Advertisement
News

Musicians’ Union report finds music is being squeezed out of the curriculum

Teachers deliver a damning verdict on music education amid warnings poor kids still being priced out of tuition

School music lessons are in a “perilous state” thanks to “chaotic education policies”, according to a the Musicians’ Union.

Research by the organisation found that classroom teachers see music as “squeezed within their schools”, and “suffering from a ‘league table’ approach to subjects”. Over the past eight years, the number of post-graduate teaching students training as music teachers has fallen from over 850 to just 250 a year.

As part of the report, a survey of 825 instrumental teachers found that 64.8 per cent were “completely lacking in confidence in the government’s handling of music education. Just 0.1 per cent were “completely confident”.

In February, the Big Issue reported that more than 100,000 pupils across Scotland were being shut out of music tuition because of fees and staff shortages. The crisis was brought into view after Midlothian council announced plans to axe free music tuition – which it later reversed after a public outcry.

The report’s authors, Middlesex University reader Jonathan Savage and Musicians’ Union official David Barnard, also highlighted the precarious employment of many music teachers – including through “bogus self-employment” and zero-hours contracts.

They criticised the impact of the English Baccalaureate, a league table metric based on several core subjects, saying this had caused schools to prioritise other subjects over music. “The detrimental effects of the EBacc and accountability measures must be acknowledged and reversed by policy makers,” they wrote. Only 4.7 per cent of instrumental teachers said they thought the EBacc had had any positive effect.

Advertisement
Advertisement

One teacher commented: “The message being sent out to pupils and parents is that maths, English and science are the most important subjects, and that music is something you can do in your spare time.”

In reality many young people from poorer backgrounds are still not getting this opportunity.

In 2011 the government published its National Plan for Music Education, which saw new “music hubs” rolled out across England partnering schools with local arts organisations. These were intended to tackle “patchy” local authority-organised instrumental lessons and improve access to tuition.

But Musicians’ Union leader Horace Trubridge said the new strategy had failed to achieve this. “The headline figures show that children from families with an income of under £28k are half as likely to learn an instrument compared to those from families with an income of more than £48k,” he said.

“So, while the NPME intended that children from all backgrounds and all areas of the country should have the chance to learn an instrument, in reality many young people from poorer backgrounds are still not getting this opportunity.”

The report calls for guaranteed funding for music hubs, and recommends that Ofsted inspectors refuse to rate schools as outstanding unless they offer a full complement of music and arts provision.

Advertisement

Support your local vendor

Want to buy a copy of the magazine? We have over 1,200 Big Issue vendors in the UK. Each vendor buys a copy of the mag for £1.50 and sells it for £3, keeping the difference. Visit our interactive map to find your nearest vendor and support them today!

Recommended for you

Read All
Michael Gove vows to get tough with social housing landlords in warning over horror homes
Social Housing

Michael Gove vows to get tough with social housing landlords in warning over horror homes

Shell consultant quits with explosive LinkedIn post accusing oil giant of 'extreme harms' to planet
Oil industry

Shell consultant quits with explosive LinkedIn post accusing oil giant of 'extreme harms' to planet

A man who built a wooden house on a London pavement has now been given a place to stay
Homelessness

A man who built a wooden house on a London pavement has now been given a place to stay

How you can help boost bee and butterfly populations with a new government app
Biodiversity

How you can help boost bee and butterfly populations with a new government app

Most Popular

Read All
Homeless man who built wooden house on pavement: 'People understand I'm just in a bad situation'
1.

Homeless man who built wooden house on pavement: 'People understand I'm just in a bad situation'

The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who
2.

The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who

Exclusive: The UK's rarest and most threatened wildlife sites are not being protected properly
3.

Exclusive: The UK's rarest and most threatened wildlife sites are not being protected properly

Martin Lewis: 'The link between money problems and mental health problems is just so strong'
4.

Martin Lewis: 'The link between money problems and mental health problems is just so strong'

Keep up to date with The Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.