Despite a budget promise of an extra £25,000 for each UK secondary school’s arts provision, the UK Music CEO has urged the Prime Minister and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to deliver on their pre-Election manifesto pledge to spend £109 million every year on a secondary school Arts Premium.
Njoku-Goodwin also reminded Williamson of his department’s long-promised National Plan for Music Education, which the Minister had said would encourage music in schools and help nurture a new talent pipeline for the future of the music industry.
The damage caused to music education and to the students by the loss of even online music teaching in many schools has been profound, according to Music Mark, which represents music education hubs and services. Its October 2020 research indicates that 84% of their members were working in fewer schools than a year earlier. In December, education regulator Ofted warned the Government that many primary schools had totally suspended any music lessons, even remote sessions.
The Department for Education is not unaware of the problem. Last month, it appointed Sir Kevan Collins as its Education Recovery Commissioner, charged with overseeing ‘a comprehensive programme of catch-up aimed at young people who have lost out on learning due to the pandemic’. But although schools re-opened for all students this week, nothing has been said about where the budget’s promised £300 million schools catch-up fund will be spent.
Njoku-Goodwin said, ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on children’s learning and music education has been amongst the hardest hit. As children return to school, it’s mission critical that music education is put front and centre of the efforts to catch-up.
‘It’s vital that all children have a good musical education – not just because of the positive benefits on other subjects, or the important mental health and wellbeing impacts, but because the UK’s world-leading music industry relies on a strong talent pipeline. That pipeline has been badly damaged over the past year, and so it’s imperative we now do what we can to protect and strengthen it.
‘Delivering the 2019 manifesto commitment for an Arts Premium would help schools deliver the high-quality music education that children deserve.
‘The UK music industry is a key national asset that generates billions for the economy every year and boosts our global reputation. It relies on nurturing emerging talent – so strengthening that crucial talent pipeline is undoubtedly in our national interest.
UK Music’s Director of Education and Skills, Dr Oliver Morris, added, ‘We must ensure Covid doesn’t sound the death knell for music in schools and we urge the Government to act decisively to protect it.
‘Music has the power to provide a lot of positivity in these difficult times as well as assist pupils in their reintroduction to school life. It is also often at the cutting edge of innovation.
‘Now is the time for the Government to demonstrate its support for teachers, school leaders, music services and hubs and community music organisations.
‘Music must remain a part of school life so no matter what a pupil’s socio-economic or geographical situation it is accessible to all.’