Motion to Take Note
To move that this House takes note of the state of music education in schools.
My Lords, it is a privilege to lead a debate on what I believe is such a profoundly important subject. I am very grateful to all noble Lords who are taking part, many of whom have huge expertise in this area. I declare an interest as chairman of the Royal College of Music and a governor of Brentwood School. Indeed, for me, Brentwood School is a good place to start, because it was there that I fell in love with music. With the encouragement of my parents, I learned instruments, I played in orchestras, I sang in the choir and took O and A-level music. I did all the things that every young person should have an opportunity to do. I took that music education for granted as, back then, it was the birthright of every child.
The reason for this debate today is that increasingly few children have anything like such opportunities as I did. Instead of music being a fundamental right of all children, it is rapidly becoming the preserve of the privileged few at independent schools as it dies out in the state sector. As I hope that this debate will show, music in this country is now facing an existential crisis, which only urgent, radical action from the Government will be able to reverse.
Music matters first and foremost because it is the only universal language which connects all human beings, whether they live and work in a bustling city or dwell on the plains of a desert. Even in the world’s poorest slums, the refugee camps and the disaster areas, people make music and it is central to their lives. It is the most basic but important link to all our past and, if we so believe, paints the most powerful picture of the world beyond. Through its incredible blend of self-expression, energy and creativity, it moves, energises, soothes and uplifts in a way that nothing else can. It is what makes us distinctively human, enriching every life on the planet.
Music is also a formidable vehicle for economic growth. It is fundamental to the success of the creative economy, which is so important to UK plc. The UK creative industries, which generate £92 billion each year and make up 5% of our economy, are growing at twice the rate of the economy as a whole, while employment in the sector grows at four times the rate of the UK workforce, according to the Cultural Learning Alliance. One in 11 jobs depends on them, and they are long-term, sustainable jobs at no risk of automation. It is the UK music industry which powers all this.
Music is also part of our national identity and a formidable instrument of soft power. Ironically, I believe that while Brexit will have a catastrophic impact on our creative economy, our worldwide reputation for musical excellence must be one of the engines of prosperity in post-Brexit Britain. Our musical history is extraordinary, creating some of the greatest composers and performers in the world. From Tallis and Byrd via Elgar and Vaughan Williams to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Adele, the UK has a towering musical heritage. Nearly one in four albums sold in Europe during 2015 was by a British artist, making us one of the few net exporters of music worldwide. That means that music is not just an international calling card—of the sort we will desperately need after Brexit—but brings people flooding to these shores. An estimated 12.5 million people journeyed here last year for musical events, between them supporting 50,000 jobs.
My final point about why music matters is the vital role that it plays in the upbringing of children. Every survey shows the incredibly positive benefit that music has on the young mind. It improves cognitive ability by up to 17%, raising attainment in maths and English. It boosts mental health. By the time children leave primary school, one in five of them will have experienced mental health problems, and music is proven to help them find ways to cope with that. It benefits children from poorer backgrounds in particular. Students from low-income families who take part in musical and creative activities at school are three times more likely to get a degree and get a job. Music moulds young minds.
For all those reasons, music is vital to the proper, successful functioning of our society, our economy and our education system. It is not an add-on, pastime or “nice to have”; it is a fundamental building block of the country we want to be, as important as engineering, medicine and mathematics.
What supports all this—what is essential to the edifice that is UK music—is a steady supply of professionally trained musicians, who are the lifeblood of musical life throughout the UK. Whether it be “Salome” at the Coliseum this evening, the Tina Turner musical, one of 20 gigs taking place in Glasgow, Ed Sheeran in Leeds, Sondheim in Manchester or amateur choirs, orchestras and church organ recitals the length and breadth of the land, they all have one thing in common: they are made up of musicians who first learned their trade and their passion for music at school. To be clear, this is no elitist argument about classical music. The world of pop and light music, where Britain has led the way from the Beatles to Coldplay, will suffer just as grievously from the decline of music for that reason.
Probably more so than any other part of our economy, music-making by 50,000 performing musicians in the UK needs a pipeline of talent to be able to survive. It cannot survive without a steady supply of new, well-trained entrants to the profession who can both perform and teach. Many of them will come through universities or our great conservatoires. An institution such as the Royal College of Music specialises in preparing 300 graduates a year for the performing arts economy, ensuring that they are flexible and skilled enough to compete in national and international markets. In turn, UK students at college or university overwhelmingly were pupils who learned music academically and learned an instrument at school. That is where it all starts: the crucial entry point to the pipeline of talent.
Let us be clear: our great tradition in the creative industries is not because our nation is somehow innately creative; it is because we have created a strong arts education system with music at its core in which children progress through primary and secondary schools to further and higher education. Progression is the key. If music teaching in schools is undermined and eroded, that pipeline will dry up over time, with incalculable consequences for our musical life as a nation and for the creative economy. I fear that that is exactly what is happening now. Music is literally disappearing from our schools, and that is, I hate to say, a direct result of government policy.
This year, only 35,000 pupils completed a GCSE in music, the first staging post on the path to a professional career. That was down from 46,000 in 2010, a decline of a quarter in just eight years. Imagine the mayhem there would be in Whitehall if the number of pupils taking physics had declined by half as much. Now, one-fifth of schools do not even offer GCSE music and, of those that do, 11% have to teach it outside curriculum time.
Those shameful figures are part of a wider picture of music in ferocious decline in our schools. Consider these facts. The DfE’s own figures from last year show that the number of hours for which the arts, including music, were taught in secondary schools in England fell by 21% between 2010 and 2017. A survey of 500 schools from the University of Sussex published just last week shows that compulsory music for 13 to 14 year-olds is down from 84% of responding schools in 2012 to just 47% now—a terrifyingly steep decline. Over the same period, staffing levels in music departments are down by 36%, with 70% of surviving music specialists having to teach outside their subject to fill gaps. Many teaching staff are now part-time and some are unqualified.
Music outside the classroom is under equal pressure. UK Music estimates that for children aged 11 to 15, participation in extracurricular music is down from about 75% in 2012 to 60% last year, partly reflecting the sharp decline in peripatetic teaching.
If one needed evidence of how this erodes the pipeline, one has only to look at the even more shocking figures for A-level music, where there has been an inevitable decline of just under 40% in entries in England since 2010. Only 5,485 pupils took A-level music in 2018—down from 8,790 only eight years ago. That should not be a surprise: you are unlikely to take an A-level unless you have done a GCSE, so the inexorable unravelling of the ecology of our national musical architecture begins in a way which makes the long-term future of music in the UK ultimately unsustainable. This is a warning not just about the future; we are beginning to suffer the consequences even now. Last week, it was revealed that the National Youth Orchestra of Wales—a part of the UK with music in its bone marrow—has been unable for the first time ever to recruit enough violinists. That is how it begins.
While other factors may be involved, much of the blame for this situation must lie with the introduction of the English baccalaureate, which does not measure achievement in artistic, creative, and technical subjects, and therefore means that secondary schools have no incentive to offer those subjects at GCSE. It downgrades and punishes arts subjects at the expense of sciences. I know that my noble friend will say, as he did yesterday, that there is no empirical evidence linking the introduction of the EBacc in 2010 with the decline in GCSE and A-level music, which also dates from that time. However, it is what schools and teachers are themselves saying. In a recent survey of 1,200 primary and secondary schools by the BBC, 90% of teachers said that they had cut back on creative arts subjects, and most blamed the combination of EBacc criteria alongside funding cuts. In a similar survey by the University of Sussex earlier this year, 60% of independent schools specifically highlighted the EBacc as having a negative impact on the provision and uptake of music in their schools. Many confirmed that they now steer lower-ability pupils away from music so that they can concentrate on EBacc subjects.
One of the terrible consequences of all this is that a huge divide is being opened up between provision of music in the state schools and in the independent sector which is, thankfully, not constrained by the stultifying straitjacket of the EBacc. As a result, music is increasingly becoming the preserve of the wealthy, whose children go to schools where GCSE music is still encouraged and who can afford to pay for music tuition. Half of children at independent schools have sustained access to music tuition, compared to just 15% in state schools. That divide is shameful in a civilised society.
I have no doubt that my noble friend, who I know is a doughty champion of music education, will say that the Government are tackling the problem in other ways, including through music education hubs. But this provision is a patchy postcode lottery at best and can never be a substitute for the proper teaching of music in schools, particularly when cuts to council budgets are putting severe stress on local authority music services. All such initiatives, important though they are, are at best a sticking plaster, and our musical life deserves better. I am sure that my noble friend will also point out that music is a part of the national curriculum, which means that schools are required to teach music up to the end of key stage 3. But that too is being eroded, not least because of the growing number of academies, which are not bound by the national curriculum. Their growth and the constraints of the EBacc mean that increasingly music is not offered even at key stage 3, irrespective of the demands of the national curriculum.
As the Incorporated Society of Musicians has made clear, the answer has to lie in wholesale change to the EBacc system—either by cutting it right back and retaining just the core subjects of English and maths but with six open spaces to give schools and pupils greater flexibility, or by reforming it in the imaginative way that my noble friend Lord Baker has proposed, ensuring that pupils study a creative GCSE from a list that would include music, art and design, dance and drama. Either way, the priority must be to give music and creative subjects equal billing in our schools in a way that they always had until this act of cultural vandalism.
We need to take immediate action because the situation is grave and urgent, as the figures I gave earlier underline. If we do not, history will damn us with those chilling words: “too late.” Once our world-renowned musical architecture crumbles—and without change it could well do so—it will be well-nigh impossible to rebuild it. The decline of GCSE music will continue apace. Fewer and fewer pupils will go on to do A-level music. Music departments in schools will shrink even further, meaning a decline in the quality of education for those lucky enough to still be able to take those exams. The gulf between the rich who can pay for music education and those who cannot will get wider and starker. The pipeline to our conservatoires and universities will rapidly dry up as music education disappears from schools—at just the time when our international competitors are seeking to emulate what we have achieved here in previous generations.
The supply of professional musicians into our creative industries in every region of the UK will inexorably diminish, damaging a vital and expanding part of our economy, with so much potential for soft power in a post-Brexit world. There will be fewer teachers to go into the schools where music still has a place, and so it will continue. Above all, many thousands of children—perhaps among them some with potential to be world-class musicians—will be deprived of something which should be their birthright: an understanding and appreciation of the beauty of music, which should be the right of all, not the privilege of the few. That is the greatest tragedy. There is a clear and present danger to the musical life of our nation, and the time to act is now.
My Lords, it is a particular pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Black, this afternoon because this is something on which I agree with him. Usually we are clashing about press regulation, but there are two things that we have in common: a love of music and a love of dogs. I am delighted that he has raised the former of those this afternoon.
I speak as joint chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Classical Music; as, until recently, the chair of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance; and a trustee of the Mid Wales Music Trust, whose distinguished chairman is the noble Lord, Lord Burns.
