May 13, 2024 2 min read

Music organisations back demand for politicians to end the Arts Apocalypse in UK schools

The Musicians’ Union, Black Lives In Music and Music For Youth are among fourteen organisations calling on UK politicians to address the crisis facing arts education in schools. They say that a downgrading of arts subjects and funding cuts across the board have created an ‘Arts Apocalypse’

Music organisations back demand for politicians to end the Arts Apocalypse in UK schools

Fourteen organisations from across the creative industries - including the Musicians’ Union, Black Lives In Music and Music For Youth - have signed a statement calling on UK politicians to urgently address the crisis facing arts education in schools and colleges, seeking more funding, more teachers and more respect for arts subjects. 

Under the banner Arts Apocalypse, the organisations explain that they have united to “raise the alarm on the decimation of the arts in our schools and colleges” and “outline the scale and severity of the issues”, adding “the eroding of the arts across the curriculum over a number of years has now gone far beyond crisis point: we are facing an Arts Apocalypse”. 

Much concern has been raised over the last decade about the downgrading of arts subjects in schools, for example through the EBacc scheme that is used to assess the academic performance of English schools and which ignores creative subjects like music. With cuts in funding more generally, that downgrading of importance means arts subjects have been hit particularly hard by reduced budgets. 

The Arts Apocalypse statement reads, “The arts are essential to human fulfilment; they are meaning-making activities which have a personal, social and economic value. But in education, what is recognised in principle is often denied in practice. In an underfunded system, we have seen arts education decimated as school leaders are forced to make impossible decisions on an ever-dwindling budget and a damaging focus on a narrow curriculum”. 

“The consequences of not changing course are bleak”, the statement continues. “We have a system that does not help students reach their potential, that neglects their cultural experiences at home and in the community, that adds to problems of poor mental health, behaviour and attendance”.

“The relegation of the arts subjects to third class citizens in our education system”, it goes on, “threatens the future of the creative industries in this country” and “also hinders our ability to nurture children to fully develop their talents and interests”. 

Ahead of this year's General Election, the fourteen signatories of the statement want politicians of all parties to “consider the statement, take notice of the critical situation and commit to implementing the solutions offered”. 

Those proposed solutions include a significant increase in education spending, an increase in teachers for arts subjects, a full review of the curriculum involving relevant arts and education organisations, and the ending of practices like EBacc “that work to sideline arts education”. 

Confirming the MU’s support for the statement, the union’s National Organiser For Education, Health And Wellbeing, Chris Waters, says, “MU members care passionately about universal access to music education – it’s how many got their leg up into the profession, and how we can ensure that the next generation of professional musicians aren’t only those whose families could afford to pay for lessons”.  

“The MU is therefore proud to be working with a group of other organisations that share similar concerns for their own subjects", he adds, "showing that arts education across the board has been dangerously under-supported under the current government. The Arts Apocalypse statement will help everyone who cares about arts education speak with one voice and restore these vital subjects to the heart of our schools”. 

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