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Musicians’ Union also cautiously welcomes new music education plan for England

By | Published on Tuesday 28 June 2022

Book stack with headphones

The Musicians’ Union has also cautiously welcomed the UK government’s new national plan for music education in England, while stressing that the plan is “only a first step in the provision of this key subject over the coming decade”.

The new plan, published this weekend, has been a long time coming. Music educators and the music industry had been hoping that this new plan would deal with a number of concerns and issues that have been raised over the last decade, during which music education has generally been deprioritised and therefore underfunded in English schools.

Various music industry and music education organisations have now welcomed key elements of the new plan. For its part, the MU says it “welcomes the plan’s clear statements on the value of music education and the vision it describes of meaningful partnership between schools and [music education] hubs”.

It also welcomes funding commitments made by the government, including for those music education hubs that exist to support music teaching and activities in and around schools.

The MU adds: “The plan is the most coherent description of a vision for music education in England that the government has provided to date. While specialists in individual areas may well take issue with details, the totality of what is described – were it to happen – would lead to significant improvements”.

However, it adds, there are still concerns. “While the renewal of funding for hubs is welcome”, it says, “funding levels have been roughly the same for the last decade, representing a significant cut in real terms. With various new roles for hubs outlined in the plan, there is a risk that hubs will be asked to do more for less. One consequence of this could be a stagnation of pay for teachers in hubs”.

Also, “the MU is particularly concerned that the plan is non-statutory, suggesting that accountability could be a challenge where schools do not engage with the plan. In contrast, hubs will be required to deliver certain outcomes as part of their funding agreements, which means that parts of the plan clearly are statutory. This potentially sets up a clash between hubs and schools and would benefit from further clarification”.

Stressing that while the plan is a good start, more needs to be done, the union’s National Organiser For Education, Chris Walters, says: “This plan is a welcome publication from the government, showing that ministers understand what a high quality music education for all children and young people could look like. The plan, however, is only the beginning, and we will be watching closely as its key initiatives are developed and rolled out”.

“Ultimately, the proof of its value will be in outcomes for children and young people, and it is vital that these are monitored effectively”, he adds. “[But] we are grateful for the time and effort that has clearly gone into this plan, and [the] significance of its publication as a statement that music education matters. We look forward to playing an active role in its further development and roll out”.