Where did you first fall in love with music?
Did you pick up an instrument at your local school, joined a choir, band or orchestra?
Studies have shown that musical activities not only enrich a child’s learning experience but also nourish academic success.
Music education is an irreplaceable part of our schools and many of us have benefitted from it greatly.
Unfortunately, music education has faced cuts, lack of funding and rapid decline in recent years.
In order to tackle this, the UK government has announced a new plan to shape the future of music education, offering a once in a decade opportunity for music professionals to get involved.
But will this be enough to undo the damage music education has faced in the last 10 years? In this article, we will discuss the issues surrounding state music provision in the UK.
Government music education strategy
The new national plan for music education will be refreshed from the previous version in 2011 and aims to reflect the technological advancements to transform music education.
The government music education strategy includes an £85 million investment for 2020-21 and they are seeking consultation from music industry professionals on how to improve the current education system for better music provision.
The consultation includes a series of questions, focusing on areas like inclusivity and SEND, music technology and music education, and the music education hubs.
The responses will inform changes to the current plan, which will be announced in autumn 2020.
If you’re a music professional, parent, educator, researcher or in any way tied to music and music education, you can have your voice heard by the 13th of March 2020. Click the link here to access the survey.
Music in UK economy
The new national plan on music education is a welcome change supported by the likes of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and UK Music CEO Tom Kiehl.
The UK music industry is worth £5.2 billion and employs 190,000 people, however, the number of people studying A-Level music has declined by 30%. This is an alarming rate, compared to the 4% decline in people studying A-Levels in general.
A reform is needed to continue the growth the UK music industry has experienced over the past few years and to prevent scarcity in our talent pipeline.
Although the government has currently branded the 2020 consultation as a refresh to the 2011 plan, many hope that it will address the ongoing issues, which have hindered music education provision in public schools.
With the input of concerned music professionals, we hope that it will bring a real change to the accessibility of music, as well as keeping up with emerging trends in music technology.
Music education crisis
A recent report revealed that music education could be left behind and become outdated if it doesn’t keep up with the rise of technology.
From online tutorials to low-cost technology and apps that let you create music from your phone, there are so many ways for young people to engage with music on their own.
Meanwhile, schools are at risk of being stuck in outdated acoustic age, risking the loss of interest from pupils.
The report calls for blurring lines between different types of music creation and merging them together for an updated, current way of introducing music education.
But technology isn’t the only threat to music provision in schools.
Music education has faced a decade of government cuts, with a staggering 97% of 1,000 teachers surveyed, admitting they lack confidence in the way the government is handling music education.
A report from 2019 also shows poor employment conditions and gross inequality in instrument provision.
Children from families with income under £28,000 per year are half as likely to learn a musical instrument as those from families with income above £48,000. While there are some schools with excellent music provision, some offer practically none to their students.
This is often down to the way headteachers choose to distribute their budgets and the lack of accountability enforced by the government.
Schools are also narrowing their curriculums due to primary focus on data and exam results, which don’t always display the full picture of pupils’ education experience.
Music plays an instrumental role in increased academic success in many other subjects, yet it is one of the fastest disappearing subjects from UK schools.
The report calls for improved teacher training and professional development, strengthening of music hubs and music to become a universal entitlement for all children in state schools, which the schools will need to be held accountable for.
Music education and academic achievement
Despite the notion that arts and music are unimportant in academia, arts are defined as one of the core academic subjects among English, maths, science, foreign language, civics and government, economics, history and geography.
And yet music classes are often the first to be cut from the curriculum, as many dismiss the profound benefits music education has on pupils’ learning experience.
Music is the common denominator in schools where multiple languages are spoken.
It can be a way for people to socialise with likeminded individuals and make friends, which is a vital part of their emotional wellbeing. Students who play in a band or ensemble, tend to have higher levels of confidence and gain co-operation skills, helpful in interacting with teachers and fellow pupils.
Playing in an ensemble encourages young musicians to recognise their role and importance in a group, motivating them to perform well and come prepared, which is an attitude and skill that transfers onto other areas of life.
Those who play music admit that it’s a form of relaxation and have also been observed to have lower lifelong and current use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
But not only that but music also increases the students’ academic performance.
A study that tracked 25,000 middle and high school students over a ten year period found that those who attended music classes performed much better on standardised tests than those with no musical involvement.
Music education allows students to transfer skills to other subjects, for example, there is a clear link between learning different rhythms and spatial-temporal reasoning, which is important in learning and acquiring useful maths skills. It also helps develop creativity, one of the top 5 most desirable skills in the workplace, which can be applied to other subjects and careers.
Didn’t think that music and managerial positions are closely linked?
Participation in music classes, ensembles and bands develop leadership skills and self-discipline, which are essential in senior management positions.
If you are looking for excellent music education for your child in London, visit The Children’s Music Academy. Give your child what they deserve – an excellent music education from the word go!
Music education solutions
While music education provision has been declining in the UK, the link between music classes and development of other academic skills, as well as increased quality of life is undeniable.
It is clear that we need meaningful change to make music an accessible, core part of the curriculum, without compromising or treating it as a ‘throw-away’ subject.
To achieve this, music education should provide an incentive to schools through Ofsted framework of inspections. There should be a budget increase for state institutions to achieve this, as well as more rehearsal spaces and updated curriculum to reflect changes in music technology.
An independent analysis of UK music hubs should be key to identifying the problems and finding appropriate solutions.
If you haven’t already, we urge you to have your say in the government consultation by 13th of March. ((Insert: https://consult.education.gov.uk/curriculum-implementation-unit/music-education-call-for-evidence/ ) Don’t miss out on your opportunity to play a role in improving music education!
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