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Welsh Assembly trebles music funding as it publishes National Plan for Music Education

‘Experiencing the joy of music, in all its forms, should be at the heart of every school and setting,’ proclaims The Welsh Assembly’s new National Plan for Music Education

Backed by a trebling of funding to £13.5 million over the next three years, the new National Plan sets out a series of priorities for music education throughout Wales based on the principle of ‘promoting equality by ensuring access for all learners to play, sing, take part in and create music’.

The government intends to achieve this through:

  • Supporting schools and settings
  • Building stronger music learning communities
  • Increasing diversity and representation in music education workforce
  • Connecting music industry with higher education and lifelong learning and,
  • Thereby improving health and well-being through music.

The plan builds on last year’s commitment to establish a National Music Service for Wales and is based upon findings from a range of reports on music education and direct engagement with the music sector and other stakeholders. These included The Welsh Authorities Music Education Association (CAGAC), Arts Council of Wales and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD).

The key barriers to music agreed from these discussions were the cost of tuition, access to any music provision, the limited range of instruments and genres, insufficient professional teachers and support and a lack of clear information and networking opportunities, both digital and traditional.

The 32 page plan offers a detailed list of recommendations. Crucially, the first of these is to ‘transfer responsibility for the delivery of music services to an arms-length, national body with a distinct regional delivery mechanism and footprint.’ The body’s role is to ensure that all pupils and staff receive equal opportunities to engage in music, regardless of location or social background. And fairness to music teachers is entrenched in the plan, which will review their terms and conditions to ensure equitable treatment.

The plan aims to help schools integrate a strong music element to the Curriculum for Wales, which is being phased in this September. This will ensure music is treated as a discipline in the Education department’s Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience.

Music, the government says, should be seen as a vital part in providing its overarching ‘four purposes’ in education to create:

  • Ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
  • Enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
  • Ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
  • Healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society

The lifelong element begins with a First Experiences programme for primary school children, including a minimum half-a-term of instrumental taster lessons. This, and other learning, will be supported by a new national instrument and equipment library available to schools and students across the whole of Wales and a digital resource of teaching tools for tutors and schools.

Engagement with the music industry is also key, including a Making Music With Others concept, letting children and young people experience working and playing with professional musicians and the creative industries.

Jeremy Miles, the Minister of Education and Welsh Language, said, ‘Our vision is for all children and young people across Wales, regardless of background, to have the chance to learn to play and instrument.

‘I remember how important it was to me to be able to have music tuition when I was at school and learn baritone and to play in brass ensembles.

‘The chance to learn an instrument and develop musical skills is too often limited by cost and affordability nowadays, so we’re making this significant investment to deliver a range of activities for our children and young people, so they can learn and experience the joy of music.’

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford also learned to play at school and said it was a formative part of his upbringing. ‘A lack of money should not be a barrier to any young person who wants to learn to play music,’ he said. ‘This funding will support music services in schools and within the community to help nurture our young musical talent.’

‘The establishment of a National Music Service for Wales is an important commitment in our Programme for Government and I’m delighted that we’re delivering on that pledge.’

Read the National Plan for Music Education here