Embedding Inclusion with Music Service Quality Assurance Cycles

At a recent meeting of the Changing Tracks National Music Services Working Group for Inclusion, the group workshopped a question of ‘how do we know we’re becoming more inclusive?’ Michael Davidson outlines how music service quality assurance systems are central to progress and evidence in inclusion.

The challenges of measuring how we are becoming more inclusive

One metric arising from conversations was the value of mapping the engagement, retention and progression of children in challenging circumstances within our data management. These metrics will be familiar to colleagues tasked with monitoring efficacy of targeted inclusion programmes, but they can feel challenging to services experiencing multiple pressures on capacity. However, engagement, retention and progression are also key and interlinked elements of music service quality assurance systems, albeit often with focus on a specific, narrow type of quality that diversity and inclusion have sometimes been challenged as ‘hollowing out.’

Improving quality is a helpful way to frame embedding inclusion

Rather than a separate programme, policy or strategy, is embedding inclusion really any different to encouraging good quality, responsive teaching? Might this be simply service-wide adaption of our offer to the differing needs and interests of all young people, rather than serving those who find it easiest to access what we already do? If so, are the EDI action plans we have been developing really any different to quality improvement plans?

Which resources might support this?

In our 5th year (2022-23), Changing Tracks is interested to explore how inclusion can become more thoroughly embedded within services’ quality assurance systems, and to develop the resources that can be most helpful to this process. For instance, our earlier work on recruitment resulted in a task and finish group that collectively developed an inclusive job description for instrumental music teachers. This resource has since been downloaded 93 times and used by many music services as part of their quality assurance cycles. So, what other areas of an annual quality assurance cycle might we look at, and which resources would help us to embed inclusion at other stages?

What might this mean for service development?

We could apply our engagement, retention, progression metric to different stages of quality assurance. Using data effectively and encouraging youth voice can help us plan to engage a wider range of young people. But instrumental teachers know that adapting their lessons to the needs and declared interests of young people they teach is also key to retaining pupils, especially those in challenging circumstances. And adapting teaching also requires adapting progression pathways to progress young people in accessible ways, and so sustain their engagement. So which other resources could we develop to help services improve our planning CPD, Performance Management and reporting processes to support these interlinked areas?

What might this mean for business planning?

Most significantly at this stage of the year, what might this mean for our service business cases, for our prioritisation of resources?

In 2020 we wrote about a blog about how, beyond the social justice aims we all pursue, the key to embedding inclusion is how it supports music service’s business cases. Could re-reframing our own service’s purpose uncover additional values for instrumental teaching that our whole organisation can get behind? And could this drive both business growth and deeper inclusion?     

The National Working Group for Inclusion is looking forward to exploring these questions in our next meeting on 8th February 2022. Updates will be shared through Changing Tracks.

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