Let me start in Wales, which makes a change. This debate, I am sure, will highlight the poor state of music education in English schools. The hub system, which is supposed to provide it, was well described by the noble Lord, Lord Black, as patchy. But at least there is a hub system; in Wales there is not. Indeed, in my own county of Powys there is no music service at all. Powys’s grant to South Powys Youth Music has just been cut to £5,000, and next year there will be no grant.
Mid Wales Music Trust, of which, as I say, I am a trustee, is only small, but it works hard to fill gaps. It leads on the “Joined Up Music” project, which aims to address the lack of a music service by bringing a range of music and arts organisations together to deliver high-quality performances, workshops and instrumental tuition taster sessions for primary schools across Powys. I have read some of the responses from teachers and children to those taster sessions, and they would bring tears to the eyes of anyone in your Lordships’ House with a feeling for it. If, however, I go on to say that much of its funding comes from the EU Rural Development Programme, your Lordships will realise that it cannot be guaranteed to thrive.
I do not, incidentally, altogether blame Powys for the collapse in the music service, because its budget problems are truly horrendous. However, some activity is now under way, and I pay tribute to report of the Assembly’s culture committee under its fantastic chair, Bethan Sayed. She herself benefited from free instrumental lessons in school, and went on to a youth orchestra afterwards, so she knows what she is talking about. Her report is scheduled to be debated in the Assembly on 24 October, and I hope the Welsh Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, will give it a warm welcome.
I turn to England, and I start with one general point. Trinity Laban, where I was chair, has a terrific record for the employability of its students—even those who do not go on to do music. It comes in the top three higher education institutes in the country for those in jobs or in further education six months after graduating.
Music graduates are very hard sought by capitalist firms outside the world of music. Music education uniquely equips students for life outside in companies, because it requires two things: a tremendous concentration of individual skills and effort—the amount of practice our students put in is extraordinary—and an ability to come together in teams. They participate in orchestras and chamber groups, working with others to produce the best results, and that is the essence of what makes a successful, modern company. How extraordinary, then, how unbelievable it is that we are down-grading its role in schools, concentrating solely on the STEM subjects. It cannot be said too often that music education brings to our country not only cultural enrichment but economic enrichment as well.
Again, wearing my past Trinity Laban hat, I would like to say a word or two about elite, or classical, music. Year after year, I attended with huge pleasure TL’s gold medal competition for the finest musicians and, year after year, I was struck by how many of the finalists were from abroad. In 2018, the winner was Iyad Sughayer, a Jordanian Palestinian whom I have been lucky enough to sponsor. Any noble Lord who wants to hear future greatness in action can hear him play at Conway Hall at 7.30 next Thursday, 8 November. The noble Lord, Lord Cope—and I thank him for it—has given him a platform in aid of the charity Palmusic. I am delighted to have this foreign talent, of course: it enriches us and it enriches our music, but we do not want only foreign talent; we want the best British talent as well.
In order to be an elite musician and thrive at a conservatoire, you need to be passing grade 8 music exams with distinction by the age of 15. That, as noble Lords who have ever touched an instrument will know, is a pretty high standard. At Trinity Laban, we rely heavily for our intake on state-educated children. Something like 80% of those who come to Trinity Laban are state educated, compared with something nearer to 50% at the royal colleges. I perhaps disagree about the meaning of that with the noble Lord, Lord Black, but the obstacles to success are huge for state-school pupils without rich parents. Some hubs have fine stocks of musical instruments; some have a few recorders. To thrive, elite musicians need proper instruments. It is no good having the £80 Chinese violin I bought for my daughter. A grade 8 quality violin will cost between £1,000 and £4,000. A bassoon for that level will cost £15,000. That is just one of the huge obstacles in the way of a child from a state school without a rich family making it. Much talent falls by the wayside in consequence. In particular, diversity in the representation among elite musicians, which is something that we all want to see, suffers.
If we neglect music in schools, especially music for those with real talent, the nation will pay both a cultural and an economic price not worth paying.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Black, for initiating this debate and setting the scene so comprehensively and well. I suspect that many of us in this debate will all be singing from the same song.
I am an avid supporter of music, musicians and the music industry. I will start my speech by quoting Darren Henley, the chief executive of Arts Council England who, incidentally, wrote an extremely valuable report a few years ago on music education. He wrote in a recent article:
“It should go without saying that art and design, dance, drama, music and other creative subjects should be an important part of every child’s school curriculum. We must never underestimate the value of the knowledge, skills and experiences that these subjects introduce into children’s lives. They also bring an added bonus with them in the way in which studying these subjects enable the next generation to enrich our society as a whole”.
It seems to me that that set of phrases really sums up why we are taking part in this debate today.
Nevertheless, as both of our previous speakers have already shown, we hear that music teaching, alongside other arts subjects, is in decline. I am not going to repeat the statistics mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Black, about the decline in the number of music teachers in secondary schools, the decline in the number of teaching hours for music or the decline in the GCSEs taken in music between 2010 and 2017. All of that is on the record, and they are the official figures. The noble Lord, Lord Black, also mentioned the drop in A-levels, which no doubt is a consequence of the GCSE drop.
In 2010, the EBacc, which has already been mentioned, was introduced and it excluded creative subjects such as music. A total of 59.7% of state schools say that it had a negative impact on music provision and uptake, according to a study conducted by the University of Sussex. Provision of music GCSE in a school creates the culture for a school to embrace music and provides talent and equipment in-house to allow many forms of music-making to emerge and be supported.
To his credit, the Prince of Wales attended a conference last month, run by Children & the Arts at the Royal Albert Hall. Its message was that we must not let the arts become the preserve of children at private schools, which have better facilities and more teachers to run activities such as orchestras and drama productions. I suspect that that is going to be a theme throughout this debate as well. Children in the state school sector should have the chance to learn an instrument just as their better-off peers do. Reduced access to music in state education is leading to an inequality of opportunity and a lack of diversity. Music has a key role to play in enabling social mobility. There is evidence to suggest that children who are engaged in education through music—as is the case with other subjects such as drama and sport—do better at their maths and English.
Moreover, an artificial distinction is being made between science and creative subjects. Talents and skills in the arts are fundamental to the UK’s future success. It is true for our creative industries: much of the continuing boom in UK television and film production is attributed to the skills and talent base for which we are internationally admired. We simply cannot afford to lose this, and we need to ensure that our education system supports the sector and that a good range of relevant creative subjects are taught in schools.
However, this is also true for the tech industries. In our Select Committee report AI in the UK: Ready, Willing and Able? published last April, the House of Lords Select Committee on AI concluded, after receiving convincing evidence from AI developers and others, that creative skills were as important to our future as maths and science. As the Creative Industries Federation said in its paper three years ago on the creative education agenda,
“Science and arts are not an either/or”.
For its own sake, too, music, which is so important to us all culturally, must not become a neglected sideline within the 21st century education system. The music industry is a £1 billion industry that is vital to the UK. As the noble Lord, Lord Black, said, unless this decline is reversed, the talent pipeline that we hope will produce the next generation of stars to follow Adele, Ed Sheeran and Stormzy will suffer a major blow.
Here are a few suggestions for action by the Government. First, we have seen the target of 90% for EBacc subjects pushed back, but let us drop it altogether. The EBacc should not be the headline assessment measure for schools, but used as part of progress and Attainment 8. With the 90% EBacc target in prospect, secondary schools will choose to focus on EBacc subjects as the safest way to ensure that they meet multiple accountability targets.
Secondly, we should limit “Outstanding” to schools that warrant it. Schools should not be outstanding without decent music provision. I very much welcome what the Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, said last week: in assessing quality, Ofsted would focus on the curriculum taught within a school, rewarding those that offer pupils a broad range of subjects.
Thirdly, we need a proper assessment of the skills that we need for the future. The Department for Education should conduct a proper audit of the skills and education needed as part of the industrial strategy.
Fourthly, we need to adopt proper careers advice. I look forward to the work that the Creative Industries Federation will be doing as part of the creative industries sector deal, which has pledged to,
“increase the supply and diversity of skills and talent in the creative industries”,
in at least 2,000 schools and among 600,000 pupils in two years. Needless to say, the Government should thinking about reaching all schools after that.
Fifthly, the Government committed £75 million annually and directly to music education hubs to deliver on the national plan for music education to provide music services for children and young people. There is, however, no clear plan in place for them after 2020.
Clearly, there are many other aspects that need to be dealt with. Music technology, for instance, is a very important part of what should be in the national plan and introduced by the hubs. We have the examination boards that rely on the talent available from GCSEs and A-levels and those who wish to take those grades. I remember taking my grade 3 trumpet—that seemed like a great triumph at the time for someone with my musical talent. I hope that we shall hear a great deal more from Members of this House about the importance of music, and I also very much hope that the Minister will respond positively to what he hears today.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Black on his impassioned introduction to his debate and remind your Lordships of my declared interest: I am the chairman of the English Schools’ Orchestra, the ESO, which I founded together with Mr Robert Pepper MBE, its Musical Director, some 24 years ago—thus we are coming up next year to our silver jubilee. It is about classical music and classical orchestras in schools that I want to speak today.
Young people join the English Schools’ Orchestra when they are about 12 years old and play with us until the end of their first term at university. They are required to be of grade 8 standard of the Associated Boards and have exceptional ability. They come from schools across the country and from every kind of background. We give them the opportunity to make music in a first-class orchestra with other equally highly talented individuals and to perform in important national venues such as the South Bank, Barbican Centre and Cadogan Hall. Above all, they have superb teachers and tutors—some of whom are also former members of the ESO—who introduce them to a wide variety of classical music. As our late patron Sir Malcolm Arnold said, “You have to pinch yourself to realise that they are not a professional orchestra”.
We developed some time ago an alumni chamber sinfonia which, under the leadership of the director, engages in much outreach work to encourage young pupils from disadvantaged and low-income backgrounds in south London—it has started in south London—to learn to play an instrument and to appreciate classical music. We are indebted to my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber whose foundation generously supports us in this work. We have relied entirely, from the very beginning, on financial support from many kind companies, charities and individuals and have never used a penny of public funds—we are all volunteers. When I once tried to make an application for government sponsorship I was asked: “English Schools’ Orchestra—do you play music from other lands?” I replied, “Well, there is Mozart, Chopin and Tchaikovsky”. What she of course wanted, she explained, was that we should play rap, blues and other music that was “more relevant”. I explained that, although our members certainly played these in their own bands and groups, we were there to introduce young people to the finest music in the western classical tradition.
In the last few years, however, we have witnessed some extremely worrying trends: there are fewer children able to receive school or music hub tuition in the rarer instruments, such as the bassoon, the French horn and the double bass—and the violin in Wales, it seems. Fewer young people seem to have experience of playing in small ensembles, which demand the need to concentrate for extended periods, to co-operate with others and to develop resilience, all skills necessary for playing in a large orchestra, especially one performing ambitious works, as the ESO does. Why should this be? Experienced music teachers tell me that young graduates entering the profession need far more training in coaching and directing ensembles of pupils at all levels, both inside and outside the classroom. They also need to have the skills to conduct and to prepare arrangements of music to suit the groups that they have, including an understanding of the capabilities of different instruments at a range of standards. Our music colleges, academies and teacher training institutions really must repair this deficit.
