More funding for music education in SA primary schools - Education Matters Magazine
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More funding for music education in SA primary schools

The South Australian Government has announced it will commit $7.5 million in funding towards expanding music education in schools over the next three years.

There will be funding of $2.5 million each year for the next three years to help ensure every child and young person has access to quality music education from the early years.

The announcement follows the release of a new report in May – Setting the tempo – a research initiative supported by Alberts | The Tony Foundation’s Music Education: Right from the Start and the South Australian Department for Education.

The report featured a survey of teachers and representatives from 115 public primary schools, that identified the benefits of music learning in the classroom.

Almost all teachers agree it improves students’ educational experience – 97 per cent – with similar responses seen for positive impact on literacy and numeracy skills (94 per cent) and reduced stress and anxiety among students (94 per cent).

The study shows that teachers from South Australia’s primary schools universally back the student benefits of music learning, but many agree that teacher training, dedicated facilities and appropriate resources are lacking.

The extended investment in the program will go towards buying more musical instruments for schools, extra training, upskilling non-specialist teachers to become music teachers and making music more accessible by having music spaces and rooms available at schools.

Music education includes singing, playing a musical instrument, songwriting or composing. Under the Music Education Strategy, music should be part of students’ regular learning, rather than a special activity.

SA Minister for Education Mr Blair Boyer said music education helps to develop thinking and learning skills, lifts literacy and numeracy standards and enhances wellbeing.

“This latest research shows that 67 per cent of participants said music education led to approved attention span, persistence and resilience – schools should be a place of inclusion and belonging with music playing a significant role in the wellbeing of students,” he said.

“Starting quality music education early and continuing to deliver music learning opportunities provides benefits throughout a child’s school life and beyond.”

Executive Director of Alberts | The Tony Foundation’s Music Education: Right from the Start, Ms Emily Albert, said that while most teachers graduate without the skills to deliver music learning to all levels of curriculum expectations, South Australian teachers have strong access to support and a clear willingness to advance their capabilities.

“That’s good news for students. This research adds to the body of evidence linking music learning and students’ educational, developmental, and personal wellbeing outcomes,” she said.

“Now, we must ensure access to resources and the good practices adopted by many schools are equally applied to all in the state, so no student is left behind in their learning journey.”

The Pines School Assistant Principal Toula Girgolas with music students. Image: Naomi Jellicoe

At The Pines School, music education is delivered in a variety of ways, according to Assistant Principal Ms Toula Girgolas.

“All preschool junior primary staff are mentored in teaching music through the National Music Teacher Mentoring Program,” she said.

“We have a permanent arts teacher who teaches music across the school, and a leader who coordinates our music program and teaches music to individual students and groups. An instrumental teacher also visits once a week to teach students.

Currently, The Pines has five classrooms being used for music education as it has 150 students from Year 3-6 playing 15 different instruments.

“I have seen many benefits of music education in my time as a teacher. At The Pines I have seen a marked improvement in the emotional and social well-being of our students as well as an increase in their self-esteem and focus through experiencing challenge and success.”

About the Setting the tempo report

Alberts commissioned the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to develop and conduct a survey of primary school teachers.

The survey provides the first measurement framework to understand what, when, how, and who is delivering music education across state government education systems – an area where a paucity of data currently exists.

Research Project Lead, Dr Anita Collins, said the research shows strong foundations for music learning delivery across South Australian schools, particularly support for teachers, which aligns with the focus of the SA Music Education Strategy.

“While positive, every student deserves the full benefit music education can bring. Achieving it relies on both the more equitable delivery of music education and giving every teacher the resources to deliver it,” she said.

Music Education: Right from the Start partnered with the South Australian Department for Education to administer the survey and received support from the Day Family Foundation.

The research is based on an online survey of 180 South Australian Government primary school teachers (83 per cent), combined or specialist teachers (10 per cent), early learning educators or government staff (7 per cent). The survey was launched in March 2023, with respondents representing 115 of the 436 government schools in South Australia (ACARA, 2023).

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