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Manifesto For Music: Securing The Music Education Talent Pipeline

UK Music's Policy and Campaigns Officer Dougie Brown examines the issues facing music education, as UK Music calls on the Government to support the talent pipeline to ensure the future success of the music industry. 

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13.02.2024: UK Music’s Policy and Campaigns Officer Dougie Brown examines the issues facing music education, as UK Music calls on the Government to support the talent pipeline to ensure the future success of the music industry. 

The global success of the UK music industry is rooted in music education and creative skills. High-quality music education is vital for securing our talent pipeline and producing the highly skilled music professionals of the future. We need them to be future world-class performers, innovators in music production, inspiring music teachers, or influential music industry executives.

Moreover, music education’s impact extends beyond careers, equipping individuals with a range of transferable skills and providing cultural enrichment.

But music education needs investment and support. Over the last decade, GCSE music participation has declined by nearly 25% and A-Level music enrolments have nearly halved. Inadequate investment in state music education is increasing inequality of opportunity:

A total of 50% of children at independent schools receive sustained music tuition, compared to just 15% in state schools. Government must also invest in apprenticeships, vocational qualifications, and Music Education Hubs to ensure equitable access to first-rate music education. The music curriculum needs to be diverse and inclusive, promoting high-quality experiences for all, and offering routes into a variety of specialisms. Addressing these issues will create a stronger talent pipeline that reflects a broader range of backgrounds and perspectives.

The next Government should:

  • Train and recruit 1,000 more music teachers. There are currently nearly 1,000 fewer secondary
    school music teachers today than there were in 2012. The removal of the music teacher training bursary in 2020 has exacerbated the challenge of restoring teacher levels to their previous numbers. Reinstating these bursaries is a crucial step to increasing the number of music numbers and ensuring the effective delivery of music education.
  • Deliver an arts pupil premium. The current Government pledged in its 2019 manifesto to spend £90 million a year on an arts premium for secondary school pupils, however this has not been delivered. The Government should deliver the arts pupil premium to support access to music for the poorest students, ensuring no one’s ability to play is contingent on their parents’ ability to pay.
  • Increase funding for Music Education Hubs. Hubs are vital for providing accessible music education
    opportunities, but in real terms, their budgets have been cut by 17% since 2011. The next funding settlement needs to increase funding for Hubs to give more aspiring musicians the opportunity to play, perform and create music.
  • Set up a commission of the nations and regions to address inequality of opportunity in music
    education. The devolved administrations have been introducing a range of initiatives to improve access to music education for children and young people. For example, the Welsh National Music Service and Scotland’s removal of tuition fees for learning musical instruments at school. A Commission would allow learnings to be shared and ensure improvements to music education access are UK-wide.
  • Grow the number of apprenticeships and vocational qualifications in music. A diverse and adaptable music sector needs individuals who have developed their craft through vocational learning or apprenticeships. However, music and the creative industries have faced challenges with the inflexible apprenticeship levy, which doesn’t cater to the unique nature of creative businesses. Further investment is needed to allow the industry and educational institutions to work together in delivering these qualifications.

Read UK Music’s Manifesto for Music to find out more about what UK Music is calling for action on ahead of a general election. 

Find out more about the issues facing music education and the work UK Music has been doing to campaign for it here

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