There are, as several speakers have said, fewer music teachers available. It is worth repeating what my noble friend Lord Black told us about the University of Sussex survey: music staffing has fallen by 36% in the last few years. He mentioned the deficit in the number of candidates for GCSE and A-level music. These problems have led to another problem: the number of school orchestras that provide the essential experience that I have mentioned has fallen also. Music hubs, whose funding is provided by the Government on the clear condition that they teach music,
“of a wide range of styles”—
which is fine—tend, however, not to emphasise classical music as they did. This is a mistake and should be rectified as, inevitably, children from poorer backgrounds have less chance of learning to play the music of the great classical composers. There are pockets of excellent practice, such as the London Symphony Orchestra’s small academy and the English Schools’ Orchestra’s own outreach initiatives. Some 800 senior schools still have some kind of orchestras; these are to be praised but, as I said, their numbers are falling and the trend in state schools seems to be slowly moving away from them. It would be a huge dereliction of our duty to the next generations, as noble Lords have said, if they become largely the province of independent schools. That has been mentioned by most of us today, and I hope the Minister will give us some comfort.
To improve the situation and allow students to realise their full potential, we need to fulfil the aspiration of the 2011 national plan for music education, which was to ensure that all pupils receive at least a year of high-quality ensemble or small group teaching. Currently, an average of only 15% of pupils receive at least one term, and fewer still the whole year. These are the Arts Council’s own statistics. This aspiration should lead, for those demonstrating real aptitude and enthusiasm, to the opportunity to have lessons in smaller groups and then individually, as well as gaining experience in small ensembles and beginner orchestras. They should also be given a good choice across the orchestra instrument families, including the rarer ones that I mentioned earlier.
I have only praise for those in schools and youth orchestras across the country who are still dedicated to introducing young people to the joys and skills of playing great classical music. We must give them every possible encouragement and ensure that their future is safe.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Black of Brentwood, has given us a speech telling it how it is. Music education in schools is under threat in this country. The noble Lord gave us the statistics: a 23% drop in GCSE entries in music since 2010, and 7% in the last year alone. To compare with two EBacc subjects, geography and history, geography GCSE entries have risen 38% and history by 22% since 2010. The Government have made claims that they are doing some kind of counterbalancing measure, yet geography, an important subject, nevertheless has almost seven times the number of GCSE entries as music. This is an extreme imbalance. Of course, because arts subjects are excluded from the EBacc, this is happening not just to music but to all the arts and design subjects, and surely one of the more shocking facts is the drop of over a quarter in arts subjects overall taken at GCSE level in the last three years alone.
More shocking still are the department’s figures on the number of teachers and hours taught: a 13% drop in the number of music teachers and a 13% drop in hours taught for music since 2010. The facts are shocking because they more immediately reflect the increasing lack of provision of and commitment to the teaching of music—and again it is the same story in all the arts, with 20% of teachers being lost overall since 2010. All this is backed up by the evidence from the schools themselves: for example, the University of Sussex research, which the noble Lords, Lord Black and Lord Clement-Jones, referred to, and which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, called “an urgent wake-up call”. One of its telling conclusions is a continuing decline in the number of schools offering GCSE music, with no option in 18% of schools and a further fall of almost 6% predicted up to 2020.
It is getting a little frustrating having to quote back to the department year after year its own figures, alongside all the other evidence. It is frustrating to be faced with a department which seems to want to continue to bury its head in the sand. It seems extraordinarily unconstructive that the Government merely ignore the views of expert bodies and schools organisations such as the Association of School and College Leaders. The best that the Minister could do yesterday in response to the Oral Question from the noble Lord, Lord Black, was to cite the old New Schools Network conclusion about the broad stability of the proportion of young people taking at least one arts GCSE—and it is not true, in part because it leaves out design and technology, which is a significant exclusion. Also, what an unambitious standard to want to celebrate, since it ignores all the students who might want to do more than one arts subject since they are often complementary: dance and music, or music and drama, for example. Students should have the clear option to do so if they wish. I recently visited a school in the Midlands which was set up as a specialised visual arts secondary school, and it now does not offer more than one arts subject per pupil at GCSE level. The head of its arts department also has to teach geography, which is a nonsense at that level of teaching—or in fact at any level. Indeed, the Sussex University research confirms that 70% of secondary school music teachers have had to teach outside their subject area since 2016.
The pressure of course is that the EBacc as an accountability measure now effectively forces schools into a particular straitjacket they do not want necessarily to be in. But this is changing the culture of school education to the extent that arts subject are valued less, as is confirmed by both teachers and, significantly, by students, in the extensive new study Time to Listen by Nottingham University, published jointly by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Tate, and which the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Hudnall, referred to yesterday. Subjects are valued less so they are not offered—it becomes a vicious circle. Moreover, the Sussex research finds that even where music is offered, in some schools students can be discouraged from taking up that option in order to concentrate on EBacc subjects. But also, at a time when schools are strapped for cash, the teachers will not be taken on either, which is why I am extremely sceptical about the Minister’s statement yesterday in answer to the Oral Question of the noble Lord, Lord Black, that there is no crisis because of a low vacancy rate for music teachers. That says nothing at all about whether music teachers should not be taken on, but may speak volumes about the priorities that schools are forced to have to meet the EBacc goal.
It is becoming clear too that the effect of the EBacc culture is not confined to GCSEs. The knock-on effect, as the noble Lord Black pointed out, affects the pipeline of talent. He spoke about A-level music entries dropping by 3% in the last year and a frightening 38% since 2010. At the other end, music is fast disappearing from primary schools, and the Incorporated Society of Musicians has also commissioned a study on this from Kevin Rogers, who was the last county inspector of music in the country—which already says something in itself. He shows that accountability measures are responsible for this decline.
The hope in all of this lies in what I think is a discernible change in the public mood, which is one of increasing concern. The Nottingham University study calls for parity between the arts and other subjects at key stage 3, a proper recognition of the arts in the Ofsted inspection process, and a minimum proportion of time dedicated to creative subjects. It also calls for an arts premium for all schoolchildren and a review of the importance of the arts—this is significant—among Russell Group universities.
I hope that the department will finally listen. Much is at stake, not least the future of music as well as the other arts, many of which interact with and depend on each other, and I ask that the department talks to the DCMS, which should be very worried, as we all should be, about what a continuing and deepening marginalisation of the arts and creative subjects in schools will mean in the long run for the health of the creative industries. Add to that the cuts and the serious problems of Brexit, particularly for musicians, and we have a potentially huge problem.
My noble friend Lord Berkeley of Knighton would have been here today except that, somewhat ironically perhaps, he is working with music students at Wells Cathedral. He asked me to say this:
“Given the success of our creative industries and particularly in music, it does seem disastrous for our future success that this and the next generation of students are being deprived of the touchpaper that can light a creative career”.
Above all, schools should be offering an education which gives students as many opportunities as possible to find themselves—that is an important aim—including subjects which are participatory and sharing, and music as a practice is this. In a letter to the Times in August Sir Simon Rattle and others said that,
“we urge the government to reverse its EBacc policy and take action now to keep music in our schools”—
and, one might add, thereby to provide music for every child in the country. Music should not become a preserve of the rich. It is time that the Government looked at other models of education which will properly deliver a rounded, balanced education—one fit for the 21st century.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Black, for bringing this debate to the House today and for giving us the opportunity to take part and question what the future is for music in our schools today. I welcome the 3.5% pay rise for lower-paid teachers, which includes some music teachers, but my concern is regarding the challenging financial landscape for local authorities, which is resulting in many areas seeing creative subjects such as music being squeezed; one-fifth of schools no longer offer the subject as an option. We note that the national plan runs until 2020, and we are informed that a review or an extension will be announced this year, so I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to that later.
We can look back to 2012-13, when music was compulsory in 84% of schools, but we are now seeing a quiet decline in our British schools, with barely one in 20 pupils taking music GCSE. There is no doubt that exposing pupils to practical music is an important part of getting them involved in musical culture. Many UK musicians have benefited hugely from state school music. All pupils deserve the opportunity to experience a life enriched through active musical participation, which includes creating, performing and listening to music. Music can of course be relaxing: students can fight stress by learning to play an instrument, and it is especially helpful for them to relax and fight that stress.
Gaining a real sense of achievement and learning to play pieces of music on a new instrument can be challenging, but it is an achievable goal and they are rightly able to feel proud of their achievements. Research has also shown the huge benefits music brings to children’s learning and, importantly, to their happiness. All this can be achieved through the arts. For those who are shy and afraid to stand in front of people, music provides a safe and fun way to conquer their fear, and gives them confidence to escape from their comfort zone.
It is also important to give as many children as possible, including those who suffer from handicaps, the chance of playing in an orchestra, singing, or whatever it may be in their musical education. It is a really good way to remove barriers. I want to pay particular attention to young people with a mental disability, for whom music can help improve their social interaction and verbal and emotional understanding, enhancing the quality of their relationships.
The resurgence in the popularity of choirs over the past few years has demonstrated how joining a choir helps with isolation by helping people forge lasting friendships. We must not let children who come from lower-income backgrounds be locked out; practical music tuition is in some cases very expensive and out of reach. As we have heard, evidence shows that the third-largest contribution in this current year comes from parents—almost 17%. Again, music cannot be just for those who can afford to pay.
I doubt that a single day goes by without music in some form or other coming into our lives music is for life. Many in this House have had the opportunity to play football—although I have not—or hockey from a relatively young age. They may not still be playing at 70 or 80 plus, but you can still sing or play the piano or some other instrument, because music is lasting. Some noble Lords may be switching on the television on Saturday night to watch “Strictly Come Dancing” where we see musicians, dancers and choreographers performing with their creative talents—and sometimes producing drama as well.
Music is a gift that will last children their entire lives. There must be a future for music, otherwise we will all be the lesser for it—and it should not be based exclusively on the ability to pay. Music matters, and it enriches us all.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Black, for his magnificent introduction to this debate, and for the opportunity for us to remind ourselves of the vital importance of music and the arts generally to the creative industries and the life of our nation.
The decline in funding for music in schools, and in its take-up at GCSE and A-level, has already been identified and the crisis we now face has been rehearsed. I add my voice to those who have called for a thorough review, and possibly the abolition of the EBacc as a means of addressing the situation.
The benefits of music are considerable in the delivery of an integrated education that develops the whole person and meets the diverse needs of any school and the community it serves. Many of these achievements have been rehearsed already in the debate. Learning a musical instrument can develop personal discipline, as performing in a band, orchestra or choir develops a sense of mutual responsibility and respect. Similarly, performance can enhance self-esteem, leadership skills and the determination to achieve. The importance of these skills for future employment has also been noted by the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey.
So much of this is recognised in the 2011 DCMS national plan for music, which makes the failure to deliver and secure the future of music all the more alarming. The decline of the music sector in state-funded education is, as we have also already heard, not replicated in the independent sector, where emphasis on music and the arts remains one of the major selling points of an education that will develop the whole person, build confidence for life, and lead to fulfilling employment.
