UK needs better music education, says academic

Children learning music

The academic director of Trinity College London has called for better music education in UK schools, describing the lack of emphasis on the arts and creativity as ‘shocking’.

Appearing at a Westminster Media Forum on the global music market last week, Nick Beach said: ‘We need to get better at music education if we’re going to help children and young people become the creative workforce in the future.’

‘The drop in numbers for GCSE music is a long-term trend and we should perhaps ask about whether that qualification is actually providing the needs of the future workforce.’

Proposing better qualifications and teacher training as the solution to supporting improvements, he added: ‘There’s currently no teaching quality standard. We still rely on the well-meaning, somewhat amateur approach to music education, where anyone can call themselves a music teacher.’

‘Almost every other professional service is regulated or regulates itself. If the music education sector is going to meet the needs of employers in post-Brexit Britain, perhaps this is one of the things we should consider focusing on.’

Beach was speaking on a panel titled, Key Brexit challenges and opportunities, and the sector’s role in the UK’s Industrial Strategy: skills, trade and attracting inward investment.

Also focusing on the need for better music education was Henry Vann, head of external affairs at the Incorporated Society of Musicians.

Referring to the UK’s new industrial strategy, which set out the government’s plan to boost earning power and address long-term challenges to the economy, Vann said: ‘It’s 250 pages long and there are 656 words on the creative industries sector deal.

‘We must get our education system right, so that the creative industry – worth £128.4bn by 2025 – can continue to thrive.

‘Our education system currently works against music and other creative subjects. Two days ago in Coopers’ Company and Coborn School in London, a petition kicked off because Media, Drama and Design and Technology were taken off the A-Level curriculum from September 2018, cutting off a route into higher education from those pupils.

‘Another school which I’m not going to name because we’re trying to get them to change their policy, is now charging pupils £5 a week to study GCSE Music as an extra-curricular activity.

‘If the industrial strategy is to be relevant, it must say something about protecting creative subjects in our schools so we can fill our sector with homegrown talent and open up opportunity, diversity and inclusion for all; not just those who can afford it.’

Joining the discussion, shadow minister for digital, culture, media and sport, Kevin Brannan MP, suggested schools who charge pupils to study creative subjects should be ‘named and shamed.’

Other speakers on the panel included Cooking Vinyl’s Martin Goldschmidt, and Lucie Caswell and musician Roxanne de Bastion from the Featured Artists Coalition.