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Music Education in England
Wednesday 17 July 2019

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)


Westminster Hall
Department for Education
James Frith Portrait James Frith (Bury North) (Lab) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:31 a.m.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered music education in England.

It is a great pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Sir George, and to open this debate—the first parliamentary debate I have led—on music education. I thank all those who contacted me about the debate, especially the schools in Bury North that told me about their experiences, as well as the all-party parliamentary group for music education, the House of Commons Library and the excellent sector organisations, including the British Phonographic Industry, PRS for Music, and of course UK Music. Those organisations demonstrate impressive leadership and make a powerful case for music education in their published works.

As friends will testify, when getting to know someone I soon share with them my passion for music. Shortly after that, I will probably mention that I played at Glastonbury in 2003, on what is now known as the John Peel stage, on a Saturday at 11 o’clock—11 am. It is good to be here for this important debate in another early morning slot. Two simple ideas will guide my argument. First, music education must not fall victim to the tired old argument of traditional versus progressive education; it applies to both. Secondly, this debate must look to the future in the light of calls for music education based on current assessments.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:32 a.m.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate and on being one of only two MPs to have played at Glastonbury. I am not the other. Does he agree that the Government could approach this issue without having to change all their assessments simply by stipulating that no school under inspection could be rated “outstanding” unless it had an outstanding creative offer, including in music education?

James Frith Portrait James Frith - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:34 a.m.

My hon. Friend makes a powerful suggestion. I will come to Ofsted’s role later in my speech, as I believe it can be a friend in this mission.

Music output from the UK remains world leading. Artists such as Stormzy are breaking new boundaries and contributing to the success of our £4.5 billion industry. In seven of the last 11 years, the biggest selling album in the world was by a UK act. The heritage of British music is celebrated worldwide, but we must focus on the future. We cannot afford to be complacent at a time of great economic and cultural change. Britain’s role in the world is under new assessment. The rise in automation means that we must emphasise what makes us human, not compete on learned behaviour with the machines we make. Our education system must emphasise what distinguishes us as human, and music education is a huge part of that effort. Creativity, expression and performance are instincts as important as what we feel from a beat of the drum.

Last year, UK Music, the umbrella body for the commercial music industry, released its “Securing Our Talent Pipeline” report, which sets out in great detail the challenges beneath the success stories facing the industry. The report details evidence that 50% of children at independent schools receive sustained music tuition, while the figure for state schools is only 15%. Seventeen per cent. of music creators were educated at independent schools, compared with 7% across the whole population, and 46% of them received financial help from family or friends to develop their career. Growing inequality of opportunity underlines the problem. In that report, the CEO of UK Music, Michael Dugher—formerly of this parish—argues that a career in music must not become the preserve of those who can rely on the bank of mum and dad, and he is right.

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:34 a.m.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his excellent and passionate speech. Will he pay tribute to organisations such as the Cheltenham Festival for Performing Arts, which provide exactly those opportunities to people from all walks of life—private and state schools—and allow them to perform, build their confidence and, hopefully, build a lifelong interest in music and performing?

James Frith Portrait James Frith - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:39 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, and I pay tribute to any organisation engaged in that endeavour. My argument is that we need a universal approach as opposed to an incidental one, but I absolutely support the work of that organisation.

Our education system must support a deepening of the well of talent that we rely on. Music education is falling in the charts: there has been a drop of nearly 10% year on year for subjects not in the Ebacc, GCSE music entries have fallen by 24%, and since 2010, there has been a 17.8% reduction of music tuition in years 12 and 13. That is a worrying trend that Tom Richmond—a former adviser to the Department for Education and now director of the think-tank EDSK—says can “no longer be ignored.”

There is huge variation between our state and independent schools. Access to music education, with opportunities to learn, play and perform music, remains too exclusive. That must change; we must give every child the opportunity to learn the best of what has ever been said and done. Of course, that means maths and English, literacy and numeracy, but the enrichment that music brings cannot be put to one side. Children should be given the chance to shine at both or either in formal education, whatever their socioeconomic background. They should be invested in with the cultural capital of music education. In March 2019, the BPI’s extensive teacher survey highlighted that just 12% of the most deprived state schools have an orchestra compared with 85% of independent schools, and that over the past five years, state schools have seen a 21% decrease in music provision compared with a net increase of 7% in independent schools over the same period.

All our schools should turn with the natural and developing needs of every child and be more responsive, patient and dynamic, and show less rigidity and more agility. If schools do not have the time, resources or funding to do so, we must address those issues, rather than switching off the approach. Children can be better engaged in their education by expressing their natural creativity and curiosity. In fact, the argument for school tests and exams can be applied to the preparation for a musical performance as well—the idea, the studying, the rehearsal, the performance, and yes, the acclaim. Exam hall meets music hall. If we are to prepare our young people for the emerging landscape and an active, working and loving life, we need to pursue a balanced and expansive curriculum that recognises and hones skills and aptitude.