Music is in danger of being eliminated from areas of deprivation, and of becoming something increasingly London-centric. The Music in Secondary Schools Trust—which, as the noble Lord, Lord Lingfield, mentioned is supported by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd Webber—makes an incredible and important contribution, but it is London-centric.
It is noteworthy that the Church has been a patron of music across many centuries; many of our cathedrals still play a part in opening a door to a child with musical ability from a family that may not be wealthy but will be willing to support their development. We in Chichester have recently seen a child from a low-income family win a choral scholarship, board, and get an outstanding fully funded education, which resulted in winning a similar package of scholarships at Lancing College—although this is all in the independent sector. We in Chichester are also linked with the Lutheran Church in Germany. I recently visited the Diocese of Bayreuth and there, through the state funding of the Church—through church tax—they have an independent music academy that specifically trains young musicians for church music. This extraordinary, wonderful facility, as a conservatoire, boasts a building with seven organs, 12 harpsichords, a piano in every room, recital spaces, and training in music teaching for young and old alike. We are nowhere near this; our pride in the English and Anglican choral tradition is likely to be eclipsed if we are not careful.
The importance of music as an element of education that nurtures ability in the humanities and the sciences alike is too valuable a resource to be left to the small sector of society that benefits from independent education through being able to afford it, or through having parents with the determination and social confidence to secure it through scholarship—and that is never without personal, social and emotional cost.
The loss of music resources from state-funded schools means we will inevitably fail to release the talents of some of the most able and imaginative children in our nation, because only some have access to its benefits. Moreover, we shall fail to provide an education that gives those with particular needs—in terms of learning, social adjustment, personal development and many forms of impairment—an opportunity to benefit from a mode of communication that can release them to attain a socially more fulfilled life.
One of the complications in sustaining a vibrant musical life in our schools is the availability of appropriately qualified teachers, as we have already heard. Music gave space for creativity in the curriculum; the lack of that space has increasingly created a feeling that teaching is simply a tick-box exercise. It was recently reported nationally that, in Devon, a primary school teacher of 17 years’ service—who represents the “wastage rate” of 10.5% in the profession—resigned to go freelance as a poet. On resignation, he sponsored a billboard poster that read:
“Children! You are not data: learn, inspire, dream, create”.
The loss of music from our schools is of detriment to the teaching profession. I hope the Minister will encourage a review of teacher retention, addressing the causes of its low levels and how to redress this.
Another challenge in promoting music in schools is that it often lacks a supportive culture to make it as attractive in a peer group as sport. How good it is that the crisis in music has prompted celebrity role models to speak out: Ed Sheeran, JB Gill and Laura Mvula have all spoken about the importance to them of music, representing the diversity of cultures from which they come, and which is important in our schools in making music.
The funding of local choirs and youth orchestras, and places where people can rehearse and perform, has been widely diminished by the loss of public funding in local government. The Guildhall School of Music & Drama notes that 76 music teachers were made redundant in the closure of Wiltshire County Council’s music service in 2016. In some counties the service continues but with a charge, although the Guildhall also notes that in some cases that charge is as much as £4 an hour more than in the independent sector of music teaching. I hope that this can be reviewed and that we address the need for funding at a local level those community organisations that will sustain and enable to flourish what we seek to pay for in supporting music in our schools. The long-term damage that we shall sustain as a result of what we are doing to music in schools and local communities will ultimately cost us far more in many different ways than the short-term financial savings that seem to be causing this damage.
My Lords, I find myself following the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester. For me, his diocese is for ever synonymous with one of the greatest of all bishops, George Bell. Three years after this revered man’s reputation was traduced by the Church of England authorities on the uncorroborated word of a single complainant, the outcome of yet another private inquiry by the Church is awaited. I hope that it will be published soon and that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury will at last do what is required of him in restoring to a great man a reputation that has been so gravely defamed.
I declare my interests for the purposes of this debate as president of the Independent Schools Association, one of the organisations that comprises the Independent Schools Council, of which I am a former general secretary, and as president of the Council for Independent Education, which works on behalf of 20 independent sixth-form colleges.
Unsurprisingly, it is about independent schools that I would like to speak in this debate, for which we are indebted to my noble friend Lord Black of Brentwood, himself an accomplished organist and pianist who can often be found playing impromptu piano duets with musical guests at his home in Italy. I recall with pain that at my bleak boarding school in Suffolk long ago, I insisted on banging the piano keys so furiously that my music teacher swiftly sacked me. I am thus ineligible to play duets with my noble friend.
As this debate has already frequently noted, music is one of the great strengths of the independent sector of education. One thousand three hundred out of a total of some 2,500 independent schools in our country come within the ambit of the Independent Schools Council. In the overwhelming majority of ISC member schools, where the average school roll is only 165, life without music would be inconceivable.
A few days ago I received the latest journal of the Independent Schools Association, featuring news of recent arts awards won by our member schools. Top of a considerable list came Hulme Hall Grammar School in Stockport, winners of the Incorporated Society of Musicians trust gold award.
My colleague Mr Neil Roskilly, a man with long experience of teaching in both state and independent schools and now chief executive officer of the Independent Schools Association, studies all aspects of our education system with close attention. As this debate loomed, he wrote to me as follows:
“The majority of independent schools recognise music education as part of their core, certainly up to the age of fourteen and often well beyond. The range of formal and informal opportunities to access music is phenomenal. My son’s own school, the Perse in Cambridge, boasts 50 music scholars, several pupils who are members of the National Youth Choir, with more than 20 peripatetic staff with instrumental specialisms delivering around 550 individual lessons each week. That is not untypical”.
I draw attention to this state of affairs not in any spirit of self-congratulation or self-satisfaction but to underline the fact that many of the 7% of our nation’s schools in the independent sector have important resources and musical accomplishments that can assist their colleagues in the state sector. Mr Roskilly notes:
“What is so pleasing is that many independent schools are working with state schools in partnership to promote music. Our own Association is doing a great deal. For example, Queen Ethelburga’s in York works closely with a range of local primaries. Our Chairman’s Old Vicarage School in Derby has a wonderful joint choir in which children from a local primary play a major part. At a recent concert in Derby they sang to an audience of some 30,000 people”.
To a greater extent than ever before, independent schools are being actively encouraged to come together in mutually beneficial partnerships with their counterparts in state schools. The website of Schools Together records what is being done. Some 16 pages of it are devoted to the music partnership schemes that have now been established. In a recent formal statement of joint understanding with the Independent Schools Council, the Government pledged to promote the case for partnership among state schools. That is vital to ensure the continuing expansion of partnership schemes. Success will be achieved only when state and independent schools come together of their own free will. Coercion could not lead to success.
There are now 624 projects uniting state and independent schools in the teaching and performance of music. There can, and should be, more. I well remember the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, expressing the view in a debate a few years ago that partnership schemes needed to be expanded fast. I do not disagree with him. Between them, the ISC’s 1,300 member schools have 725 concert halls and theatres, along with 425 dance studios. All should be used as fully as is possible and practicable by staff and students in both sectors of education. Mr Tom Arbuthnott of Eton College, a leading figure in the promotion of music partnerships, writes that they are,
“particularly easy to get off the ground, largely due to musicians’ instinct to perform, and the likelihood that Directors of Music are going to care very much about spreading the benefits of music over as wide an area as possible”.
Those telling words—“spreading the benefits of music”—must be kept ringing in the ears of independent and state schools. They must ring in the ears of government Ministers too—at high volume. Music partnerships between independent and state schools will not of course solve the profound problems which this debate has identified but they can make a useful contribution.
My Lords, I can confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, has been saying about the value of partnerships between independent and state schools. At the age of nine I was lucky enough to go to a choir school and thus to drop out of the state sector. The independent school to which my father’s employer then gave me a scholarship had, in those days, pretty basic music facilities. It has since invested in the most superb music and drama facilities, which thankfully it has made available to the state schools around it. Part of the increased gap that we see between the independent and state sectors is due to the fact that independent schools have now developed these superb facilities, and it is important that they share them. That is part of the public benefit that justifies charitable status.
As I said yesterday, I am the trustee of a music charity, the Gresham Centre, which runs VOCES8 and Apollo5. We have actively pursued those partnerships, and the best independent schools now actively take part in them. One has to praise what they achieve. I wish that the best quality would spread further through the independent sector than it has done so far.
My children went to a state school with a very good music department. I recall attending an early school concert there, at which a young woman of Nigerian parentage sang a Fulani folk song. I thought that was just what diversity in school music should be about. My son then went to the Saturday school at the Centre for Young Musicians in London, which was previously funded by the state sector and is since funded by the City of London Corporation. From there, he managed to go to the London Schools Symphony Orchestra and he spent a year at Trinity College, of which the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, has spoken. He kept up with the musicians from the independent sector whom he met at university. My daughter was, frankly, intimidated when she arrived at university by the greater self-confidence and achievement of the children arriving there from independent schools. It is sadly that case that music scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge are dominated by children who have been educated in the independent sector, because children in state schools do not get the training and experience to qualify. That is part of the gap that we are talking about.
Where are we? Yesterday, the Minister produced what I felt were rather odd statistics, and evidence that I did not entirely recognise. The extensive briefings we have all received for this debate tell a very different story from the one he tried to tell us. There are two sides to what we are talking about: one is the basic provision of the opportunity to sing and to learn an instrument for all children who go through British schools; the other is the chance for the talented and the interested to progress and learn an instrument to a high quality of performance or to sing with a highly developed choir, and perhaps, in time, to become a professional in either the popular or classical sector.
We have the wider context of the impact of austerity across the board. We know that local authority support for music hubs has been squeezed. We see county orchestras—a valuable opportunity for young children to learn to play to a certain level while still in state education—being cut back. For example, Bradford Council has not only cut much of its support for music but has just closed its final trio of public toilets. Saltaire is a tourist destination as a world heritage site, and I can tell noble Lords that, when you receive busloads of school children and the recently retired who want to look around the village, the first question they ask when they get off the bus is about toilets. The closure of public toilets is an example of austerity at its most acute.
The squeeze on school budgets means that teachers in marginal subjects are not replaced and, with the EBacc, music now looks like a marginal subject. The Minister said yesterday that there are few vacancies for music teachers. But that is because there are fewer posts to appoint them to, and that is not something about which we should be proud.
Last Saturday, in the Yorkshire Post, there was a story on the decline in musical education across Yorkshire. It focused particularly on Foxhill Primary School in Queensbury, in Bradford. As I am sure noble Lords will all know, that is home to the Black Dyke Mills Band. The primary school, therefore, does its best to maintain its own introductory brass band, as well as a school choir. How is it funded? The band play outside Tesco for the four weeks before Christmas, and the school depends on that collection and other donations to support what it wishes to include in its curriculum but cannot otherwise afford. That is the sort of thing schools are having to do to maintain the music.
