Music Education: State of the Nation

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education has released the State of the Nation report on music education, alongside the University of Sussex and the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM).

Music Education: State of the Nation draws together significant research from the Government’s own figures regarding the impact their flagship education policy, the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), on creative subjects, as well as academic research, surveys and analysis of current trends.

The report outlines a rapid and disturbing decline in music education. Music is now the fastest disappearing A-Level subject – dropping by 38% in just two years – while the English Baccalaureate focuses on English, maths and the sciences, discouraging students from taking arts subjects. Music teacher numbers have decreased by 1,000 in secondary schools between 2010 and 2017 (while comparatively maths teachers increased by 1,600 and English teachers by 900), and there is now less specialised music teacher training, and less job security for music teachers. Most worryingly, it is becoming more difficult for those from deprived backgrounds, and with special needs, to access music education.

The report states that a squeeze on funding, pressure on the curriculum due to accountability measures, and the declining status of music education, have all combined to push music education out of schools. It concludes that: “Music education in England is in crisis. The Government must act quickly to ensure music does not become the preserve of a privileged few.”

Dr Simon Procter, Director of Music Services for Nordoff Robbins, said:

“This is a deeply concerning report, showing the dire and declining state of music education in our schools. Music is an important and vital part of any curriculum – with significant research showing its importance for our wellbeing, our ability to think creatively, and to work collaboratively, not to mention for our diverse musical heritage across the UK – and yet it is becoming increasingly less accessible to children and young people, and especially to those from deprived backgrounds and with special educational needs.

“At Nordoff Robbins we believe it is the right of all children, regardless of background, ability or disability, to be able to participate in an accessible and high-quality music education. This is important for everyone, but especially for children and adults with special needs, for whom a tailored music education can offer life-changing support – helping them to fulfil both their musical and wider potentials, to be recognised for their abilities and to draw on music as a health resource throughout their lives.

“This squeeze on music education not only affects pupils currently in school, but also has a potentially devastating effect on our future workforce: with fewer students taking music at GCSE, A-Level, or even university level, there are fewer young people following their passion to become the musicians, music therapists and community musicians of tomorrow. This in turn means that fewer vulnerable and isolated people can access music as an intervention, and feel heard, communicated with, enabled and supported through music and music therapy. As music teaching retreats into only the most well-resourced schools, it will inevitably be available to a narrow and relatively privileged section of society: our workforce may then become less diverse and so less able to meet the needs of the people with whom we work across the UK.

“We call on the Government to reverse this worrying decline by investing meaningfully in music education: through recognising the importance of the creative subjects, making both qualified classroom music teaching and skilled instrumental teaching more accessible to all children, and engaging with music teachers at all levels of decision-making, as the frontline experts in bringing music to our children in schools. As music therapists, we stand by to assist where that’s helpful.”

Find out more and read the report here.