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Teachers call for greater input to Government strategy on music education

Politicians were told of ‘a worrying decline of music delivery in schools’ in the first meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education (APPGME) for almost a year.

Presentations were made by Dr Jodie Underhill, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) researcher, music education specialist Kevin Rogers, music education consultant Professor Nathan Holder and David Ward, the Managing Director of Technology in Music Education (TiME).

Using the ISM’s ‘The heart of the school is missing’ report from the end of last year, Dr Underhill said that over two-thirds of primary schools and one third of secondary schools had reduced their music offering during the pandemic, when the mental health and wellbeing value of music learning was of greatest value. She said that 16 percent of music teachers had no specialist music room facilities to use, a third of music classrooms have been repurposed for other lessons and about 10 percent of schools were not teaching music at all.

She also pointed out that the Government’s advice on teaching music in schools was published so late, in August 2020, that few schools could act upon it in time for this school year.

Kevin Rogers pointed out that factors long before Covid had contributed to the decline in school music education, including the EBacc, Progress 8 and the increase in academies which were not obliged to follow the national curriculum. The fact that the new Model Music Curriculum is not statutory meant that, although it raised awareness of the importance of music education, it was insufficient to persuade schools to offer, ‘a well-resourced and balanced curriculum’. He suggested that there is a need to provide a complete curriculum framework through a refreshed National Plan for Music Education, but that teachers had to lead its authorship if it was to find traction in schools.

Asked by the Committee Chair, Lord Black, what headteachers could do to re-energise their schools’ music offering, Rogers suggested headteachers read the introduction of the Model Music Curriculum and connect with local music hubs. He argued that teacher training needed changing to help new teachers understand the special requirements of music teaching.

The subject of inclusivity and diversity in music education was a strong theme of the meeting. In David Ward’s presentation on the application of music technology in the delivery of music education, he spoke about the potential of music technology to increase access for all regardless of age, gender or cultural heritage. He highlighted music technology’s emerging role in helping the work of community group hubs, music therapy and disabled groups.

Professor Nathan Holder argued that the content of music education was still too exclusive, and that using the cultural diversity of music was an excellent way of helping schools to address the ‘de-colonisation’ of other school subjects such as history and English and the issue of under-representation.

The minutes of the meeting can be read here.