The evidence of the value of music in schools is overwhelming, and not just from the University of South Carolina, as the Minister cited yesterday. The Institute of Education at the University of London has done research on this in collaboration with my charity, and I am happy to supply that to the Minister if he has not seen it. Collective singing and playing develops discipline and concentration, and is demonstrated to improve numeracy, self-confidence and performance. People often say to me how good the Parliament Choir is. That is not terribly surprising. What basic qualifications do you need to go into politics? You need self-confidence and the ability to stand up on a platform and project your voice. And what do you get from music, particularly from singing? It gives you some of the basic qualifications that you need.
In the context of the charity I am involved in, I watch, for example, the acapella groups we have created in the Grey Coat Foundation schools performing songs written by their members. That is wonderful. It shows self-confidence among teenagers. The other week, I watch the Shoreditch academy choir perform in St Anne’s on Gresham Street, which is our centre. Seeing these mostly young girls singing their hearts out, I know that we are doing something for them. To neglect this dimension of education in order to cut taxes and public spending would be as irrational as cutting spending on the police while claiming to support the principles of private property and secure communities. I am sure that the Government would not think of doing that.
The charitable sector is having to take over more of what the Government previously funded. We are doing that, but the demand is enormous and more than we can cope with. My charity is now involved in training for schools where no teachers have any basis in music, providing them with the core skills to be able to manage a school singing together. The quality of this country’s cultural life matters. The quality of our education matters in the broadest sense.
Yesterday, the director of education for Voces Cantabiles Music at the Gresham Centre sent me a cutting from Singapore. It said that the Singapore authorities are more and more clear that exams and maths are not the full story. When educating children, you need also to inculcate imagination, independent thinking, self-confidence and the ability to work with others. Music does that, and that is why it is a core part of education.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Black of Brentwood both on initiating this well-timed debate and on his thoughtful, wide-ranging and rightly hard-hitting opening speech. I too was fortunate at school to be able to experiment with five different instruments, including the French horn, continuing with two into my adult life. I am currently struggling with grade 4 on the harp.
It is now six years since the Department for Education conducted a review of music education, which led to the creation of music education hubs under the coalition’s national plan for education, and seven years since the introduction of the EBacc in 2011. Therefore, we can now analyse the effects of the change in focus and delivery of education and its impact, both on the musical life in our schools and on our musical heritage.
As many noble Lords have mentioned, research by the University of Sussex supports the claim that the introduction of the EBacc has led to a decline in pupils studying arts subjects in general and music in particular. There has been a 15.1% fall since 2016, and a fall of 7.4% in the past year alone. What a waste of potential. Although it is notoriously difficult to prove causality in the arts, numerous studies show a strong correlation between high-quality, sustained music education and increased cognitive development, academic attainment and spatial awareness in children, and the development of their fine and gross motor skills. There is compelling evidence that musical training sharpens the brain’s early encoding of sound, leading to enhanced performance on a whole range of listening and aural processing skills. Furthermore, children from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to get a degree, twice as likely to volunteer and 20% more likely to vote as young adults. In an age in which the digital world offers instant gratification, the ability to appreciate the huge rewards delivered by incremental progress through consistent music practice has to be a more worthwhile endeavour than collecting skins and weaponry in the obsessional computer game “Fortnite”.
Sadly, it is not just the provision of music education that is in decline; it is also the quality of that provision. There have been poor levels of investment in teacher training for musicians for years—talented musicians do not automatically make inspirational teachers. Teachers delivering whole-class ensemble tuition programmes—a government strategy for first access to music tuition at primary school, originally termed “wider opportunities” —rarely have high-quality teacher training. This may explain the very low continuation rates from first access to sustained tuition, although costs will also be a factor.
It is not all doom and gloom, however, and I am encouraged to hear, both from my noble friend Lord Lexden and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, about music partnerships growing between independent and state schools. At the most local level, the charity London Music Masters, with which I have long been associated, is a community development programme operating across the three London boroughs of Lambeth, Westminster and Islington, providing free musicianship, violin and cello lessons for 1,500 children each week. The charity targets socioeconomically disadvantaged areas with the objective of increasing the ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic diversity within the classical musical industry.
There are other pockets of excellence. Newham’s Every Child a Musician initiative delivers free weekly music lessons in small classes to 12,000 children in the year groups 3, 4, 5 and 6, and each child has a free musical instrument to keep and free entry to all music exams. Newham has fully funded this project since 2011 at a cost this year of almost £2 million.
From central government, the Arts Council and Department of Education co-invest £925,000 a year on a project called In Harmony, which runs programmes in Liverpool and Lambeth, delivering musical education to 6,700 pupils across 42 schools.
Musical outcomes from charities such as London Music Masters suggest that with the right support and training, musicians can teach whole classes of students and achieve excellent outcomes. Eighteen per cent of LMM students achieve grade 5 by the end of primary school, compared to a national average of only 2%. It is therefore particularly exciting to learn that this small but inspirational charity is also developing a national teacher training programme based on a decade of practical experience. This could bring a sea change in the quality of teacher training across the sector.
I join the many other voices in this debate in urging the Government to reconsider the strictures of the EBacc. I ask my noble friend the Minister what steps the Government and the Arts Council can take to reverse the catastrophic decline in music education, and how they will encourage investment in the training of musicians to provide more efficient whole-class teaching of the highest quality. We owe it to the next generation to ensure that it enjoys a holistic education that not only equips them well for the next stage of their academic learning but provides them with the knowledge, skills and problem-solving abilities that can play such a vital role in their development.
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Black of Brentwood, on this timely and important debate and on his powerful opening speech. I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, whose desire to master the harp fills me with admiration. I declare an interest as chairman of a charity set up to mark the 150th anniversary next year of Hector Berlioz’s death, which has education as one of its aims.
As we have heard—I am afraid we have heard a lot of what I am going to say—music is a great UK success story. It contributes £4.4 billion to the economy through exports, touring and the earnings of countless UK performers, composers, ensembles, conservatoires and promoters. Employers are crying out for the creative and other skills which music is particularly good at developing—teamwork, discipline, commitment, resilience, communication and leadership among others. Music also contributes to communities, fostering a sense of identity and social engagement, from the BBC Proms to local brass bands, choirs and festivals. It also contributes enormously to personal satisfaction and well-being. My life would be immeasurably poorer if I had not been lucky enough to go to schools where I had to sing, to struggle with the piano and to learn about music—even if the results were less impressive than for many of your Lordships and probably not even on a par with the noble Lord, Lord Lexden.
I therefore find it alarming that the availability of high-quality music education seems to be getting narrower rather than wider, with a growing opportunity gap between children at independent schools or receiving private music tuition and those at state schools, particularly in less prosperous areas. There is a real danger that we are reaching a tipping point where we lose the enviable position we have built up in music over the years because we are failing to nurture the potential talent and skills needed for a new generation to maintain it. Already, leading UK conservatoires are finding that a growing proportion of their applicants come from the independent sector and many university music departments are having to resort to the clearing process to fill their courses.
The national plan for music education was launched by the coalition Government in 2011. It set out the laudable aspiration that children from all backgrounds and every part of England should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, to make music with others, to learn to sing and to have the opportunity to progress to the next level of excellence. To help schools deliver this admirable aim, the network of music education hubs was set up across England and, to the Government’s credit, they have continued to fund the hubs, albeit at a lower level than before. That is the good news—a considerable improvement, as we have heard, on the situation in Wales, the so-called land of song.
However, the national plan is falling far short of its goals. Music is supposedly an entitlement for all pupils up to age 14 in schools that follow the national curriculum, but we have heard the evidence that an increasing number of schools have reduced or completely removed music in the curriculum. The number of music curriculum staff is declining: the average in state schools is now 1.67 full-time equivalents. Tellingly, it is 2.57 full-time equivalents in independent schools. I suggest that the reason for the low current vacancy rate for music teachers in schools cited by the Minister yesterday may be that schools are not recruiting music teachers or are even reducing their numbers.
Fifty-nine per cent of respondents to the Sussex survey highlighted the EBacc as having a negative impact on the provision and uptake of music and more than 200 leading organisations have signed up to the “Bacc for the Future” campaign, seeking reforms to the EBacc. I cannot understand how, in the teeth of ever-growing evidence, the Government persist in asserting that the EBacc as currently constituted is not seriously harming music education. Ministers yet insist that all schools, including academies and free schools, should provide high-quality music education as part of a broad and balanced curriculum. I have no doubt that that is their intention. However, the fact is that it is not happening, and it is often schools serving the most disadvantaged children and least well-off areas that are doing worst.
As the Minister said yesterday, the best schools combine high-quality cultural education with excellence in core academic subjects. Those best schools recognise the importance of music education: it is all the other schools I worry about, for which the current balance of incentives against which they are held to account is giving them the wrong signals and leading heads to focus their limited resources on the EBacc, at the expense of music and creative subjects. I wholly endorse the demand for the EBacc to be rethought to include arts and creative subjects.
Another welcome step would be to ensure that Ofsted inspections take full and proper account of schools’ music education programmes, in line with the comment of a hub leader in Yorkshire that:
“Music and the arts are so crucial to a child’s learning that I cannot conceive the circumstances in which a school can be outstanding without music and the arts being at least good”.
I was encouraged by the recent speech of Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector of Schools, proposing to introduce a new quality of education judgment while reducing the focus on outcomes. I also welcome the appointment of Susan Aykin as lead inspector for the performing arts at Ofsted.
Let me end with some other suggestions. First, there should be a statement soon about the future of the national plan for music education beyond 2020. I hope the Minister will be able to commit not only to a continuation of the plan, including ongoing financial support for the hubs, but to its extension: through covering wider age groups—below age 5, for example; through investing more in the music education workforce, which is underpaid, under-resourced, underappreciated and overstretched; through a greater focus on children and schools facing barriers to progress; and through reinforcing the importance of music in the school curriculum. Hubs are funded to augment and support schools’ basic music provision. There is wide divergence in the quality of services they provide. I have had some involvement with the outstanding Bristol hub—Bristol Plays Music—but many others are struggling.
My second suggestion is that the Minister should look at ways for the Government to put their mouth where their money is, so to speak, by encouraging more sharing of best practice across hubs and working with Music Mark, the association of which 95% of hubs are members. Such encouragement could include promoting take-up of the many excellent resources available from charities and others to support music education in schools and hubs—Ten Pieces from the BBC, the ABRSM’s Classical 100 resources and the LSO Discovery programme, to mention three in the classical music field. The current Music Commission inquiry, led by Sir Nicholas Kenyon, will perhaps provide ideas on how to pursue this goal in its recommendations.
My final suggestion is for the Government to be more proactive in exploiting the potential of music and creative education to help achieve wider policy goals, such as addressing future skills needs, delivering the industrial strategy or reforming technical education. There is plenty of research data to inform this, which will no doubt soon be supplemented by the findings of the Durham commission, set up by Arts Council England and Durham University to identify how creativity and creative thinking can play a larger part in the lives of young people, and the “Music in Society” inquiry recently launched by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. It is high time we recognised that music education should be seen not as a drain on government resources but as an essential investment in the future of our economy, our communities and our citizens—all of them, not just those lucky enough to afford proper access to it.
