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Education and Training Committee: extent, benefits and potential of music education in Victorian schools

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — It is a pleasure to rise to make a contribution on the recently tabled report on the inquiry into the extent, benefits and potential of music education in Victorian schools. It was a privilege to chair the committee for a time, and I thank the committee members who were involved with me; I will come to them shortly.

The report represents 12 months of research and extensive consultation throughout the music education and broader community. Music plays an important part in our lives. Victoria has a huge music industry and a great reputation in music. We need to ensure that we protect that and offer as much opportunity as possible to young people in developing their music careers. We have seen through this report that music helps in so many ways, particularly in advancing young people in literacy and numeracy.

The terms of reference asked the committee to evaluate the extent, benefits and potential of music education in Victorian schools, and the committee was asked to provide a framework to ensure that all Victorian students have an opportunity to experience meaningful music education at school. Through the research and consultation we saw a lot of the really good work that has been done in secondary schools. Victoria has a great reputation, with a number of secondary schools providing excellent programs in the music specialist area. We are training some really fine musicians at that end, but there are some big gaps in the early stages and, more particularly, in primary schools. The committee saw primary school as offering a huge opportunity and being the area where we need to spend a lot more time and effort to ensure that young people get the earliest possible opportunity to learn music.

The committee made a number of recommendations in its report. It recommended a statewide strategy to ensure that all children have access to music education and increased education support for teachers, in particular allowing specialist teachers to teach at schools but also allowing generalist teachers to provide music education in their schools. The committee received 244 submissions, held nine public hearings and made several school visits as part of its inquiry.

I want to thank a member for Eastern Metropolitan Region in the other place, Jan Kronberg, who continued as chair after I stood down. The member for Bundoora took over as deputy chair. The member for Mildura was on the committee during my time and continued on, and a member for Northern Metropolitan Region in the other place, Nazih Elasmar, was also on the committee during both periods. Mrs Amanda Millar from Northern Victoria Region in the other place was a new entrant, and the member for Gembrook was on the committee for only a brief time but certainly made a contribution. I also thank the member for Bentleigh for her work on the committee. I thank Kerryn Riseley, who was the executive officer for a significant time and with whom I worked closely for a number of years. I also thank Anita Madden, the research officer, and Stephanie Dodds, who provided great administrative assistance.

This is a significant inquiry. It is certainly a great opportunity for us in Victoria to ensure that we continue to provide the best educational outcomes and that we use music to do that. In some of the research presented to the committee we saw that music programs contribute to reduced absenteeism from school; in schools that had music programs there was up to 65 per cent less absenteeism. Most importantly there was an improvement in the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy results in literacy and numeracy for schools where students participated in a music program.

I also want to place on record the work done by some of the programs, in particular Musical Futures, which is a way of training kids that do not have specialist music teachers so that one can provide music right across the board. This program was championed in the UK under the Blair government and turned the whole education system around when it came to music. We have done some trialling of the program in Victoria and there is a great opportunity to look at advancing that. The Song Room also participated and it has been doing some terrific work to advance music. We have a great opportunity to advance music education in schools and I look forward to hearing the government’s response on this inquiry.

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