Young people face barriers to developing composing skills – report

Can Compose national music educators survey findings

Research from Sound and Music, the UK’s national organisation for new music, highlights the significant barriers faced by young people attempting to develop their skills in creating and composing their own music, as well as the limited support offered to music educators and the lack of value placed on this area by policy makers.

The report identified five main barriers preventing young people’s progression in composing:

  • Many young people lack the skills, knowledge and confidence to compose their own music
  • There are concerns about the relevance of opportunities for young people
  • Many educators lack support and training in how to teach composing
  • There is limited, patchy and unequal access to resources and opportunities
  • Composing as a core part of music education is undervalued

Outcomes to address these barriers were also proposed:

  • There should be more opportunities for young people to compose in and out of school
  • Opportunities for young people to compose should be more relevant and diverse
  • There should be improved provision of training, support and resources for educators, music education hubs and schools
  • There should be improved progression pathways through better networks and signposting
  • More value should be placed on composing

Most of the 550 respondents surveyed agreed that creating and composing music should be a central element of music education and that it has a positive impact on young people’s identity and wellbeing.

Deeper analysis of the findings also reveals that there are serious structural deficiencies in how young people are taught to create their own music, which point clearly and compellingly to the need for changes in perceptions, provision, policy and practice.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Respondents report a fall of 42% in young people’s confidence in their ability to compose between Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11) and Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14)
  • Very few young people are able to progress any talent or interest they have, since only 27% of school teachers know of external opportunities for their students

The report also offers 21 recommendations for the sector to begin to address these urgent issues. For example, the needs of young people who compose should be recognised and supported by key policy documents including the next National Plan for Music Education and the National Curriculum; and all early years settings and primary schools should employ or work with someone who is confident and competent in creative music-making within the school’s music curriculum.

.Susanna Eastburn MBE, Chief Executive, Sound and Music said:

‘This matters because now, more than ever, the creative, problem-solving and collaborative capabilities that composing uniquely requires and develops are vital for the future – both in terms of ensuring that we have a new generation of talented composers contributing to the future of our culture, but also because these skills are precisely those which our young people will need in order to thrive in and navigate an increasingly complex, changing and automated world.’

Download the full report

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