My Lords, we are all different; what a great thing that is. Some children have an aptitude for music and some are very enthusiastic, but others are not. Beyond the very basics we require in the education system, it is important that we offer students the choice to learn music. However, the more a curriculum or subject is forced on some students, the more they may grow to resent it, meaning bad grades and disruption. The great student musicians should get great music teaching, just as the budding historians should get great history teaching. It is important that we find the things that pupils excel in and nurture them.
Of course, we want our children to have good careers. I was once asked by my son when he was a child whether he should learn the piano or the recorder. I asked a friend of mine, an eminent QC in the planning Bar who is also an accomplished brass instrumentalist, “Tell me, what is the most economically sensible instrument to learn?” He said that there was a shortage of bassoonists, which would lead a good player to principal status in the time that a fiddler would make it to 32nd violin. He said that the only better-paid musician at the time was the man who played the taxi horn.
As some noble Lords know, I had an interest in taxis then and do so now as the chairman of the manufacturer for Mercedes of the Vito London taxi. Apparently, there was only one owner of a Parisian taxi horn in London, vital for the “American in Paris” suite, the wonderful work by Gershwin. He demanded that he would only rent it to the orchestra if he were employed to play it. He solemnly pressed the button, perfectly in time, dressed in white tie and tails, and was paid the minimum rate for a full orchestral performance. On a per-note basis, he is definitely the winner.
I have done many of the Peers in Schools visits. I should pay tribute to the great work of Gina Page from the Lord Speaker’s Office. She has the complex job of making sure that we Peers are in the place where we are supposed to be at the correct time. From my experience as a Conservative Party Whip, I know just how difficult that job can be. That said, I am told that the purpose of these visits is to teach 16 year-old pupils about the House of Lords. I am convinced that the real objective is not to educate the pupils but to educate the Peers on quite how difficult teaching is. I am certainly grateful for the education.
Music teaching, to the extent that it is about an instrument and not singing, is about personal tuition. More accurately, it is about the ability of the teacher to inspire the pupil to practise. The old story has the traveller ask, “How do I get to the Albert Hall?” The reply is: “Practice, practice, practice!” Unfortunately, most kids are not very dedicated at practising anything and I am sure that many teachers would prefer that a child spent their time on academic revision for exams rather than musical practice. So if a child is learning an instrument at a basic level, a large part of the short lesson must be inquiring about last week’s practice and inspiring next week’s practice, rather than teaching new techniques.
This is where new software can help. I had a look at an investment in a software company some time ago. I never proceeded with it but I learnt how the quality of the listening skills of an iPhone or iPad, Alexa and OK Google are improving rapidly. Listening is complex, as anybody with hearing difficulties can tell you, but the ability of a small computer to distinguish a note perfectly is progressing well, even if the piano is not perfectly tuned. A good piece of software, of which there are several, can now listen to a student and thus inform their teacher for how long the student practised and indeed how many notes were right and how many were wrong. Rather than a peripatetic teacher driving for hours to teach the bassoon to a pupil, much of the teaching will eventually be done remotely. That will inevitably lead to a massive future reduction in the cost of music teaching in schools. What an inspiring future is coming our way; I am much more optimistic than my noble friend Lord Black.
But new software has to be developed. As we face the latest wave of technological change, it is crucial that we are educating our children with the skills of the future in mind. As I just mentioned, the role of music teacher can now to some extent be enhanced by clever software. Many children do not enjoy music and many have no aptitude for it. I enjoy it greatly but, unlike my noble friend Lady Bloomfield, I have absolutely no talent. We should remember that we must be educating those children like me to be developing music software, not using it.
When I went to school, all pupils were asked to sing a note, then a second note. I was asked a third question: “Can you sing any note at all?” The same problem must face schools in respect of uncommon languages, with an intake of pupils whose first language is not English. How does a school with a tight budget allocate small resources between teaching the glass harmonica or the harp and mastering a little-used language? There is no right answer, except to try to teach the pupils to love to learn. Perhaps the only practical answer is large classes learning to sing together, with the pupils with no interest in music—or my ability to sing—hiding in the middle and hoping that the teacher will be too busy to discover who is inept.
As with other subjects, the conundrum with music is how to afford specialist subject teaching, usually for individuals, while doing the general teaching of the core curriculum to an audience of widespread abilities and an even wider range of enthusiasm levels. One can make a good case for most subjects to be compulsory and taught to all. I fear that is unrealistic, but music is like most other subjects: it should be encouraged among those who show a talent and an interest. That will allow schools to prioritise their budgets accordingly.
My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, for relieving me of my Woolsack duties to allow me to speak in the gap, which I will do briefly.
I declare my interest as a trustee of an orchestra—Southbank Sinfonia—known to some of your Lordships because it plays for the parliamentary choir, among other things. I should also say that my daughter is a professional, conservatoire-trained musician. When she is not performing, she teaches one-to-one in an independent school with facilities that are so far beyond the imaginings of the schools to which her two children go and at which her husband, who is a deputy head teacher, teaches that it would be difficult to overestimate how wide that gap is. The issues that have come up about the gap between the maintained sector and the independent sector—notwithstanding the germane points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, about partnership possibilities—are extremely important to bear in mind.
I was feeling a bit sorry for the Minister because I had not heard anybody offer ringing support for the Government’s current policy on music education until we got to the noble Lord, Lord Borwick. I was not entirely sure what his view was, but there may have been some comfort for the Minister there.
I will make only two points. The issues that have been covered so extensively by everybody who has spoken—it is rare for me to be able to say that I agree with everybody, but I do—are, on the whole, the unintended consequences of policies that no doubt were established in good faith. I do not say that it was not necessary to make the point that a good standard of academic education is absolutely necessary; I do say that it was wrong to be as restrictive with that as has been the case. We have to accept that warm words will always come from Ministers at this Dispatch Box and in the other place, because the personal commitment of individual Ministers and their sympathy for the importance of music and other arts are not in doubt. But warm words do not translate into policy, as we have heard.
I would like the Minister, if he would, to consider just two points that have been raised, to listen carefully to what has been said to see whether anything can be done. First, Ofsted is already moving to recognise that the accountability measures that the EBacc represents are too narrow. I hope that he will support it in that and that gradually—or possibly even quite quickly—music and other arts subjects will be included in those accountability measures.
The other thing that I would like the Minister to look at is the attitude of the Russell group universities, which, again for good reasons but provoking unintended consequences, have given the impression to schools that only a limited range of subjects, which do not include any of the arts subjects that we have talked about, are facilitating subjects for getting into them. This is profoundly unhelpful and gives a difficult message to schools and students about what it is possible for them to study and still expect to get into a good university. Music is difficult to study, particularly when you get to A-level. It is just as difficult as maths and it needs quite a lot of the same skills. It is not a soft option or a “nice to have” and it would be a good thing if the universities and the education department recognised that a student who comes out of schools with A-levels in, say, music, chemistry and maths is well-equipped for the life that they are likely to lead.
My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Black, for initiating the debate and for his tour de force of a speech. He said everything. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, that I have agreed with everything that everybody has said so far.
My own roots in Liverpool mean that I have a particular fondness for both the sound of the Mersey and the Mersey sound. As all noble Lords will know, Liverpool is the capital of pop music, having had more number one songs in the popular charts than any other city. I think I have asked the quiz question before that if anyone knows which the first one was they would win a prize. Nobody came forward last time so I will give your Lordships the answer: it was “(How Much is) That Doggie in the Window?” by Lita Roza. Music in Liverpool is, of course, not just pop music and the Beatles, but our world-famous symphony orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which does incredible outreach work in many deprived communities in the city.
I have a great deal of respect for our Minister—I think that he is a very genuine and decent person—but he has an impossible task today. No doubt he will trot out numerous examples, quite rightly, of good practice throughout the country, with particular music hubs doing this and particular projects doing that. But the fact is, no matter how much he or his civil servants dress it up, I am afraid that the statistics from the Incorporated Society of Musicians make quite terrifying reading. Music teaching in our schools is currently in terminal decline. Of course, it is not just music but the creative subjects as well.
I just do not understand this. As the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, said, why would we bury our heads in the sand? Why would we allow this to happen? The UK music industry is worth £3.5 billion to our economy, including £1.4 billion-worth of exports. The wider creative industries are worth £85 billion, growing at twice the rate of the British economy. Why would we put that in jeopardy? Any other country would be nurturing and developing this opportunity, yet survey after survey, whether from the BBC, the Institute of Education, the National Education Union or UK Music, shows that music and the creative industries are in decline.
Of course, as we have all heard, there is one beacon of hope—the independent sector. Perhaps it is no wonder that a disproportionate number of our actors, for example, come from the independent school sector. It would be interesting to know, just as we had the question about the amount we spend on education in this country, when the figures come through about teachers and creative subjects, whether we have stripped out the independent sector. Do we know what the figure actually is? I pay tribute to the independent sector for the support it gives to the maintained sector and academies up and down the land. One wonders today whether some of Liverpool’s icons, such as Simon Rattle at Liverpool College, Paul McCartney at the Liverpool Institute, or John Lennon at Calderstones comprehensive, would have been able to aspire to the positions they are in today, or were in, if music had been developed as it currently is.
What do we need to do? It is not difficult. It is one of those few occasions where we are not asking for lots of money. A couple of simple things can be done. First, we talk about the national curriculum. It is not a national curriculum. It is not national because it does not happen in Wales or Scotland, and because free schools and academies do not have to do it. That is why we are seeing increasing numbers of schools deciding to ditch the creative subjects, particularly music.
The second thing we need to do is reform the EBacc. Actually, I would prefer to get rid of it completely, but we could reform it. The good old noble Lord, Lord Baker, who was a fantastic Secretary of State and brought us the national curriculum, which gave an entitlement that every school followed and brought about creative subjects, has an idea of how we could reform the EBacc that would really work.
I have the opportunity in my role to visit quite a lot of schools up and down the country. Sadly, more and more schools do not have a music teacher. You see the teacher trying to do a singing lesson or a school concert where the CD button is pressed and the children sing along—a sort of kids’ karaoke. I was pleasantly surprised at a school I visited recently that there was a pianist—how unusual—playing a piano, not a keyboard, and a teacher conducting the choir. In many areas, what used to be the norm is now the exception. Pianos and pianists in primary schools are an endangered species. In this case, the school was lucky to have found a volunteer who could play the piano.
For many children, key stage 2 tuition on an instrument depends on whether the school can afford it, or, more likely, whether the parents can pay for small group lessons and instrument hire. A colleague I was speaking to earlier this week was paying £90 a term for his granddaughter to learn to play the clarinet. She was fortunate enough to have grandparents able to do so. Of course, they hired the clarinet as well. The same grandparents had already set up a standing order to the school fund to pay for the field trip at the end of year 5. I am not sure whether universal credit will pay these costs.
