On 18th October 2018 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Black of Brentwood “that this House takes note of the state of music education in schools.” The Bishop of Chichester, Rt Revd Martin Warner, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Black, for his magnificent introduction to this debate, and for the opportunity for us to remind ourselves of the vital importance of music and the arts generally to the creative industries and the life of our nation.
The decline in funding for music in schools, and in its take-up at GCSE and A-level, has already been identified and the crisis we now face has been rehearsed. I add my voice to those who have called for a thorough review, and possibly the abolition of the EBacc as a means of addressing the situation.
The benefits of music are considerable in the delivery of an integrated education that develops the whole person and meets the diverse needs of any school and the community it serves. Many of these achievements have been rehearsed already in the debate. Learning a musical instrument can develop personal discipline, as performing in a band, orchestra or choir develops a sense of mutual responsibility and respect. Similarly, performance can enhance self-esteem, leadership skills and the determination to achieve. The importance of these skills for future employment has also been noted by the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey.
So much of this is recognised in the 2011 DCMS national plan for music, which makes the failure to deliver and secure the future of music all the more alarming. The decline of the music sector in state-funded education is, as we have also already heard, not replicated in the independent sector, where emphasis on music and the arts remains one of the major selling points of an education that will develop the whole person, build confidence for life, and lead to fulfilling employment.
Music is in danger of being eliminated from areas of deprivation, and of becoming something increasingly London-centric. The Music in Secondary Schools Trust—which, as the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, mentioned is supported by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd Webber—makes an incredible and important contribution, but it is London-centric.
It is noteworthy that the Church has been a patron of music across many centuries; many of our cathedrals still play a part in opening a door to a child with musical ability from a family that may not be wealthy but will be willing to support their development. We in Chichester have recently seen a child from a low-income family win a choral scholarship, board, and get an outstanding fully funded education, which resulted in winning a similar package of scholarships at Lancing College—although this is all in the independent sector.
We in Chichester are also linked with the Lutheran Church in Germany. I recently visited the Diocese of Bayreuth and there, through the state funding of the Church—through church tax—they have an independent music academy that specifically trains young musicians for church music. This extraordinary, wonderful facility, as a conservatoire, boasts a building with seven organs, 12 harpsichords, a piano in every room, recital spaces, and training in music teaching for young and old alike. We are nowhere near this; our pride in the English and Anglican choral tradition is likely to be eclipsed if we are not careful.
The importance of music as an element of education that nurtures ability in the humanities and the sciences alike is too valuable a resource to be left to the small sector of society that benefits from independent education through being able to afford it, or through having parents with the determination and social confidence to secure it through scholarship—and that is never without personal, social and emotional cost.
The loss of music resources from state-funded schools means we will inevitably fail to release the talents of some of the most able and imaginative children in our nation, because only some have access to its benefits. Moreover, we shall fail to provide an education that gives those with particular needs—in terms of learning, social adjustment, personal development and many forms of impairment—an opportunity to benefit from a mode of communication that can release them to attain a socially more fulfilled life.
One of the complications in sustaining a vibrant musical life in our schools is the availability of appropriately qualified teachers, as we have already heard. Music gave space for creativity in the curriculum; the lack of that space has increasingly created a feeling that teaching is simply a tick-box exercise. It was recently reported nationally that, in Devon, a primary school teacher of 17 years’ service—who represents the “wastage rate” of 10.5% in the profession—resigned to go freelance as a poet. On resignation, he sponsored a billboard poster that read:
“Children! You are not data: learn, inspire, dream, create”.
The loss of music from our schools is of detriment to the teaching profession. I hope the Minister will encourage a review of teacher retention, addressing the causes of its low levels and how to redress this.
Another challenge in promoting music in schools is that it often lacks a supportive culture to make it as attractive in a peer group as sport. How good it is that the crisis in music has prompted celebrity role models to speak out: Ed Sheeran, JB Gill and Laura Mvula have all spoken about the importance to them of music, representing the diversity of cultures from which they come, and which is important in our schools in making music.
The funding of local choirs and youth orchestras, and places where people can rehearse and perform, has been widely diminished by the loss of public funding in local government. The Guildhall School of Music & Drama notes that 76 music teachers were made redundant in the closure of Wiltshire County Council’s music service in 2016. In some counties the service continues but with a charge, although the Guildhall also notes that in some cases that charge is as much as £4 an hour more than in the independent sector of music teaching. I hope that this can be reviewed and that we address the need for funding at a local level those community organisations that will sustain and enable to flourish what we seek to pay for in supporting music in our schools. The long-term damage that we shall sustain as a result of what we are doing to music in schools and local communities will ultimately cost us far more in many different ways than the short-term financial savings that seem to be causing this damage.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Lord Agnew of Oulton) (Con): [extract]…My noble friend Lord Lexden, the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Wallace, and the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Chichester all spoke about independent schools. As my noble friend rightly said, we have recently agreed a joint understanding with the Independent Schools Council. This is the first of its kind and it sets out the commitment that independent schools are making to support disadvantaged pupils, including looked-after children, and to work with others across the sector on things such as the better targeting of bursaries. I am aware of an excellent drama and music production organised by the King’s College School in Wimbledon in partnership with Ricards Lodge High School, Coombe high school, St Mark’s Academy and Cricket Green special school. Interestingly, the statistics for those studying music GCSE are broadly the same in the independent sector and the state sector: about 6% in the state sector and 7% in the private.
We held a round-table meeting in Downing Street a few months ago with independent schools as part of something that I am very committed to: getting them to collaborate more with the state sector. At the round table, I asked the question: “What more should be happening?”, and all the heads from the independent schools said, “We should have state school heads in this meeting next time”. They are passionately committed to supporting the state sector in the promotion of good music, among other things.