The school accountability system has pushed music education to the fringes of the way that a school’s success is judged. Music is being squeezed out of the curriculum. The suite of EBacc subjects does not include music, and although the year 9 curriculum changes may attempt to include music and creative subjects more broadly, their carousel approach means that they dilute and reduce time spent learning the speciality that music education represents. That concern is supported by the BPI’s teacher survey, which says that 31% of state-funded schools have seen a reduction in curriculum time for music. In a recent Musicians’ Union survey, more than 90% of music teachers reported that the EBacc has had a negative impact on music education.

The APPG for music education’s excellent report on the future of music education goes further:

“Some schools perceive that they have permission to either ignore the curriculum or justify one-off end of year shows or projects as acceptable forms of music provision. Only weekly progressive music lessons can develop pupils effectively in musicianship skills.”

My question for the Minister is: would the Government prefer to scrap the EBacc, or to include music in it? If students are not able to participate in music in compulsory education, they are far less likely to pursue it in further or higher education. According to Ofqual, over five years the number of students taking music at A-level has declined by 30%. However, I commend the Russell Group of universities for its decision to scrap the published list of preferred A-level subjects.

There is of course good practice, which I do not overlook. Some schools in Bury make a difference to their children’s musical education by collaboration. That is innovative, energising and fulfilling, it promotes curriculum richness, and it gives the wider school lots of memorable musical experiences. Bury’s music service is terrific, but the national evidence is that provision is patchy. Studying that evidence, the indices of value all point the wrong way, with a lack of universal, readily accessed music education during formal education time, in school hours, away from the distractions of often complex lives.

Recently, the Government announced that they will refresh the national plan for music education. What plans do they have to consult the industry? When will they be bringing forward recommendations? Does the Minister agree that a refresh of the national plan provides an ideal opportunity to reset the dial on music in education and to take on the challenge outlined in this debate? Will he consider providing creative education a criterion for achieving an “outstanding” rating from Ofsted, as suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan)?

I know that the Minister for Schools recognises the need to get a grip on the issue. He established a music curriculum expert group, and a contract to write a new model music curriculum has been awarded to the Royal Schools of Music exam board. Will he update us on the progress of that work? Will he also assure us that the model music curriculum will work for non-music specialist schools, to ensure that reduced capacity or a lack of specialism in our schools is not a further barrier to progress? Will he explain how monitoring of the impact of any such guidance will be undertaken? According to the BPI, only 44% of music lessons in primary schools are delivered by a music specialist. Support is still needed alongside the model curriculum for teachers who want to specialise in music, whether through a teaching route or a conversion through the postgraduate certificate in education programme. Will the national plan therefore ensure that teacher training and support for music education is improved?

I welcome recent news that Ofsted is to develop its focus on schools providing cultural capital for children. That is a step forward in ensuring that the role of music education is re-evaluated and reintroduced as a norm for all children in our schools. I note favourably that Ofsted will pick that up as part of its new framework. The Cultural Learning Alliance claims that music enhances cognitive abilities by 17%; does the Minister have a view on that proposition, or has he seen any evidence for it? Will the Minister develop the powerful cultural capital argument through his responsibilities at the Department for Education? Indeed, does he agree that one key goal should be for all children, regardless of socioeconomics, to have fair and free access to music education?

My final suggestion is that the Government should renew the effort to put music venues at the heart of high street renewal and economic development. The industry business model has been flipped in the past 15 years by digital platforms, streaming services and self-publishing. Yes, all the industry went through a period of denial of the change.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:43 a.m.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government missed a real opportunity when rate relief was offered to pubs, shops and other organisations on the high street, but the guidelines specifically excluded music venues from that list? Despite appeals to the Chancellor by me, UK Music and others, the Government refused to change that ruling.

James Frith Portrait James Frith - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:44 a.m.

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Government seem to have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to music venues—or perhaps a tin ear is a better phrase.

The industry business model has been flipped in recent years, as I was saying, but will the Government look, for example, at YouTube paying artists next to nothing per stream of their work? Some of the revenue that Google makes from that enormous imbalance could go to support live venues for emerging talent across the country and towards our efforts on music education, whether as a new tax or from a partnership.

Building on the Government’s embrace of the superb agent-of-change campaign, with the protections that brought in, we need more new or improved music facilities for young people outside school hours. UK Music has a network of rehearsal spaces based in deprived and disadvantaged communities to offer improved access to music. What plans do the UK Government have to develop and enhance that scheme? Can Bury have one, please?

