What Is Inclusion?

What is Inclusion?

The second meeting of the National Music Service Working Group for Musical Inclusion took place at the Music Mark conference in Kenilworth in November, chaired by MNE strategic lead Lyndall Rosewarne.

The meeting began with progress updates from the current four AMIE Changing Tracks partners, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Hertfordshire Music Services. Several hub leads gave heartfelt responses, advocating strongly for why this work should be a priority for music services. This was balanced with encouragement to share challenges, which can open up learning better than celebrating success.

The group considered quotations from broader education highlighting how inclusion is an on-going process. Early ‘deficit’ definitions focusing on integrating learners into an existing ‘one size fits all’ offer have developed into the social model of inclusion, where organisations build a more diverse offer in response to learner voice.

The groups then broke into groups to consider how this may inform definitions of musical inclusion, and a rich discussion took place, producing the following definitions.  Differentiation to individual need was common to several.


‘Inclusion is to enable musical access to all, matched to individual need’


The group noted that beyond the numerous barriers to engagement experienced by children in challenging circumstances, music services may ourselves present barriers to inclusion, for instance by promoting a narrow range of musical genres as of equal interest to all young people.

One music service lead noted an enabler of inclusion is to ‘Identify the blockers and unblock them’. The group felt that providing access to a broad range of music seemed key.


‘Make a full range of musical experiences accessible for every child, meeting the need and raising the aspirations of every child’.


Other groups felt that encouraging youth voice is essential: listening to and valuing young people’s diverse musical interests is an essential part of the process of including them…


‘It’s about listening to young people’s needs, building communication and valuing different perspectives.’


One group produced two definitions, one suggesting that inclusion provides access to an existing offer of musical learning,


‘Inclusion in a music organisation enables access to music for all young people. It ensures personal, social and musical progression through interaction and engagement with learning.’


The group discussed whether inclusion is about bringing risk of exclusion young people to the current offer or creating an offer that responds to different needs and interest. The group developed this into a definition that suggested agency is a key enabler and outcome of a process of organisational change…


‘Inclusion is a process by which music organisations empower all people to choose and create their own musical pathways.’


Lyndall introduced the Youth Music Equality, Diversity and Inclusion checklists and action research templates as helpful tools for music services to benchmark starting points for inclusion, and to set out specific actions to ‘unblock the blockers’.

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