get an understanding of what the curriculum writers wanted to achieve, you will see that its actually not a huge change and that what we do as teachers won’t need to change too much.
Here are the five core changes we’ve identified that we need to prepare for:
1. Foundation has been separated out from Grades 1 and 2.
Foundation refers to the first year of formal schooling, which is still called Kindergarten, Preparatory, Pre-Primary or reception in some states. Here at the Fun Music Company, we will continue to designate this “Grade K” for Kindergarten, as that is the international term for this year of schooling.
The Australian curriculum used to have one set of content statements and achievement standards for Foundation through to Grade 2, and now foundation has been separated out across all subjects.
This is a very good thing. Everyone would agree that a five year old, having walked into school for the very first time is a very different student to a Grade 2, who has been in school for 2-3 years.
Therefore having separate content statements for the foundation year gives us the opportunity as teachers to focus more on play, imagination and curiosity in that year, and set a foundation for their learning, and we’re not jumping straight into achievement based learning, that the children may not be ready for.
2. Exploring and connecting have separated one content statement into two, to give the indigenous component its own content statement
You might think that we now have five content statements instead of four – however that is not really the case. What has been done is that the indigenous component has been given its very own content statement, rather than it being added onto the end of the Exploring and Connecting one.
Previous content statement was (Grade 3-4 Music)
Identify intended purposes and meanings as they listen to music using the elements of music to make comparisons, starting with Australian music, including music of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (ACAMUR087)
Which has been changed to:
Explore and describe how music created for different purposes and contexts communicates meaning for audiences (AC9AMU4E01)
Describe how First Nations Australians use cultural expressions to communicate connection to and responsibility for Country/Place, Culture and People (AC9AMU4E02)
This again, is a good thing! It enables us to really embrace the indigenous component of this and teach is separately, without having to impose a “musical listening” framework on it. Also the wording of this gives us more freedom as teachers to explore indigenous content in different ways.
Here at the Fun Music Company we hope to explore this new content statement in depth, and hope to engage with First Nations artists to help create new content to meet it.
3. Emphasis on developing aural skills has been removed in the developing skills strand, and also in the achievement standards.
The very first content statement used to begin with “develop aural skills” for F-2 and 3-4, and in 5-6 it was worded differently but still emphasized. This has been removed and simplified to refer to “listening skills” instead.
The previous content statement was (Grade 3-4 Music)
Develop aural skills by exploring, imitating and recognizing elements of music including dynamics, pitch and rhythm patterns (ACAMUM084)
Which has been changed to:
Use listening skills and experiment with ways to manipulate the elements of music using voice and instruments to achieve intended effects (AC9AMU4P01)
Here at the Fun Music Company this change represents the biggest change for us – as we currently have a unit named “aural” in our program. Therefore in the Fun Music Company Curriculum we will be likely expanding and re-naming this unit to more accurately reflect this content statement, and provide teachers with the knowledge and assurance that they are accurately covering it.
So putting aside the amount of work that this generates for us here at the Fun Music Company, we believe that once again, this change is a good thing. It makes it easier to teach, and we we can incorporate a lot more important knowledge and skills in different ways, instead of being locked into the concept of “Develop Aural Skills….” 4. Composition and Sing and Play Elements have essentially swapped content statements. As music teachers we will still do the same things.. but under a different content statement.
4. Composition and Sing and Play elements have essentially swapped content statements. As music teachers we will still do the same things … but under a different content statement.
As part t of this review, ACARA have tried to stream all the content statements into four distinct areas:
- Exploring and Connecting
- Developing skills, practice and ideas
- Sharing and Communicating
These four streams didn’t really exist before – but there were four content statements in each arts area. This gave more freedom for the arts subjects to have different content statements in the previous curriculum, which were more aligned to their particular subjects. However this new method does have its merits. It is clear that music has both Creating – which is composing, and it has sharing and communicating, which is performing.. i.e. Singing and playing music.
Previously the two content statements were (from Grade 3-4 curriculum):
Practise singing, playing instruments and improvising music, using elements of music including rhythm, pitch, dynamics and form in a range of pieces, including in music from the local community (ACAMUM085)
Create, perform and record compositions by selecting and organising sounds, silence, tempo and volume (ACAMUM086)
And now they have been revised to:
Trial options to interpret the elements of music when learning music for performance; compose music that communicates ideas and intentions (AC9AMU4C01)
Sing and play music for audiences in informal settings and share ideas about the music being performed (AC9AMU4S01)
In their comparison document it looks scary, because it seems like they have totally changed everything, but this really isn’t the case. If you look at the two content statements together, you can see that essentially we are doing the same things… We are COMPOSING, and we are SINGING and PLAYING.
We are doing what music teachers have done for years and years, and nothing essentially has to change to meet the new requirements. Within the “sharing and communicating” area there is a little more about performing and sharing ideas about the music being performed, but other than that little has changed in those two areas.
5. There is less music-specific terminology and more general statements, and more emphasis on communication and meaning.
Particularly if you review the achievement standards, you’ll notice less music-specific terminology. It is clear that this has been done to make it more readily understandable by non-specialists.
For example, in the Grade 3-4 achievement standard “Students collaborate to improvise, compose and arrange sound, silence, tempo and volume in music that communicates ideas” has changed to “They compose and document music.”
So if you’re a music specialist reading this – it doesn’t mean that you have to “dumb-down” anything you might have done before! You can still “arrange sound, silence tempo and volume in music that communicates ideas….” – this is just a definition of composing! There is detail in the elaborations of the content areas, and there is more scope for teaching composition in new and interesting ways.
Also included in the achievement standards are references to communicating ideas, meaning and feelings. This is a wonderful thing, as that approaches the purpose of all art, which is to communicate ideas, meaning and feelings. So rather than the curriculum being something that ties us down and makes us do certain things, this review wakes up our creativity and can give us some scope for unleashing the creativity of our students!
For example the Grade 5-6 achievement standard “Students use rhythm, pitch and form symbols and terminology to compose and perform music” has changed to “They compose and document music to communicate ideas, meaning and feelings.”
So in summary – there are some wonderful changes that are happening as a result of this review, and here at the Fun Music Company we are working hard to develop content for it. We are currently getting right into gear for a full review of our curriculum program to be ready for release at the start of 2022, right when this new Australian curriculum will be finalised and implemented.