A recent survey conducted by Sussex University has painted a bleak picture of the place of Music in the school curriculum. It found that the number of schools offering Music A-level has dropped by 15% in the last two years. The situation for Music Technology A-level looks even worse, with a 32% drop over the same period.
There has also been a 10% fall in the number of students taking a GCSE Music qualification since 2016. Fewer schools are offering Music or Music Technology as an option at GCSE. Indeed, of the schools that participated in the survey, 18% did not offer any GCSE Music at all, and it seems the traditional place of Music on the KS3 curriculum is on the wane too. A survey of 500 schools found that the subject was still compulsory for 13-14 year olds in just 47% of responding schools. In 2013, the figure stood at 84%.
Why is Music so important?
Sadly, all of the above figures are a direct result of two things. Firstly, the government’s emphasis and focus on ‘academic’ subjects and the EBacc. Secondly, budget cuts have hit schools so hard that Music lessons and, in some cases, Music teachers have become a luxury that some schools simply cannot afford.
Of course, there has been a terrible lack of foresight here. It isn’t just well-known figures in the arts and entertainment world that have spoken out in the media and bemoaned the perceived fall in importance of the Arts in schools; it is leading business figures too. They have consistently argued about how important creativity is in the world of the work. What’s more, the creative sector is one of the fastest growing in the UK.
And in schools it is the creative subjects, such as Music, that seem to be being devalued. This is setting up a potential skills crisis for the future in the creative sector.
The advantages of music education
Put simply, the advantages of music education in schools are such that it really should be a no-brainer that it remains – as a subject and qualification, and as an opportunity for young people to learn a musical instrument too.
Various studies and research have found that children who are engaged with music have an improved brain development. There are many other reasons why music education is important. Playing music gives children the opportunity to connect with others and to be social, as it is really helpful in building relationships. However, music is also valuable in helping to promote key individual skills too. Children who learn a musical instrument develop discipline and time management skills. Becoming adept at these will obviously stand any child in good stead in the future.
However, there is a strong argument to say that music education is important, not because of all the transferrable skills it helps to develop – or ‘the way it helps in other things’ – but purely because of what it is: music.
Music is, after all, a billion-pound industry. Everything we watch, everywhere we go – we hear music. It is omnipresent in our society. For those who create and play music, it provides an opportunity to be imaginative and express themselves. For those who simply listen, music provides one of the major universal sources of entertainment.
A world without music is an unthinkable proposition. Why then, should we allow schools to be without music education?