Music education must move into the 21st century or risk failing generations of young talent – warns new report
Leading figures urge radical overhaul if benefits of music are to reach everyone
New measures to transform music learning for the 21st century are today proposed by leading contemporary music figures who warn that whole generations of talent risk being left out of a system that is in danger of becoming rapidly outdated and ill equipped to reach and support the passions of young music learners.
The Music Commission’s report, Retuning our Ambitions for Music Learning: Every Child Taking Music Further concludes that supporting every young person, regardless of background or circumstances, to take their music further must now become the focus of music education. It argues that music is central in creating skills for a modern economy and society and that, beyond the music industry generating significant economic value, taking music further improves confidence, academic attainment and social skills; all vital for young people in the 21st century.
The eighteen-month expert inquiry, chaired by Barbican managing director and former controller of the BBC Proms Sir Nicholas Kenyon, and including producer and composer Nitin Sawhney CBE, singer songwriter Nick Mulvey, director of live music producers Serious and the EFG London Jazz Festival Claire Whitaker OBE, and chair of the board of directors for the Innovation Unit, vice-chair at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and Nottingham Contemporary, national council member, Arts Council England Paul Roberts OBE, argues that despite some outstanding practice and results, there are huge disparities in provision between schools, a failure to recognise how young people engage with music today, and a lack of continued support once their interest has begun.
Sir Nicholas said:
“Every young person should be supported to achieve their musical potential, whatever their background. This is a basic issue of equality of opportunity. There is some great practice out there, especially in the early years, and we’ve shown that we can start them on this journey. The problem is that too often we are then failing them – and ourselves – by not supporting them to progress and realise the personal, creative and economic benefits of the initial investment that we all make.”
Established by the Associated Boards of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) with support from Arts Council England, the Music Commission urges governments to target funding for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and make the provision of music in schools a measure of providing a broad and balanced education. It supports moves by governments and school inspection services to extend and deepen the offer of music in the curriculum and argues that this must reflect the wide-ranging enthusiasms and passions of young people today.
Examining how young people from all backgrounds can achieve their musical potential, Retuning our Ambitions for Music Learning argues that better connections must be forged and resources combined between schools, music teachers and the broad range of publicly funded music organisations in the community, to ensure every child has the chance to take music further.
Sir Nicholas said:
“There is a host of pressures we understand on schools to meet targets and achieve results. But there’s a growing understanding that this is not enough. Part of this is about funding and connecting young people with the opportunities there are to progress, but we have got to do more to move music education into the 21st century.
“People of all ages now learn and enjoy a hugely diverse range of music in many ways, at home, in classrooms, in communities and online. However, we’re concerned that too much music education does not reflect the realities of how young people engage with music. There is much to be learnt from best practice among teachers, and from the outreach work of our music and arts organisations, which needs to be better shared and co-ordinated.”
The Music Commission’s recommendations include bringing the best new technology into music teaching and learning, with a new digital R&D fund and a technology in music competition to identify best practice and role models.
The 14-person Music Commission panel also calls for:
- Universal free school-based music tuition with guaranteed four-year agreements for Music Education Hubs in England contingent on agreed outcomes for inclusion and progression
- A new stipulation that schools can only be classed as ‘outstanding’ if they are found to have a rich, diverse cultural provision which recognises the importance of music education
- The appointment of Music Education Champions to motivate and unite music organisations and educators and National Centres for Leadership in Music Education to develop skills for future music leaders
- Dynamic local and regional online Music Maps allowing parents and learners to see the formal and informal music learning opportunities in their areas
- New initiatives to give young people greater involvement in the planning and delivery work of music organisations.
E n d s
For more information about the Music Commission, for a copy of its report and to arrange interviews, please contact Jon Flinn on 07811 397122: