Music

Music education funded for thousands of underprivileged kids by charity: 'It's a must-have'

Music departments in schools all over the UK are struggling. The funding from Restore the Music will give thousands of children access to new instruments

Pupils at Hallsville Primary School, Canning Town, holding ukeleles in the air to celebrate their music education grant

Pupils at Hallsville Primary School, Canning Town, London Borough of Newham, who received £10k in early 2023

Thousands of school children in areas of high deprivation will soon have access to new instruments thanks to the biggest ever music education grant from charity Restore the Music.

More than 16,000 pupils in 29 state schools in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle will benefit from the £420,000 funding boost.

As reported in The Big Issue’s recent Future of Education special edition, music department budgets are under threat in schools across the UK. Money and time allocated for classroom and out-of-school-hours music education has reduced in the last decade, with some schools reducing or even removing classroom hours allocated to music.

This is a mistake, says Restore the Music’s CEO Polly Moore.

“Music unlocks potential which makes it a powerful tool for change. Yet young people – particularly those facing the biggest barriers – are being denied this,” she said.

“We invest in all young people, reaching them through our grants to school music departments. Music is not just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have.”

Founded in 2013, Restore the Music was originally a London-centric grant programme. It became a charity in 2017 and is now also open to applicants in Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle. The fund offers grant awards of £10,000 and £20,000 for a diverse and accessible range of instruments and equipment in primary and secondary state schools. It also runs annual battles of the bands and music teacher celebration dinners to celebrate the outcomes of the funding.

The funding is targeted to schools with higher percentages of pupils who are eligible for free school meals or the pupil premium, the government funding to improve education outcomes for disadvantaged pupils in schools in England.

So far, 120 state schools have benefited from £2.2 million of funding from the charity, reaching 80,000 pupils aged four to 18.

Ark Acton Academy in London is among the schools that received support for music education. Their head of music, Alice Johnstone, said there has been an impact on the “mental wellbeing and behaviour of pupils”.

“Pupils who have been close to exclusion have found their place within the music department and have been able to become active and happy citizens within the school,” she added.

Despite a growing body of academic research showing that participation in music can be central to a young person’s development, local authority contributions to music services and music education hubs have decreased dramatically from £14.3million in 2012/13, to £5.7 million in 2017.

The Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things drummer Gary Powell – an ambassador for Restore the Music – said music education is an important part of a rounded education.

“It’s great to see Restore the Music reach even more young people and school music departments,” he said. “I’ve witnessed the results of their work. And I believe that these schools’ investment in music education is creating well-rounded young individuals that will go on to become the leaders, the creatives, and the fixers of our society in the future.”

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