Business News Education & Events

ISM warns government against dropping music from post-COVID school curriculum

By | Published on Wednesday 1 July 2020

Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)

The Incorporated Society Of Musicians has written to the UK government to advise against the suspension of music lessons when schools fully re-open in September. Leaked plans show that the Department For Education is proposing that ‘non-core’ subjects be temporarily dropped in order to make time for students to catch up with things like English and maths following the COVID-19 shutdown.

Draft guidance from the Department For Education states: “Some subjects for some or all pupils may have to be suspended for two terms to allow catch-up on core subjects such as English and maths, with a full spread of subjects returning in the summer term of 2021. Some students may have to drop some GCSEs altogether in Year Eleven to allow them to catch up and achieve better grades in English and maths. GCSEs and A-levels to take place as planned next summer but with some ‘adaptations'”.

In recent years there have been repeated warnings that music education in schools – particularly state schools – in the UK is in crisis. This has grown as schools cut time and resources devoted to it and other creative subjects to focus on so called ‘core’ subjects, upon which each school’s performance is actually judged by the government.

If music is one of the subjects ear-marked for suspension, the ISM warns, it risks being even further marginalised. Aside from the many benefits learning to play music can have on other aspects of education, as well as students’ mental health, there are fears that the decline in music lessons will have a negative effect on the UK’s multi-billion pound music industry in the future.

In a letter to Minister For School Standards Nick Gibb, ISM chief exec Deborah Annetts asks for clarity on whether music is one of the subjects being considered for suspension, and whether the ultimate decision will be made by head teachers or government. It also asks what financial support will be put in place for teachers whose subjects are dropped.

“While we understand the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on education, we are absolutely clear that the dropping of music education would run contrary to the obligation to provide a broad and balanced curriculum which is so vital for the progress of all our children in an educational setting”, she writes.

“If our education system is to be fit for the challenges of the fast-moving 21st Century it needs to provide children with a broad range of skills so they can work in the digital space and take full advantage of a global economy”, she concludes. “And it is the arts subjects which can prepare children best for these challenges. We therefore ask you to reconsider the [current post-shutdown] plan and the dropping of non-core subjects”.

In a statement, Annetts adds: “We hope this leaked guidance is not final, but it is still very worrying. Not only is the music industry struggling under the weight of COVID-19 but the education of many children now faces further disruption. If we continue down this path, not only do we risk depriving children of a rich experience and the opportunity to pursue a career in music, but many music teachers may be unable to continue in the profession they love”.

“The government must consult with subject associations [like ISM] and reconsider any plans it may have to suspend music education, and it must take steps to protect its future within our schools”, she goes on. “Music education is vital to the talent pipeline and plays a crucial role in tackling mental health problems among children – it must be central to any recovery curriculum and not an afterthought to it”.

Read the ISM’s letter in full here.