Above the funding argument sits a bigger one. Funding plays its part, of course, but there is a bigger one even than that. It is one of choice and a question of priority. What do we expect from our schools and for all our children? If we recognise the value that independent schools place on music and music education, do we still opt to ignore that for the vast majority of all children, accepting the growing inequality of opportunity? Or do we—as I believe we must—ingrain into all our schools the rights of all children to have access to the same opportunities to learn, play, perform and enjoy music?

The truth is, it is hard to do justice to or to outline in policy what is in fact a deep passion and love. Put simply, one’s faith in the power and possibilities of music, performed, recorded and live, is not just a belief in a light that never goes out; it is the knowledge that music makes life better. Music can still your senses or stir your heart, its message motivates and mobilises, it entertains and, given the chance, it educates us all.

Mr Edward Vaizey Portrait Mr Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:46 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir George, in particular because you are someone who has campaigned hard for the arts in your constituency. I hope that your Shakespeare North theatre is coming along well.

As I look around at the small but high-quality attendance at the debate, I see before me a fellow member and an officer of the all-party group on arts, health and wellbeing, the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane); an excellent Labour spokesman, the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), who is also a fantastic asset of that group; and the shadow Arts Minister for the Labour party, the hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin). That is not to mention those sitting on our Benches: my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton), a member of the National Youth Music Theatre and of the National Youth Orchestra; the media star, my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell); and of course my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), who represents such a centre of artistic excellence. I will come to the Minister at the end.

I have been a passionate supporter of music education throughout my time in Parliament. Having checked the records, I am pleased that I can still say, hand on heart, that I did not come to the subject late in the day. Shortly after being appointed as Arts Minister in May 2010, I commissioned Darren Henley, who was then the chief executive of Classic FM, to do a report on music education which he duly delivered in February 2011. It might astound and shock the Chamber to learn that the report was commissioned jointly with my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), who was then the Secretary of State for Education, showing his commitment to music education.

The biggest thing to come out of the report was the creation of music hubs, which I felt strongly we should have for a number of reasons. Despite the fact that I only look 21, I am old enough to remember when we introduced local management of schools in the 1980s, and the first thing that went out of the window was funding for music education. When schools took control of their own budgets, perhaps understandably they chose to spend on repairing the roof or other initiatives that the headteacher wanted to follow, and music education suffered. I did not want that to happen again with the introduction of free schools and academies; I wanted to ensure ring-fenced funding for music education. We did secure it: there were some bumps in the road and some anomalies to be ironed out—obviously most of us in the Chamber would want the funding to be doubled, tripled, quadrupled or even more, to make a real difference—but the fact is that the money was saved and ring-fenced.

Music hubs were meant to be innovative organisations; not just money spent by local authorities, but money spent together with local music organisations. It seems ridiculous not to take advantage of the expertise not just of a local orchestra but of innumerable music organisations that might exist in a local area, including perhaps the local music venue, as the hon. Member for Bury North (James Frith) described so well—it was remiss of me not to have congratulated him in my opening remarks on securing this important and welcome debate.

Alex Sobel Portrait Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:50 a.m.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for mentioning music hubs. Before I came to this place, I used to work with a local music hub in Leeds, which opened up vocational routes in music composition, such as work in film, television and video games. Music hubs create new non-traditional opportunities in music. Does he agree that they are important for creating new vocational opportunities for people involved in music?

Mr Edward Vaizey Portrait Mr Vaizey - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:50 a.m.

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman brought up that example; let me take the opportunity to praise the important work he does in this House on video games policy. I am really pleased to hear that example, because the thrust behind music hubs was that they be innovative, different and open up music education in its widest form, not just perhaps in the traditional way.

There were other dogs that did not bark—schemes that have been maintained by the Government and remain effective. One of the most effective was the music and dance scheme, where funding has been maintained to train young musicians to excellent standards and ensure their access to the highest quality specialist music education. Let us not forget that in the wider economy, the Arts Council funding goes to 99 music organisations—not just our major orchestras but important organisations such as Youth Music.

Another aim of the Henley report that I wanted to be implemented was the integration of the In Harmony scheme started by the last Labour Government, which to a certain extent copied the well-known El Sistema scheme in Venezuela. It was whole-class music education. I remember being moved almost to tears visiting a scheme in Everton—not that far from your own patch, Sir George—and seeing incredible children learning music in class. In fact, I was more moved when I met their parents, because the scheme brought the parents and the kids together and brought the parents into school. It gave the kids such pride and belief in what they could achieve. That leads on to a truism that we all know yet we do not act on: things such as music education have a massive impact on kids’ self-esteem and, therefore, on their academic attainment and life chances. If I could wave a magic wand, every school in the country would be part of the In Harmony scheme.

