The music industry relies on a talent pipeline of accomplished and dedicated music students to produce the highly skilled professionals of the future.
We need them to play in our world-class orchestras, contribute to world-class recordings, become music teachers, so they can develop the next generation of talent, or perhaps even be the next Skepta, Adele or Ed Sheeran.
Music is vital to our economy, our culture and our society. It is one of our greatest national assets and will play a crucial role in our post-pandemic recovery – so it’s more important than ever that we invest in music education.
The music industry has always thrived on opportunities, yet so-called “lucky breaks” do not happen by accident. They are the result of years of hard work, underpinned by having an education system that supports music and creativity, as well ensuring that we have the right infrastructure in place and targeted funding and investment.
It is imperative that the Government work with industry to overcome these problems and maximise opportunities for the future. If we do so, there is no reason why British music shouldn’t go from strength to strength.
There are educational, health and wellbeing benefits to young people having access to creating music. According to the Cultural Learning Alliance, participation in structured arts activities can increase cognitive abilities by 17%.
What are the issues?
Musical skills need be nurtured at the earliest opportunity. This needs to begin at primary school and play a significant part in continued curriculum learning.
This issue is even more critical following the huge disruption caused by the pandemic to the education of thousands of young people, with subjects like music being particularly impacted.
The impact of a series of lockdowns meant music education was severely curtailed. In December 2020, education watchdog Ofsted warned many primary schools had suspended music education and were not even offering remote lessons.
Key Stage 4-5 Music Education
There is a long-term downward trend in the numbers of students taking music at GCSE and A-level, which is damaging to the music industry’s talent pipeline that needs talented musicians to join our world-leading orchestras and teach the next generation of music stars.
It’s good that alongside A-levels and GCSEs, there is a fantastic range of other options for students looking to get involved in music, such as vocational technical qualifications and graded music exams, which make up an important part of the skills landscape for music.
Find out more here.
There is also an important socio-economic reasoning for supporting music education. According to a survey conducted by UK Music [2018 – Securing Our Talent Pipeline], 17% of music creators were educated at fee paying schools, compared with 7% across the population as a whole. This matters because 50% of children at independent schools receive sustained music tuition, while the figure for state schools is a mere 15%.
What can be done to help develop skills and careers?
The Government needs to:
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 (Office for National Statistics 2023).
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.
The funding would help schools to provide high quality arts programmes and extra-curricular activities for pupils – including those delivered with arts organisations – as well as supporting teachers to deliver engaging and creative lessons in the arts.
Specific support for lowering barriers to music education for the poorest students is
vital. Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Therefore, we would call on all governments to
deliver an arts pupil premium to support schools in giving access to music and the arts for the poorest students, ensuring no one’s ability to play is contingent on their parents’ ability to pay.
National Plans For Music Education
There have been some remarkable political strides on music education across the UK over the past
year, with new national plans for music education from the UK and Welsh Governments and music tuition fees removed in Scotland. However, the implementation of these plans will be key.
The National Plan for Music Education in England can be read here.
The National Plan for Music Education in Wales can be read here.
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.
Facilities, supporting access, and provision for music are critical to developing talent. Venues act as important centres for cultural activity in our towns and communities. Recording studios, rehearsal spaces and grassroots music venues in particular act as important hubs for local music talent and offer a means by which musicians and performers can cultivate and nurture their creativity.
Music spaces have been severely impacted by the pandemic and price increases. Now more than ever we need to be supporting venues so that they can continue to maintain the UK’s vibrant and diverse music scene, as well as ensuring we have the talent pipeline to maintain Britain’s position as a global force in music.
If you would like to read more about our asks to Government read our Manifesto for Music.
After more than 25 years of devolution, the four nations of the UK have developed distinct approaches to enhance access to music education.
These strategies reflect the unique educational landscapes within each nation, while also offering useful insights that can be shared to improve music education across the entire UK.
Outlined here are unique policies implemented by the devolved administrations, from which valuable learnings can be applied to the other nations and regions of the UK.
In July 2021, the Scottish Government announced its decision to scrap instrumental music tuition fees in schools.
This decision was influenced by the declining number of students in Scotland learning a music instrument, which reached its lowest level in 2020 since the Instrumental Music Service began collecting data.
Local authorities were initially allocated £7 million in funding to eliminates tuition fees for the academic year 2021/22, an investment that was increased to £13 million for 2022/23.
Since the policy’s introduction, Scotland has seen a 35% increase in pupils participating in instrumental music tuition.
Established in 2022, the Welsh National Music Service brings together key partners and organisations to ensure that all children and young people have access to play, sing, take part in and create music.
The service established a £5.5 million national instrument and equipment library, which includes adaptive musical instruments for those with additional learning needs, as well as digital recording equipment.
This initiative supports local authorities in creating their own accessible instrument libraries to facilitate music access for young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Northern Ireland is unique within the UK as it has a single Education Authority – a non-departmental public body should sponsored by the Department of Education. Within this authority lies the Education Authority Music Service (EA Music Service), which offers a range of musical opportunities accessible in school settings or at designated music centres. The service’s website is a particularly valuable resource, enabling parents to easily locate nearby available instruments, as well as local ensembles and workshops. The site also provides important materials for teachers and parents wishing to support children in music-making. Having a centralised website for music opportunities across the nation ensures accessibility and convenience for parents, enhancing students’ opportunities to engage in music education throughout Northern Ireland.
In June 2021, the National Plan for Music Education was published, outlining the Government’s vision for music education in England until 2030. The plan details a strategy for music education spanning from early years to higher education and careers. Under the plan, £25 million will be made available to purchase instruments and equipment, including adapted instruments for those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
We hope the Government fulfils this promise which will provide high-quality learning experiences to SEND pupils. Also announced was a pilot for a Music Progression Fund. This aims to support
disadvantaged pupils with significant musical potential in learning an instrument and/or singing to a high standard over a sustained period. Although the implementation of this funding is pending, these policies represent a significant step towards advancing music education opportunities and nurturing musical talent in England.
It is vital for the future of the UK music industry that educated, informed, diverse and talented young people join the sector every year.
That’s why the music industry works closely with Government, education institutions and other organisations to improve access to opportunities for children and young people to develop their skills and knowledge in order to help them build a career in music.
The music industry dedicates a significant contribution every year to supporting the education and career aspirations of young people across the country. Read more here.
In 2018 UK Music launched a major new report called Securing Our Talent Pipeline, which we took to all the major party conferences. This report focused on creative talent yet the recommendations put forward will contribute to the development of the workforce as a whole.
UK Music’s Music Education Partnership (MAP) exists to promote links between music education at Higher and Further Education levels with industry. Find out more here.