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Teaching Diplomas are a credible alternative pathway

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In 2011 the Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published – Music Education in England – a review by Darren Henley. His review together with the Government’s response has had a positive impact on the way music education is delivered in England.

At it’s time of writing, Henley found that provision was inconsistent and that

Music Education in England was ‘good in places, but distinctly patchy’

Section 8.0 – Workforce – spoke of the need to develop a new qualification for music educators. One that acknowledged the role of educators in and out of school.

Recommendation 24: A new qualification should be developed for music
educators, which would professionalise and acknowledge their role in and out of
school. Primarily delivered through in-post training and continuous professional
development, musicians who gain this new qualification would be regarded as
Qualified Music Educators. It would be as applicable to peripatetic music teachers
as it would be to orchestral musicians who carry out Music Education as part of
their working lives.

The Government’s response was as follows and paved the way for new and exciting qualifications for educators.

Professionalising the music education workforce would provide to music educators the status they deserve and would enable schools to identify those whose music education practice has been properly assessed. We will talk to the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and other ITT providers about this.

Since then examining boards including The ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music), Trinity College London, RSL Awards, London College of Music and many more have released Ofqual accredited qualifications that directly address recommendation 24 from the Henley report. In turn, many organisations – including MLC – have mapped curricula and schemes of work that facilitate the journey of independent practitioners in an effort to indeed professionalise and acknowledge their invaluable role in school and in the private sector. What is more the government has now published these qualifications as an alternative to the traditional university pathway on its own national careers service website.

Other Routes

You could take training accredited by professional bodies, like the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators, offered by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) and Trinity College London.

The certificate course is aimed at people who are new to teaching music to children, and covers the purpose of music education and promotes best practice. It has been developed for:

  • instrumental and vocal teachers working privately with schools
  • primary teachers
  • community musicians
  • professional musicians who do educational work
  • Other options include training like the Instrumental Teaching Diploma offered by Rock School.

As previously stated, most examining boards have now released suites of university level qualifications. The subsequent curricula devised by many independent organisations will no doubt vary in style as will the delivery of their courses. Some will opt for a traditional face-to-face model whereas others will opt for blended learning that includes both online, peer-to-peer and mentor review.

The pathway for these diplomas includes continued professional development that can result in qualified teacher learner status (QTLS).

Why is this relatively new pathway exciting?

Traditionally individuals would have studied at universities and gone on to do a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) and indeed it is still the preferred pathway for many. Or at least it is today. There can be no doubt that studying at university is both enlightening and fun. It is also expensive. In 2020 a youngster from a low income family who leaves university with a bachelor of arts degree could have quite easily massed a debt of circa £43,000. Whereas studying both a level 4 and level 6 diploma in instrumental/vocal teaching will incur fees in the region of £6,000.

Be under no illusion. These diplomas are not easy and nor should they be. They require time, energy and commitment from the person undertaking them.

We are living in uncertain times. Perhaps the only certainty in the 21st century is uncertainty. Inlight of Covid 19, many higher education institutions have announced that their 2020-2021 academic year provision will either be exclusively online or a form of blended learning in the manner discussed above. This raises the question that circles around the cost of university education and it’s ultimate benefit.

The UK Government warns of a deep recession that will no doubt result in many redundancies. It will inevitably prompt some of the workforce to retrain. The 2020 report, Working Futures 2017-2027: Long-run labour market and skills projections, published by the Department for Education predicts that ‘based on recent trends, the qualification profile of employment will continue to see a shift towards more people holding more high-level qualifications’. In particular;

By 2027, around 55.2% of people in employment are expected to be qualified at level 4 and above, whilst the proportion of people with level 1 or no formal qualifications at all is expected to fall to 10.6%.

What is more, many jobs will continue to shift towards artificial intelligence (AI) so it is therefore reasonable to assume that employers will choose from a highly motivated, skilled and qualified workforce within seven years from now. It ought to be incumbent on individuals to gain the necessary skills and experience together with – where appropriate – the requisite qualifications.

Human beings are not standard. Nor should their education be. It is my belief – which is shared by many – that when you find your element – that thing that drives you – you should never stop doing it. Creative people often shy away from formal education. They shouldn’t. As the current climate clearly illustrates, there may well be greater need for all of us to become more diverse in the future. This may result in the need for people to develop portfolio careers.

It is reasonable to suggest that a person may be teaching privately two evenings a week whilst working within a school or college for one day, writing music on another and performing to a supportive audience of a weekend.

A diploma in music teaching illustrates that you have the ability and commitment to finishing something that you have started together with having developed an understanding of health and safety, best practice, current legislation, planning and delivery. All of these attributes are attractive to employers and peers alike. They are skills that transpose easily to many other aspects of your professional and personal life.

Paul Hose – CEO of MLC Group – has successfully delivered these diplomas since 2016 to students in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Brazil and New Zealand. MLC intends to launch its new suite of university level diplomas in September 2020. Unleash your potential today! To arrange a video tour of our LMS please get in touch via the contact page.


Darren Henley (2011). Music Education in England. London: Crown Copyright. 46.

Department for Education (2011). The Government Response to Darren Henley’s Review of Music Education. London: Crown Copyright. 14.

National Careers Service. (2020). Music teacher. Available: https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/job-profiles/music-teacher. Last accessed 22nd May 2020.

Department for Education (2020). Working Futures 2017-2027: Long-run labour market and skills projections. London: Crown Copyright. 47.

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