MP And UK Music Join Forces To Win Commons Debate On “Crisis” In Music Education

Senior MP James Frith and UK Music have joined forces to secure a debate at the House of Commons on the crisis in music education.

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10/07/2019: Senior MP James Frith and UK Music have joined forces to secure a debate at the House of Commons on the crisis in music education.

APPG on Music member, James Frith MP

The former musician and Bury North MP, a Labour member of the influential Education Select Committee, has been granted a debate on the decline of music in education next week. It will take place in Westminster Hall on Wednesday (July 17) at 9.30am.

Vocalist James and his Manchester-based indie band Finka once played the New Bands Tent at Glastonbury.

News of the debate comes at a crucial time amid growing evidence of the impact that the decline is having on the talent pipeline which is so vital to the music industry and the £4.5 billion contribution it makes to the UK economy.

UK Music has been working with James to ensure this important issue is raised at Westminster and brought to the attention of Downing Street and Government ministers.

Unless the Government takes urgent action, music industry leaders fear it will become harder than ever to produce the next generation of British talent which has seen stars like Adele, Ed Sheeran and Stormzy become worldwide success stories.

The evidence of the crisis in music education includes:

• 50% of children at independent schools receive sustained music tuition, but the figure is only 15% for state schools

• 17% of music creators were educated at independent schools, compared to only 7% across the population as a whole

• OFQUAL statistics on the number of entries between 2014 and 2019 show a decline of 30% in the number of pupils taking A-Level Music.

UK Music, the body that represents the commercial music industry, is urging the Government to support its plan to combat the crisis facing music in education. 

The eight points in its blueprint to halt the decline are: securing universal access to music within state education;

  • achieving a broad-based music education within curriculum learning;
  • sustained funding;
  • empowering local solutions;
  • improved teacher training and support;
  • incentivising music education in schools through inspections;
  • increasing music facilities for young people outside school hours;
  • and conducting an analysis of music education delivery.

Read more in our Talent Pipeline report here

James Frith MP, who is also a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music, said:

“The legacy and heritage of British music is celebrated worldwide and well established but it is the future that we must focus on.

“We cannot afford to be complacent at a time of great economic and cultural change. Britain's role in the world is under new assessment. The rise in automation shouldn’t mean we compete on learned behaviour with the robots but its a time to celebrate and emphasise the human distinction, the human condition – that which distinguishes us from the machines we’ve made.

“Music education is a huge part of that effort with creativity and expression as important an instinct to hone as that which we feel with the beat of a drum. Music education and access with opportunity to learn, play and perform music remains too exclusive a pursuit and this must change.”


UK Music CEO Michael Dugher said:

“Music in state education is facing an undeniable crisis. All children from every background should have access to music in education – not just those who can access the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ to pay for instruments and tuition or send them to private schools.

“At the moment, provision is patchy and underfunded. We need to see broad-based curriculum where the importance of creative subjects – key to our future economic success – is understood. We need improved teacher training and support, plus changes to the inspection regime to incentivise provision, as well as increasing music facilities like rehearsal spaces for young people outside school hours.

“Unless there is urgent action to reverse the decline of music being taught in schools, it is a certainty that there will be far fewer people creating the music enjoyed by millions of people in the UK and across the world.

“If we don’t act soon, we put at risk our talent pipeline for a music industry that contributes £4.5 billion to the economy. As an industry and as a country we are potentially drawing water from a well that’s getting smaller by the day”.

According to a survey of teachers conducted by the BPI in March 2019: 

  • State schools have seen a 21% decrease in music provision over the past 5 years, compared to a net increase of 7% in music provision in independent schools over the same period. Around 30% of state schools have seen a decrease in curriculum time for music, or a reduction in the number of qualified music teachers.
  • Only 12% of the most deprived schools have an orchestra, compared to 85% of independent schools.
  • 1 in 4 schools serving disadvantaged communities offer no music instrument lessons to students that want them.  Almost all independent schools and those serving affluent communities do.
  • Only 64% of schools serving disadvantaged communities give students a chance to take part in a school musical or musical play, compared with 91% of the most affluent state schools and 96% of independent schools.
  • 89% of independent schools run a choir in lunchtime or after-school compared to only 60% of the most disadvantaged state schools.
  • Almost 40% of state-funded secondary schools now have no compulsory music lessons in year 9. Students from disadvantaged communities are least likely to have regular music lessons by age 13/14.
  • Only 44% of music lessons in a primary school are delivered by a music specialist.
  • 1 in 5 primary school teachers report there is no regular music lesson for their class.

Read the full BPI survey results here

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