Musical Futures

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Musical Futures is a movement to reshape music education - driven by teachers, for teachers. At its heart is a set of pedagogies that bring non-formal teaching and informal learning approaches into more formal contexts, to provide engaging, sustainable and relevant music making activities for all young people.


Funded and managed by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the initial aim of Musical Futures was to devise new ways to teach music to children. Following a year of consultation in 2003, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation identified the following objectives:

  • To understand the factors affecting young people's commitment to, and sustained engagement in, musical participation.
  • To develop ways in which the diverse musical needs of young people can be met and their experience of music making enhanced.
  • To realise viable, sustainable and transferable models which can support a national strategy for music and young people
  • To investigate, and make recommendations on, the most appropriate methods of mentoring and supporting young people's preferences and skills
  • To find ways of validating and (where appropriate) accrediting all forms of young people's musical experiences, including those undertaken without supervision
  • To facilitate support for music trainees, leaders, teachers and performers/composers through the provision of development opportunities which highlight collaborative working practices

After inviting applications from consortia of local music education providers, three Pathfinder Local Authority Music Services – in Leeds, Nottingham and Hertfordshire - were commissioned to explore new approaches and structures which might ensure that more young people participate in better quality musical experiences for longer.

Learning models[edit]

Informal learning in the music classroom[edit]

A programme of informal learning, drawing on the real-life learning practices of popular musicians, developed by Lucy Green, Institute of Education and Hertfordshire Music Service. It involves students in self-directed, independent learning, in friendship groups, working on a series of musical tasks.

Whole curriculum approach[edit]

A programme developed by Nottingham City Music Service that aims to develop school music beyond the classroom confines for Year 7-8 students, and involve them in real musical activity, in genuine musical situations and environments. It aims to draw together good practice from classroom, instrumental and extra-curricular music into an integrated package for students.

Personalising extra-curricular learning[edit]

An approach by Education Leeds Artforms to empower young people to make positive, informed choices about the music they engage with beyond the classroom.


NUMU was a safe online community for young people to showcase their music; collaborate, compete and develop their talent. Schools could join NUMU and establish their own school record label, and enable their students to create an online portfolio of work. The platform has now ceased to be operational.

Intended beneficiaries[edit]

Musical Futures was initially designed to benefit secondary school students, with a particular focus on 12–14 year olds, as this has long been an age at which students seem to lose interest in music learning in school. However, teachers in primary and tertiary education have successfully adopted Musical Futures approaches. These approaches have also been tailored for students in challenging circumstances, for example students with special educational needs, or in Young Offenders Institutes and Pupil Referral Units.

External links[edit]