A secondary school was so short of music teachers that anyone wishing to train as a music teacher, even those with a 2.2—I do not diminish that—would be given a bursary of £9,000, assuming that, first, the secondary school can find the money to employ a music teacher; secondly, that the school can recruit a music teacher; and, thirdly, that the school has the instruments for the students to play
Only a handful of children have the opportunity to learn an instrument. Often tuition is supported by parental or grandparental contributions, and as in the primary school, these are in addition to regular requests for this, that and the other.
I would like to make it clear I am not criticising head teachers, who have to make ends meet with increasing demands on a decreasing school budget. Nor am I criticising primary and secondary teachers, who struggle to convey a passion for music to their students. Nor can I criticise local authorities, whose contributions to music hubs have been cut by over a third in one year. Without the resources to provide a minimum of adult social care or a guarantee that vulnerable children can be kept safe, reducing the grant to the nearest music hub is the tough choice local councillors are having to make.
A combination of austerity, a narrowing of curricula and a focus on quantitative exam results rather than a qualitative education experience has created a perfect storm for music in schools. Teachers are knee-deep in triple marking and whole music departments have been swept away by the tide of budget pressures. Meanwhile, the music hubs are making valiant efforts to rescue schools and children, efforts which in many areas are reduced to damage limitation.
In “Twelfth Night”, Duke Orsino proclaims,
“If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it…”
There is scant danger of there being an excess of the food of love in any of our schools. But we must focus what resources we have on ensuring every child has a rich musical education.
I was a head teacher at a school in a very deprived part of Liverpool. We had a full-time music teacher who taught from reception to year 6, and we had a 50-strong school orchestra. We were lucky to be awarded an Arts Council gold award. Those opportunities in the creative subjects were absolutely life changing for the pupils in that deprived community, and they should be available for all children.
My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Black, on securing this debate and on the clarity and passion with which he opened it. He certainly pulled no punches and I dare say he left the ears of his noble friend the Minister burning. I was particularly struck by his focus on music enriching our lives and crossing language boundaries, which I had not hitherto considered. I declare an interest of sorts as a self-taught guitarist many years ago. I had no musical tuition at school or otherwise, but I did join some school friends to form a short-lived band that played Tamla Motown cover versions. That venture did not last long, and I never learned to read music, something I very much regret now. That is why I am pleased to be able to declare a current interest as the father of a year 3 pupil in a maintained primary school who has just begun piano and recorder lessons, provided through out local music education hub.
The hubs may have contributed to the interesting fact, revealed in the iconic music publication the NME this week, that young women now make up half of people starting to learn the guitar. The vast majority will have taken their first steps at school, and music education in one form or another will have played an essential part in that. The national plan for music is ongoing, with £75 million allocated each year, but that has not resulted in a uniform level of provision because the Government have also become obsessed with academisation and removing schools from local authorities. As the noble Lord, Lord Storey, said, many schools that became academies abandoned the national curriculum, resulting in school music provision becoming increasingly inconsistent.
As many noble Lords have highlighted, a further complication is the introduction of the English baccalaureate, which—whatever the Minister may say—discourages schools from offering arts subjects, in favour of those core subjects demanded by Russell group universities. Surely other things should form an important part of any student’s education. It can surely be argued that the arts and technology are just as important as history, geography and modern languages—not least because the creative industries are now such an important feature of our economy. We should not send a message to schools and young people that creative and technical subjects are not valued. Ministers have said a great deal about the need to close the divide between academic and vocational education, but with the EBacc the Government are unashamedly promoting the superiority of the academic pathway. I share concerns as to how the Government intend to proceed when the national plan for music education comes to an end in 2020. There has been an indication that proposals for a review or extension of the plan will be announced this year. I hope the Minister will clarify the Government’s position on the plan today.
There is a postcode lottery for young people in their access to music. Music education hubs are by no means universally successful, but we want them to continue. Is that the Government’s intention? Will £75 million a year continue to be provided for Arts Council England to invest in the 120 hubs, and will the funding continue to be ring-fenced? Through the hubs, Arts Council England works with 89% of all state-funded schools, and engages more than a million pupils in learning an instrument through hub partnership or external providers. The hubs provide a framework of provision on which schools can draw, but national government cuts to local government have seen local authority funding to hubs decrease by more than 60% between 2012 and 2017.
Another aspect of local government funding will impact on the provision of music tuition in schools. The Government have recently established a teachers’ pay grant for schools, to enable them to partially cover the cost of impending pay rises, but no such grant is available to local authorities who centrally employ music teachers. The Local Government Association estimates that the extra cost of a 2.5% pay rise for centrally employed teachers will be around £5.5 million—a cost for which councils have not budgeted. It is inevitable that young people will miss out on music lessons if councils have to cut back further, exacerbating the effect of the EBacc on pupils studying music. Does the Minister acknowledge that unintended consequence of the pay award, and will he undertake to provide an indication of what the Government intend to do to address it? I will be happy for him to do it in writing if he cannot do so today.
Since 2010, too many children have been pushed on to subject pathways to which they are not always best suited, and denied the opportunity to thrive in other valuable and challenging subjects. The EBacc policy is narrowing the curriculum and squeezing subjects such as art, music, design and technology, and drama out of existence in some cases, as confirmed by the falling numbers of children entered into those subjects. As the National Education Union states, these are not “soft options” but rigorous academic subjects vital to the prosperity of our economy and the enrichment of our society.
As the Minister demonstrated at Oral Questions in your Lordships’ House yesterday, the Government are in denial about the decline in the take-up of music at GCSE and A-level. As a great number of noble Lords have said, figures published just two months ago by the Joint Council for Qualifications showed a 7.4% decline in the uptake of music GCSE year on year. That is against the backdrop of a 17% fall over the past five years. The Government’s repeated claim that the EBacc is not detrimental to the take-up of arts GCSEs simply does not stack up. In addition, there has been a 26% drop in the number of entries at A-level music over five years. These are developments that the Government should regard as deeply worrying.
Funding for schools is of course a major issue, although shortfalls hit across the board and not just in music and the arts. Bizarrely, one aspect of arts education that the Government appear to have no difficulty funding is their music and dance scheme. This is a £172 million annual fund, more than twice the figure allocated to music education hubs, established to help to,
“ensure that talented children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and families with limited financial means”,
have the opportunity to attend one of eight independent music or dance schools. However, the scheme has left itself wide open to accusations of the very opposite—contributing to arts elitism—after it was revealed that, despite that stated aim, families earning up to £190,000 a year are receiving awards. At Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, figures reveal that four students with family incomes of between £120,000 and £130,000 and nine between £100,000 and £120,000 benefited last year. I look to the Minister to confirm that that was not what the Government intended when they introduced the scheme. Although the DfE funds the scheme, the school selects students and carries out mean-testing for the awards. Apparently a substantial number of MDS award-holders come from independent prep schools. Surely the scheme should support music in state schools or at least state-school pupils. I acknowledge the benefit of music partnerships as outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, but, as my noble friend Lord Lipsey said, too often it is the cost of instruments that is the barrier to young people learning music. Alun Jones is the principal of Chetham’s School of Music. He says that he promotes inclusivity, but he knows where the problems lie. He told the Guardian recently:
“The EBacc and dramatic cuts in school budgets have reduced the status and funding of music in mainstream education. In too many schools, the few remaining music staff lack the time or resources to access our outreach projects, take up concert tickets, meet us at trade shows or respond to our communications. Many more no longer have a dedicated music teacher to encourage children to join us”.
Those are telling comments that the Government should consider carefully and then act on.
The next Labour Government will establish a national education service, providing education free of charge at the point of delivery from cradle to grave. Within that, we will introduce an arts pupil premium to allow every primary school child in England the chance to learn an instrument, take part in drama and dance, and have regular access to a theatre, gallery or museum. That would boost creative education and ensure that arts facilities in state schools matched standards found in most private schools. Will the Minister say why his party is denying the funding to allow that to happen now? Are the Government content for music to remain dominated by the wealthy? As the figures for GCSE take-up demonstrate, that is what is happening.
Like the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Aberdare, I was encouraged to read last week of proposals by Ofsted’s Amanda Spielman for what was described as,
“a radical shake-up of its inspections”.
The plan is apparently for inspectors no longer to give schools a stand-alone rating for test results, in an attempt to end the culture of exam factories in schools and encourage a broader curriculum. I wish Ms Spielman luck with that bold project, although I fear she will encounter opposition from within the DfE and from its Ministers. I hope that Ofsted will also note the recommendation of the Performers’ Alliance All-Party Group that a school should not be rated outstanding unless it offers a high standard of music provision.
Until schoolchildren are offered a properly broad and balanced curriculum, we will not witness a reverse in the downward trend of young people sitting GCSEs in music and other non-core subjects. That will require a change of direction which in itself will require a change of Government. Fortunately, we have one in waiting.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Black, for securing this important debate. I also thank colleagues for their contributions. There was much in my noble friend Lord Black’s comments on the benefits of education that I strongly agreed with.
Music is statutory in the national curriculum, so every child in a maintained school must study the subject from the ages of five to 14. Between 2016 and 2020, we are providing £300 million of funding for music education hubs to ensure that all pupils have the opportunity to learn an instrument, sing and perform regularly, and have access to clear routes of progression.
Many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Watson, and my noble friend Lady Redfern, mentioned the national plan. I can confirm that we will announce our plans for the next phase of this within the next couple of months. I say to those noble Lords who may be unware of it that the Government’s priorities for music education are set out in The Importance of Music: A National Plan for Music Education. It sets out our belief that children from all backgrounds and every part of England should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, to make music with others, to learn to sing, and to progress to the next level of achievement.
We have set up a network of 120 music education hubs to support schools in providing these opportunities. The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, spoke about music in Wales, but that is a devolved matter. He was also concerned that children in England should have the opportunity to learn to work together in groups. That is exactly what the music hubs are trying to do, working with local authorities, schools, arts organisations and community and voluntary organisations. Between 2016 and 2020 music hubs will receive £300 million to work with all state-funded schools in England, including academies and free schools.
In primary schools, the national curriculum aims to ensure that all pupils perform, listen to, review and evaluate music across a range of historical periods, genres, styles and traditions, including the works of the great composers and musicians. At key stage 1 pupils are taught to use their voices expressively and creatively by singing songs and speaking chants and rhymes, as well as to experiment with, create, select and combine sounds using interrelated dimensions of music. At key stage 2 pupils are taught to sing and play musically with increasing confidence and control. They should develop an understanding of musical composition, organising and manipulating ideas within musical structures and reproducing sounds from aural memory. At this stage pupils will also begin to develop an understanding of the history of music.
To address the concern expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, that music is being sidelined in primary schools, with less time being spent on the subject, in the 2016 Omnibus survey, primary school classroom teachers were asked about the time they spent teaching different subjects. The survey showed the time spent on humanities to be broadly similar to that spent on music and the arts. I would also like to put to bed the myth that says academies can opt out of teaching music. This is simply not correct. All schools, including academies and free schools, must provide a broad and balanced curriculum.
