I propose to take Questions Nos. 317 and 332 to 334, inclusive, together.
The revised music curriculum, launched in 1999, comprises three strands: listening and responding; performing; and composing. The listening and responding strand emphasises the importance of purposeful, active listening, providing opportunities to listen to a range of familiar and unfamiliar musical pieces, focusing on a widening range of sound sources and challenging the child to respond imaginatively with increasing precision and musical sensitivity.
The performing strand dwells on the importance of using the voice. It includes songs and tunes with a wide range of notes, Irish songs and songs of different cultures, styles and traditions. The development of musical literacy will be closely linked with the song-singing programme in the early stages and will be expanded through playing simple melodic instruments. In the music curriculum, literacy is explored through its two main components, rhythm and pitch.
Opportunities to demonstrate growing confidence and understanding in making music using other music sources will be afforded in the strand unit ‘Playing instruments'. The composing strand seeks to develop the child's creativity and uniqueness, first and foremost by providing an avenue for self-expression. In the strand unit ‘Improvising and creating' the child selects and sequences material from the range of sound sources available. The child is given opportunities to evaluate the composing process and to record his or her work in the strand unit ‘Talking about and recording compositions'.
Musical activities are suggested within each strand unit that enable the child to develop an awareness of and sensitivity to the inter-related elements of music — pulse, duration, tempo, pitch, dynamics, structure, timbre, texture and style — and to grow in musical understanding. The curriculum emphasises active responses and music-making at all levels. This enables the child to gain first-hand experience of what it means to be a listener, performer and composer in the world of music.
In terms of sequence, breadth and depth, the content of the music curriculum is outlined in the curriculum guidelines. The strands and strand units offer teachers a sequenced, comprehensive programme on which to base the teaching and learning of music in the classroom. The choice of content will be determined by the previous musical experiences and needs of the children. The school plan will cover the nature and extent of music in the school, recognising the social and cultural environment, the varying needs of the children and the available resources.
A range of supports are in place to assist primary schools in fulfilling the composition aspect of the music curriculum. In addition to the detailed guidelines on composition in the curriculum handbooks, a grant totalling £6.1 million was issued to all schools in December 2000 in order to support schools in the implementation of the arts education section of the curriculum. The aim of the grant was to facilitate the purchase of necessary teaching and learning materials, for example, musical instruments, as well as activities such as inviting a composer to the school. The grant to individual schools was capitation-based and amounted to £13 per pupil. A minimum of £780 was provided for schools of 60 pupils or less.
The primary curriculum support programme was established in 1999 to provide professional development support to teachers to assist them in implementing the curriculum. The PSCP is engaged in a wide range of support activities, including organising seminars for teachers, visiting schools and providing tailored support for individual schools and clusters of schools. To date, the following aspects of the primary curriculum have been implemented and fully supported by the PCSP: English, Gaeilge, mathematics, visual arts, science and social, personal and health education.
This year, following a request from teachers' representatives, I announced a year of consolidation and review of areas of the curriculum that have already been introduced. The in-career development programme for music will therefore take place in the school year 2004-2005. All primary teachers will receive training in the new programme during that year. Teachers will begin to implement the programme during the following school year. In preparation for this roll-out, the PCSP has recruited a team and a supplementary panel of trainers for music and an assistant national co-ordinator who has particular responsibility for this team. The role of this team is to plan supports for the implementation of the music curriculum. These trainers are presently using the new methodologies in their own classrooms and sharing their experiences and expertise with the colleagues on the staff. They also work closely with the Education Centre Network in the provision of evening and summer courses. Composition is an integral component of these courses.
A six week evening course which was held for primary teachers by the Donegal Education Centre and was completed this month. Two designated trainers from the primary curriculum support programme delivered the course. Aspects of all three strands of the Music Curriculum were covered during the six week period.
Our schools have a long and proud tradition in teaching music and our national profile in the music industry greatly exceeds expectations for a country of this size. I am committed to ensuring that schools are fully supported in continuing their excellent work.