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Industry cautiously welcomes government’s new music education plan for England

By | Published on Monday 27 June 2022

Book stack with headphones

The UK government this weekend published its new national plan for music education in England, which, it says, sets out a vision “to enable all children and young people in England to learn to sing, play an instrument and create music together”, and to “progress their musical interests and talents, including professionally”.

Ministers opened a consultation on music education in February 2020, aiming to “refresh” a previous national plan that was published in 2011. Music educators and the music industry hoped that that refresh might deal with various issues and concerns that have been raised about music education in English schools over the last decade.

Most of those issues and concerns began with creative subjects in general being deprioritised in the English curriculum, inevitably resulting in less funding being allocated to music, including music classes, instrument tuition and extracurricular music activities. The new plan has been cautiously welcomed by groups representing music educators and the music industry.

In the blurb accompanying the plan, the government says that, among other things, “tens of thousands of pupils will be given the chance to learn a musical instrument thanks to new capital funding worth £25 million for schools to purchase musical instruments and equipment”.

The plan also asks schools to provide at least one hour per week of music curriculum for students from age five to fourteen; to designate a music lead or head of department; and to write and publish a ‘Music Development Plan’ including information on how music is staffed and funded.

On top of all that, the government says it will make £79 million available every year to the music education hubs programme, which exists to support music education, tuition and activities in and around schools in England.

Among those welcoming the new plan was the Incorporated Society Of Musicians, which said it still needed to scrutinise the detail of what is included in the new document, but added that the top line proposals are mainly positive.

Its CEO Deborah Annetts said: “The refreshed National Plan has been years in the works and we’re glad that it has been released today. The ISM will take time to review the document forensically and listen to the views of teachers. However, on first reading there looks to be much we can welcome and that our members will be pleased to see included within it. The plan states that music should be a key part of the school curriculum, which is something that we are very pleased with”.

However, there is more to be done, Annetts added. “We believe that the plan would be improved if music teachers, parents and other experts had the opportunity to feed in their views on the contents of the plan through official consultation”, she said, before adding: “To really grow music in schools, we need urgent reform to accountability measures and greater funding for music in schools”.

Nevertheless, she concluded, “the ISM would like to thank the members of the expert panel and government officials who have clearly worked incredibly hard on the plan we have in front of us today”.

Meanwhile UK Music chief Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said: “The new National Plan For Music Education, and commitment of capital investment, is very welcome. Music can transform lives – so it is vital that music education does not become the preserve of a privileged few and is available to everyone, regardless of their background. Continued investment in music education is vital if we want to unlock the huge creative potential of young people and level up opportunities across the country”.