Role description

Post title Research Assistant for the SMA
Consultancy fee £12,800 (paid in quarterly instalments), representing0.2FTE @ £32,000 pa
Period of appointment 24 months, commencing January 7th, 2019, or as agreed
Responsible to Dr Esther Cavett (Trustee, SMA)


Role purpose
This post is to support a study funded by the SMA entitled “Chasing the gap in music literacy in English tertiary music education today: defining a role for the SMA”. 

The word “chasing” in the title reflects the fact that every sub-discipline within a discipline likes to think its skills are essential. As curricula develop and change, someone somewhere will perceive a “gap”. Music theory and analysis today does not have the attention it previously enjoyed in secondary and tertiary education in England.  The SMA trustees sees this as a gap which needs addressing.

The aim of the project is to determine whether stakeholders in the music and creative industries (working at both secondary and tertiary stages) agree with the SMA trustees’ assessment, what these stakeholders consider music literacy to be, and what might be a desirable level of music literacy both at entrance level to tertiary music education and on graduation. The trustees also wish to know what resources, if any, key stage 4 and 5 music teachers would like the SMA to provide to them, and what those teachers found most helpful for their current roles in their tertiary musical training.

Method. The intention of this scoping project is to be purposive rather than exhaustive, identifying the range of approaches to music literacy and theory.

Part 1. Snowball identification of issues and candidates.

Interview a number of key individuals (for example, from industry bodies, music pedagogy experts and other representatives of the industry) who are knowledgeable about English secondary music education to seek their views of our project. Consider if the SMA should refine the aim of the project or adjust the outcome. Consider identification of candidates of Part 2 – 4 of this study.  Consider how the results of this enquiry can improve the SMA’s offering to its membership in the future.

Part 2. Literature review.

Literature review, to summarise the views which have been expressed in publications addressing these questions.  Sources would include UK education policy documents, music education journals, position papers by organizations such as the ISM, ABRSM, Conservatoires UK, and other music organizations.

Part 3a. Data gathering from universities.

Seek views from a purposive selection of University music departments with contrasting curricular and student demography on the following questions: 

—what music literacy skills would you like students to have when they arrive to read music at your dept?

—what music literacy skills do you find students have when they arrive?

—what do you do to bridge the gap, if there is one?

—what music literacy and theory and analysis skills do you wish your students to have when they finish their undergraduate degree.

Part 3b.  Data gathering from the SMA membership.

The SMA members are assumed to be generally members of UK academic institutions and can therefore be asked to respond to the same questions as are proposed for Part 3a.

Part 4. Data gathering from schools.

Seek views from a purposive selection of teachers of key stage 4 and 5 music in schools. Specific questions to be decided, but the aim would be to understand how helpful teachers found their own music degree in what they need to teach in the classroom; and what materials, if any, they would like to see SMA providing to assist their roles.


—an understanding of how the SMA might best allocate its resources to help address any gap which is identified

—a report on findings for the SMA trustees, which will be available for SMA members at the end of year one and year two

—depending on findings, an article in a peer-reviewed Music Education/Analysis Journal at the end of year one and year two.

The post-holder’s role is to collect and analyse the information referred to above, advise the trustees on resources SMA might provide to schools and write a report on findings for the trustees.



Role profile
The study has 4 key areas as referred to above:

a.          identification of issues and candidates (by means of interviews)

b.         literature review

c.         purposive survey of universities and other SMA members (interviews/surveys); and

d.         purposive survey of schools (interviews/surveys).

The post-holder would be primarily responsible for carrying out these tasks as well as writing reports summarising findings and making recommendations to the trustees based on these.  Monthly summaries on progress would be made to Dr Cavett, and the post holder would be in regular contact with Dr Cavett during the course of the project.

We seek an enthusiastic and flexible probably post-doctoral researcher with some knowledge of the English music education system, and with substantial experience of data collection and preparation work for initial analysis, and of data collection and qualitative interviewing. Some travel may be involved and possible occasional overnight stays.



The post reports to SMA trustee Dr Esther Cavett (King’s College, London), who in turn will work with Chair of SMA, Prof Julian Horton (Durham University) and SMA trustee Dr Shay Loya (City University), who will in turn report to the SMA trustees generally.



Person specification


Criteria Essential Desirable How identified
and assessed*


*For ‘How identified and assessed’ use: AP – application, AS – assessment, I – interview, P – presentation, R – references  
Education / qualification and training
Experience of UK secondary and/or tertiary music education (as

teacher and/or student)




Doctoral degree requiring the knowledge/skills referred to below or commensurate experience x   AP
Knowledge / skills
Skills in conducting interviews and discussions groups x   AP
Skills in eliciting stakeholder views and analysis of the data x   AP
Qualitative research skills demonstrated in previous posts x   AP
Experience of interviewing and data analysis x   AP
Experience of writing reports x   AP
Experience of working on a research study x   AP
Personal characteristics/other requirements
Flexibility x   AP/I
Team player and good communicator x   AP/I
Attention to detail x   AP/I
Good record keeping and project management x   AP/I
Role specific requirements
Some national travel and overnight stays may be required   x AI





Terms of Appointment

This post is for a fixed-term of 24 months. During this period, 3 months’ notice can be given on either side.

It is important that the applicant has full access to academic library facilities.  For an applicant without current institutional affiliation, the SMA may be able to fund alumni membership of the applicant’s prior institution; alternatively, it may be possible to arrange an honorary institutional affiliation between the researcher and City, University of London. 


Applying for the post

Please complete an SMA application form and return it to We will not accept curriculum vitae in isolation and you must complete the required application form for your application to be considered.  Please note you are required to request your referees to send their references to the SMA at by the closing date for applications.


For an informal discussion or to find out more about the role please contact: Dr Esther Cavett at



Closing date: Applications will close Midnight on Wednesday 5th December 2018


Interview date scheduled for: the afternoon (post 15.00) on Friday 14th December 2018 in Central London. It may be possible for an interview to be arranged via Skype if necessary.



All applications will be considered with respect to the criteria outlined in the person specification. We are unfortunately not able to provide feedback at the shortlisting stage.