Prompted by the noble Lord, Lord Storey, I will offer a couple of examples. Yesterday I corresponded with the chief executive of the Outwood Grange Academies Trust in the north. He said:
“I have specialist teachers working in 10 primaries delivering music, and we use the peripatetic service. I have a specialist supernumerary director who supports music across the whole trust. We annually have students who perform in the Royal Albert Hall. We also book regional theatres for our students to perform in. We are promoting music heavily and have, for example, a youth brass band in our Barnsley school, Outwood Shafton. It is next to Grimethorpe, which has a famous colliery band. We have 206 entries to do music this year”.
I corresponded with the chief executive of the Burnt Mill Academy Trust near Cambridge. She said:
“We get all children to start an instrument in year 7; all pupil premium children in primary. At the end of year 9, they can choose to continue or not. This has a massive impact on self-esteem, resilience and music outcomes”.
I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Clement-Jones, that Ofsted does consider music education as part of a school’s broad and balanced curriculum—one that promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of all pupils. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, is correct that Ofsted is consulting on its new framework, and we will have to leave it to Ofsted to develop it. The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, asked about the relationship between the DfE and DCMS. I am able to say that we are in touch with each other. That department carried out a survey in 2016-17 which showed that 97% of children aged five to 15 participated in the arts in general.
When talking about music education in primary schools, I would like to share a splendid example that came to me via the music education hub in Gloucestershire. One of the hub’s partner organisations, the Music Works, delivers whole-class ensemble teaching on iPads. According to one teacher:
“The year 6 children from Chesterton Primary School, Cirencester, had a wonderful time combining music and technology. Even our most reluctant musicians are finding out about time signatures, chords and composition as they enjoyed exploring GarageBand”—
that is not a genre I am familiar with—
“on the iPad”.
I appreciate the kind words of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, although he made me feel like a young subaltern at Balaclava with Lord Raglan telling me to charge—but I will now address the EBacc issue. I reassure noble Lords that the EBacc is not responsible for forcing music out of the curriculum. These concerns were raised by nearly every speaker: the noble Lords, Lord Wallace, Lord Aberdare and Lord Clement-Jones, and my noble friends Lady Bloomfield and Lord Black. First, the data shows that the percentage of time spent by secondary school teachers teaching music remained broadly stable between 2010 and 2017. This data is drawn from the school workforce survey, which is a statutory survey, not a limited poll.
Secondly, there is no evidence that arts subjects, including music, have declined as a result of the introduction of the EBacc. In response to an Oral Question yesterday, I said that there were 31,000 entries for GCSE music in England in 2017. That was fewer entries than seven years ago because the cohort was smaller. The percentage is the key figure, and it has remained broadly stable at around 7%.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, spoke about the rise in the number of pupils studying geography and history. He is right: it went up from 48% in 2009-10 to 76% in 2016-17. I believe this is a matter for great celebration, and it very much plays into the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, about facilitating subjects. One of the main reasons why we pushed for this was to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds get a decent chance of going to a good university. I take on board the noble Baroness’s challenge—that should be taken to the universities. I accept that music is a very challenging subject and it should get recognition, but that fight should be taken to that sector. In 2018, 23% of children in the independent sector participated in art and design GCSE, compared with 27% in the state sector. The best schools are combining a high-quality cultural education with excellence in core academic subjects, and we are committed to ensuring that all pupils have access to both.
Some noble Lords raised careers and secondary schools, and GCSE study leads me on to the subject of careers. The Government want to encourage young people to consider careers in music and have published a comprehensive careers strategy, building on the improvements we have already made to the careers system. We are investing more than £70 million this year to support young people and adults to get high-quality careers provision. Of the 330 new apprenticeship standards approved so far, 28 have been made available for the creative and digital industries, with a further 33 in development.
The noble Lord, Lord Watson, asked about the recent pay rises. We have committed to provide £500 million for an increase in pay for classroom teachers on the main pay scale of up to 3.5%. It is being paid directly to schools on a per-pupil basis, that being the quickest and simplest way to get the money into the system. The number of teachers centrally employed by councils represents only around 1% of the teaching workforce. We are in discussions with local authorities about how this issue is dealt with.
The noble Lord, Lord Watson, challenged me on what I think he described as an arts pupil premium. It is important to put on the record that we have created a pupil premium which has delivered more than £12 billion into the schools sector over the past five or six years and is aimed at those in areas of disadvantage. We are providing £300 million for a network of music education hubs. To break that down, we have given £400,000 to Music for Youth to provide opportunities for young people and families who might otherwise not have access to perform at or attend regional and national festivals. More than 10,000 pupils attended Music for Youth Proms primary concerts in London and Norwich last week. The festival series reaches its climax next month when around 3,000 young people will perform at the Music for Youth Proms concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. Department for Education funding helps to support the festival series, including supporting those participating or attending for the first time.
To address my noble friend Lord Lingfield’s concern about orchestras, we have a £2 million fund for national youth music organisations such as the National Youth Orchestra, the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and the National Youth Jazz Collective. This helps them to continue their excellent work and ensures that they remain able to provide bursaries to those from disadvantaged families who would otherwise be unable to take up the opportunities.
The noble Lord, Lord Watson, raised the issue of funding for the music and dance scheme. The actual figure is £118 million for exceptionally talented young musicians and dancers, which is not quite the sum that was mentioned.
The issue I raised concerning the music and dance scheme was not the total funding but the fact that it was set up to assist students from disadvantaged families, yet many of its students are from families that could certainly not be described in that way. Can the Minister clarify why that is happening?
My Lords, I am not familiar with the exact mechanics of the scheme but I will write to the noble Lord to clarify that.
My noble friend Lady Bloomfield spoke about In Harmony, a scheme that is running some excellent programmes in Nottingham and is working with 26 primary schools. Last month, it ran a music camp for children in need of extra support to move into the after-school band. In March next year the programme is organising an immersive play-along concert with the Robin Hood Youth Orchestra. Impressive work is happening too in Liverpool. Next year the Liverpool In Harmony programme is celebrating its 10th anniversary. In March the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Opera is holding an In Harmony benefit concert, there is a special children’s orchestral production at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and further Liverpool In Harmony concerts are planned in Leeds and Newcastle.
My noble friend Lord Lexden, the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Wallace, and the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Chichester all spoke about independent schools. As my noble friend rightly said, we have recently agreed a joint understanding with the Independent Schools Council. This is the first of its kind and it sets out the commitment that independent schools are making to support disadvantaged pupils, including looked-after children, and to work with others across the sector on things such as the better targeting of bursaries. I am aware of an excellent drama and music production organised by the King’s College School in Wimbledon in partnership with Ricards Lodge High School, Coombe high school, St Mark’s Academy and Cricket Green special school. Interestingly, the statistics for those studying music GCSE are broadly the same in the independent sector and the state sector: about 6% in the state sector and 7% in the private.
We held a round-table meeting in Downing Street a few months ago with independent schools as part of something that I am very committed to: getting them to collaborate more with the state sector. At the round table, I asked the question: “What more should be happening?”, and all the heads from the independent schools said, “We should have state school heads in this meeting next time”. They are passionately committed to supporting the state sector in the promotion of good music, among other things.
My noble friend Lady Bloomfield referred to the quality of teacher training. In December last year we launched a consultation on strengthening qualified teachers’ status and improving career progression. This will happen for all subjects but I do not yet have specific details on music.
My noble friend Lord Lingfield may be interested to know of the Classical 100, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. Classical 100 was launched in 2016 and is a free online resource that provides classical music to primary schools. It was developed by experts in music education and the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Classic FM and Decca. Over 4,000 schools have signed up to this resource, with 6,300 teachers registered as users. The 100 pieces were selected to encourage people to explore, discover and listen to a range of styles over 10 centuries, including JS Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and Tchaikovsky. The online site offers schools a range of flexible resources to support teachers and can be used not only in music lessons but as part of school assemblies, plays and dance and drama studies. My noble friend Lord Borwick is right: technology is emerging to offer different routes into music and the teaching of music, and the Classical 100 is a good example of that.
Let me say a few words about the Music for Youth Proms concerts taking place next month, from 5 to 7 November. The Proms is an annual event which takes place at the Royal Albert Hall and is a celebration of the entire Music for Youth season, showcasing high-quality performances from some of the UK’s most creative, innovative and energetic young musicians. The DfE funds Music for Youth, and each night, more than 1,000 different young musicians take part in a concert which sees full-scale orchestras showcased side by side with some of the brightest young jazz bands, chamber groups, rock bands and choirs from across the UK. This is a tremendous experience for young people, giving them an opportunity to perform in a world-renowned venue alongside their peers.
I close by reassuring your Lordships that the Government absolutely understand the value of music. I cannot put it more personally than this. My own father studied music at university just before the outbreak of the Second World War. He volunteered to fight before graduating but it remained an important part of his life. A few years earlier, at school, he used singing to overcome a debilitating stammer. I understand the power of music.
I again thank my noble friend Lord Black for tabling this debate to give the Government a chance to put on record all that is being delivered in music. I take note of all noble Lords’ concerns and will ensure that the Government bear in mind all of today’s contributions.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in what has been an incredibly important debate. To use a musical analogy, we have heard a stirring theme and variations. We have heard so many powerful illustrations from noble Lords with huge expertise in their areas of the clear and present danger to music education from the perfect storm, as the noble Lord, Lord Storey, described it. We have heard excellent examples of how the decline is not something in the future; it is happening here and now. I was very struck by what my noble friend Lord Lingfield said about the ESO and the way in which school orchestras are declining.
We have heard many other examples of who will lose out. We heard about how children with mental health problems will lose out, in a moving speech from my noble friend Lady Redfern. We heard about the threat to church and Cathedral music and the Anglican musical heritage from the right reverend Prelate. We have heard about the problems that employers will face. The noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Lipsey, referred to how music education has a profound effect on training young minds, even for people who are not going into the music profession. I know that the CBI has also made that point. All noble Lords talked about the threat to the UK economy and the problems those from future generations who want to get into the profession will face. My noble friend Lord Clancarty set that out with characteristic aplomb.
Yes, there are glimmers of light. I pay tribute to the charities mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, which are seeking to plug the gap. In an important speech from my noble friend Lord Lexden, we heard about the role of independent schools in partnerships. They are terribly important, but I must say to both noble Lords that both independent schools and charities depend on the supply of well-trained teachers and professionals. If the decline continues over time, they, too, will find that they do not have the people to plug the gap as they do now. There may be glimmers of light now, but there is a danger that they will be snuffed out.
To use one final musical analogy, I hate to say it but I fear that the speech we heard from the Minister was the sound of fiddling while Rome burns. I fear that, as the noble Lord, Lord Watson, said, the Government are in denial about this, and that is extremely sad. I am very grateful to the Minister for his remarks and the way he set out what the Government are doing in music education, but perhaps he would take back a strong message from this House to the Secretary of State that it is time that the Government looked at the facts here, listened to what is going on on the ground from the experts here and beyond—the Incorporated Society of Musicians, the conservatoires and so forth, who have a day-to-day knowledge of what is happening—and then acted. I beg to move.