Music Education All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting


From left to right:
Stephanie Kennedy (Music Mark), Keith Ayling (MMA), Richard Llewellyn (Steinberg), Alice Monk (MIA), Tim Bennet-Hart (RSL Awards) and Phil Harding (JAMES).

An update by Alice

On Monday, I attended the Music Education All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting in Portcullis House at Westminster. The meeting was chaired by Diana Johnson, MP and the panel was made up of Deborah Annetts (Chief Executive of the ISM), Duncan Mackrill (Senior Teaching Fellow, University of Sussex), Carl Ward (Chief Executive of the City Learning Trust) and Xhosa Cole (BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018).

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education is a cross-party body of MP’s and peers with a shared interest in music education. The APPG mainly exists to support parliamentarians engaging in discussions relating to music education.

Monday’s meeting featured the launch of a new ISM report entitled Music Education: State of the Nation which outlines the broad landscape of music education in England. This report digs deep into the government’s own figures whilst also bringing together academic research, surveys and analysis of current trends. It asks some series questions regarding the direction of travel of current education policy and is definitely worth a read. This report goes well with Youth Music’s recent research, The Sound of the Next Generation, which highlights how young people are finding a way to make music despite lack of curriculum-based learning, and serves as a reminder about how the world of music making has changed.

The meeting also included many excellent contributions from both the panel and the floor. I personally particularly enjoyed listening to the thoughts of Carl Ward, who talked about secondary education from the perspective of a head teacher and of Xhosa Cole, who discussed his experience of music education in the English state sector and its impact on his career.

The panel unanimously agreed that the EBacc is driving creative subjects from our schools, and negatively impacting young people.

Carl Ward used his experience to share that secondary schools are creating children that can pass exams, but don’t have any of the attributes that businesses require. This is because the EBacc means that they are receiving a knowledge based education, when they really need to gain not only knowledge, but vital skills and values to help them to develop into well-rounded people. These skills and values come from arts based subjects.

Xhosa Cole explained that he has only been able to reach his potential academically because of music. Learning music taught him how to learn. Xhosa explained that he is concerned to see that the opportunities that he had growing up are dwindling; access to music made him socially mobile and acted as a haven from lack of structure at home and mental health issues.

As the report points out, music education in England is in crisis. The government must act quickly to ensure music does not become the preserve of a privileged few.

Here are the 12 recommendations from the report, which serve as an action plan for government:

  1. Schools should receive clear guidance that headline accountability measures must not erode the delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum at Key Stage 3, and that a broad and balanced curriculum must be delivered across all schools at all Key Stages. Music and the arts are at the heart of a broad and balanced curriculum
  2. Music should be taught by a subject specialist teacher as part of the curriculum in all state schools for all pupils for at least one hour every week across all of a three-year Key Stage 3. All secondary schools should have at least one full time music teacher who exclusively teaches music.
  3. The English Baccalaureate and Progress 8 accountability measures should be reviewed and reformed to provide a better education for our children. At the very least a sixth pillar should be added to the EBacc for the creative subjects, including music.
  4. The Government should scrap the 2018 introduction of the ‘average points score’ measure for the EBacc.
  5. The Government should broaden the National Curriculum by making individual creative subjects including music entitlement areas at Key Stage 4, replacing the broader entitlement area of ‘the arts’
  6. The Government should encourage all schools to embed a culture of singing via classroom teaching
  7. Ofsted and the Government should make it clear that delivering only the narrow curriculum prescribed by the EBacc will have an adverse impact on inspections and evaluations.
  8. The new National Plan for Music Education must provide clarity as to the roles and responsibilities of schools and Hubs relating to the delivery of a music education for all pupils
  9. The revised National Plan for Music Education should address the quality, provision and access to music education for Early Years and SEND, and improve signposting of music education opportunities for 18 to 25-year-olds.
  10. The metrics for measuring the work delivered in response to the NPME need to be revised to go beyond ‘levels of activity’ reported through the current narrow set of metrics. The quality of the work being delivered needs to be part of this evaluation work.
  11. Ring-fenced funding for Hubs must be continued beyond 2020 at current levels or increased levels
  12. Ofsted must look for evidence of sustained and high-quality musical learning across the curriculum at all key stages, instead of focusing heavily on accountability measures imposed by the Government that have shown to be failing. They must be responsible for ensuring that a full and balanced curriculum is being delivered regularly in all schools.