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Music Education in Schools

Volume 658: debated on Thursday 11 April 2019

5. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Education on the provision of music education in schools. (910361)

The opportunity to participate in music, art and drama can be transformative for young people’s self-confidence, mental health and life chances. That is why this Government will invest £500 million in cultural education between 2016 and 2020. We are in regular discussions with colleagues at the Department for Education. The Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries and the Minister for School Standards recently co-hosted a roundtable with the music industry to discuss music education.

UK Music and the Musicians Union have recently revealed that children in households where the income is £28,000 are half as likely to learn an instrument as children in families that earn £48,000. We know, and I am sure the Secretary of State will agree, that the ability to participate in music is a gift. Will he tell us when the national plan for music will be refreshed so that students in state schools can participate in music?

The hon. Lady is right: it is important that all pupils have this opportunity. She will know that for pupils aged between five and 14, music is a part of the national curriculum. It is important that all children, whatever their backgrounds, have these opportunities. As she knows, we are working on a non-statutory-model music curriculum, in conjunction with some expert advisers, for key stages 1 to 3. We hope that that will be ready for introduction in the autumn term of this year.

Order. We almost certainly will not reach Question 16, but with modest dexterity the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) could perfectly legitimately shoehorn her own inquiry into the current question.

16. Does the Secretary of State recognise that the UK music sector is hugely successful across the world, and that part of ensuring that continued success is the strength of music in our schools, which makes this a hugely important issue for our economy as well as for people’s life chances in learning music? (910373)

Yes, I do agree with my right hon. Friend. Of course, as she knows, the creative industries more broadly are some of the fastest-growing sectors of our economy. We should be proud of that and encourage that development.

Mr Speaker,

“Too many politicians are being told a message that is glossy and bears little relation to the reality of what is going on.”

That is what an instrumental teacher told the Musicians Union in its recent report on music education, “The State of Play”. Music teacher training places are down from 850 to 250 per year since 2010, teaching staff are declining year on year, exam entries are down, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin) said, there is a worsening class divide in learning an instrument. When will the Secretary of State drop the glossy rhetoric about the Government’s record on music education that is so out of tune with reality?

No one doubts the hon. Gentleman’s commitment to music in this House, and he is right to be so committed, but he will get no glossy rhetoric from me: what he will get is facts, so let me give him some more. My reference to £500 million-worth of investment includes £300 million in music education hubs, which have so far reached 89% of schools. He will also know that 10% of the funding allocation for those hubs is based on the number of pupils in the area eligible for free school meals, so we are doing something to ensure that this kind of education reaches the right people.

The hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) is not merely committed to music; I think people should be aware that he is a distinguished member of MP4—the parliamentary rock band, no less, which has performed with considerable distinction in Speaker’s House and elsewhere. People should know that—it is very important.

In Staffordshire, Entrust Music Service and Friends of Staffordshire’s Young Musicians do an excellent job in bringing music tuition and music performance to young people, but we need to do a lot more. Will the Secretary of State meet me and others to discuss how we can ensure that the money that is going in is translated into reality, particularly for children in families on low incomes, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin)?

Of course I will happily meet my hon. Friend to discuss this. He is right—there is always more that we can do. As I said in my initial answer, it is right to look not just at music but at art and drama, too. As he will know, the Government are also taking action in those spaces to make sure that more young people who do not yet have these opportunities are given them.