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In Defence of Music

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Music in schools is in crisis: what can we do to save it? Madeleine, one of our Assistant Managers, gives her point of view.

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Over the past couple of years, music has received quite a hit in state education. The government recently refused to apply a pay rise to teachers employed directly by local councils, the majority of which are music teachers. Left without an alternative, councils have been forced to cut the amount of music teachers they employ so that they can shoulder the pay rise themselves. This means that the provision of music education is being drastically reduced, and the figures are there to prove it.

Between 2016 and 2018, the amount of schools offering music as a compulsory subject for 13- to 14-year-olds dropped from 84% to 47.5%. Meanwhile, 18% of schools participating in a study run by Sussex University didn’t offer GCSE music at all, and 70% of music specialist teachers stated that they had to teach other subjects to plug the gaps. With all of this going on, the number of students taking GCSE music has dropped by 10% since 2016, and the picture for A Level is even worse – a 15% drop was recorded in pupils taking their music studies beyond GCSE.

Many teachers and musicians are pointing towards the government’s advancement of the English Baccalaureat system as one of the main causes of music’s steady downturn in mainstream education. By promoting a significantly more academic curriculum, the EBacc subsequently devalues practical and artistic subjects such as music, drama and art, leading to cuts in funding and a perceived lack of importance projected on the subject. But music (and drama and art) is so important to the growth of many young people, and the underestimation of its value is one of the most tragic things being witnessed in British education.

Firstly, the importance of a balanced curriculum should be highlighted. While academic subjects such as English, Maths and Science play a vital role in a child’s education, subjects such as Music and Art are equally integral. Music is regularly looked down upon as a subject which doesn’t create instant job opportunities in the way that Maths and Science can, but Music has other benefits. For example, Music can teach children how to be creative and expressive in ways that more academic subjects cannot. And this is a big deal – the ability to think and work creatively is an important skill which can be applied to multiple different aspects of life, including the work place.

Furthermore, giving children the chance to perform can open up important emotional developments. For example, one member of the British Council’s World Voice programme observed that singing can help improve children’s behaviour, as it helps them bond with each other and begin to express emotions such as joy, fear and anger in a productive and controlled way. Music, by assisting in children’s development of interpersonal and communicative skills, therefore benefits a child’s life in more ways than one.

And of course, music is important because it doesn’t necessarily need to be academic. While music can be analysed and worked on in a very academic and rigorous manner, in a lot of cases it offers more creatively-inclined children the chance to excel at something and hone a craft away from an academic environment that they may struggle in. By placing increasing value on “academic” subjects such as Maths and Science, and devaluing arts and practical subjects, we are essentially telling children who are less academic that their skills are not valued and are not worthy. We are also forgetting that art and culture serves to enrich everyday life, and that subsequently the nurturing of young artists who can provide that enrichment is every bit as important as the nurturing of young scientists and mathematicians.

Music, therefore, clearly has a place within the curriculum, and its inclusion should not be devalued. However, there are further reasons why state education should endeavour to save music in schools: equality of access. With the continued cut in music provisions and subsequently the decreased quality of music education, high-level, reliable music tuition is becoming something that must be sought outside of school. This means that the children of lower-income families are becoming increasingly shut out of music due to the fact that free provisions such as council-funded choirs, orchestras and instrumental lessons are being cut down, potentially barring budding musicians from receiving the tuition and performance opportunities they need. The biggest tragedy about this is that music should be universal and act as a conduit for voices from all walks of life. Without diversity in music, it becomes tired and unrelatable.

So let’s save music in schools!

Blog Post Crafted by Madeleine

Madeleine helps Leticia run our Admin Team. Despite the fact that she read Japanese at university, Madeleine’s main passion in life is opera and she hopes to become the next Maria Callas some day...

Madeleine manages the staff on our Admin Team, liaising with tutors, clients and applicants. She is responsible for processing the ID, Qualifications, DBS Check and References for all our newly joining tutors.


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