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UK government axes music teaching bursaries as it halves election promises

Music is among many subjects to lose government support for teacher training in swingeing cuts announced in early October

As the Covid-19 crisis has led many people to seek a career switch to education, the shortage of people wanting to be teachers has reduced substantially.

The UK National Audit Office believes that so many people are seeking the security of a teaching career, there will be a buyers’ market for schools for the foreseeable future. The government has also received stinging criticism that the bursary scheme, started during the coalition years, was open to abuse, with people engaging in ‘bursary tourism’ to take government handouts in subjects that were not wanted.

Removing bursaries is a short-term measure that could have long-term implications

In consequence, the Department of Education has responded robustly. All arts subjects have lost their bursaries, including music and even English. The Early Careers Payments for science subjects, once deemed so important to the government, have be axed, too. The same goes for the Schools Direct (salaried) training grants schools get to support trainee teachers on several subjects including music.

The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) warned against taking the Covid-19 uplift of applications as a long-term trend. ‘Although applications to initial teacher education have increased because of the pandemic, the effect could be short-lived and underlying problems are likely to remain,’ it says. ‘Removing bursaries is a short-term measure that could have long-term implications.’

These cuts come as the government prepares to increase teacher salaries to above £30,000 per annum, so the Department of Education believes there is a balance to be struck. However, for many who were drawn by the government’s push for retraining for a teaching career, the loss of these bursaries is not compensated by the increased salaries at the end of the training period.

Those who are giving up other careers to make the move will now have to support themselves and pay education fees for at least a year. If there is the glut of trained teachers the government suggests, there is no guarantee of a job at the end of that period.

But for music teachers who have been marginalised by the subject’s exclusion from the English Baccalaureate, the shift towards non-salary positions and zero-hours contracts, the news is especially unwelcome.

UCET states, ‘All students, in whatever phase or subject, need to be able to support themselves. Student teachers are a hugely beneficial resource for schools at the moment and they all need financial support that will allow them to complete their programmes.’

Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb responded saying, ‘Teaching remains an attractive proposition, which is evidenced by the significant increase in applications over the last few months, and these financial incentives are set to attract those to the hardest to recruit subjects’.

Further information: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/funding-initial-teacher-training-itt/funding-initial-teacher-training-itt-academic-year-2021-to-2022