I am very pleased to be on the board of the charity London Music Masters, which does something similar in five inner city primary schools in London. It is heavy going to raise the money but, again, we see an inspiring effect on pupils. I was delighted when they came and played “Here Comes the Sun” in Westminster Hall, breaking every rule possible, but making a fantastic YouTube video. We should all acknowledge not just that music education is important in and of itself, but that it has a massive impact on academic achievement, self-esteem and, as I am sure we will hear from the hon. Member for Cardiff West, people’s health, life chances and mental well-being. I know he chairs numerous meditation all-party parliamentary groups.

An important challenge, for the classical music industry more than anything, is diversity. Music education brings the opportunity to learn instruments to a wide range of pupils who would otherwise not get that chance. The creation of the Chineke! orchestra shows the efforts being made in the classical music world to increase diversity, which is urgent.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:54 a.m.

For classical musicians or otherwise, it is important to remember the role that technology plays in producing music is enormous. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there should be more investment in the technology side, and that it should be part of the curriculum?

Mr Edward Vaizey Portrait Mr Vaizey - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:54 a.m.

I do; it is important to go with the grain of society, and it seems absurd not to engage children in music education by using the kind of technology that they will use in their day-to-day lives, and will use when they leave school and university and go into the workforce.

I want to make two brief points that are somewhat linked. While I have no doubt at all that Members on the Opposition Benches, and perhaps even on the Government Benches, might have a go at the Government about music education, I feel strongly that headteachers—I will try to put this delicately—should not be absolved of all responsibility. School leadership plays a massive part in ensuring high-quality music and arts education. In my constituency, I have been to Didcot Girls’ School and St Birinus School, where there are passionate music and arts teachers who have put those subjects at the heart of the school curriculum, thanks to the support of their headteacher. They do not say to me, “We can’t afford it.” They do it because they understand why it is so important.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:55 a.m.

No one would doubt the right hon. Gentleman’s passionate support for the arts and for music education, but does he not agree that while headteachers should not be absolved of blame, they react to the incentive and accountability measures put in place by this Government? Quite frankly, they have led to the issues that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Frith) raised, namely the decline in the number of music teachers and the number of children taking music examinations. The Government have some responsibility to make sure they set those expectations centrally.

Mr Edward Vaizey Portrait Mr Vaizey - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:56 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman’s intervention shows why those of us in this House who care so passionately about the arts put party politics aside and unite in how we advocate for the arts. I wanted to get on record the point that headteachers must step up to the plate; they have the opportunity to introduce the arts and music.

Thelma Walker Portrait Thelma Walker (Colne Valley) (Lab) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:56 a.m.

As a former headteacher, when I meet my former colleagues in Colne Valley they tell me that where budgets are concerned, they have crossed a red line. They are making cuts primarily with support staff and the creative arts and music curriculum.

Mr Edward Vaizey Portrait Mr Vaizey - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:57 a.m.

Funding of schools and education is a matter of concern to all Members, particularly those of us who represent rural constituencies where we lobby Ministers for a fairer funding formula. As I say, at the schools I visit where the headteacher is passionate about the arts and music, they do not say it is a budget issue; for me, it is a leadership issue.

To pick up on the point made by the hon. Member for Cardiff West, I agree that Government can and should provide leadership. One of the frustrations of working with the former Secretary of State for Education was that on the one hand, he was a fantastic colleague who supported me in campaigning for better funding and clearer organisation of music and arts education; but on the other hand, he was relentlessly focused on science, technology, engineering and maths, reading, writing and arithmetic, and the EBacc. That created not only an enormous amount of confusion for teachers in an ever-shifting curriculum, but a clear signal to them that they would not be rewarded for putting arts and music at the centre of their schools. A terrible paradox was created where teachers became afraid to do that, because they felt they would be penalised in the league table. That can and must change.

That brings me to my final point. Leadership is absolutely violent—not violent, vital. We need vital leadership, not violent leadership, from Ministers, to emphasise that the arts are important, particularly in a world of technology and automation where British creativity will be centre stage in our success. I remember battling hard with successive Education Secretaries, desperately asking them just to make a speech about the importance of the arts. That leadership is needed now more than ever.

The Minister has a week left in his job [Laughter.] In his current job—who knows what will happen to him when my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) comes in on his no-deal ticket? From my own experience, let me tell him that if he is sacked, it will not be on the first day, but if he is promoted, it will be on the first day. All I say to the funky Gibb that sits before us is, “Get on your feet! Stand up for music and arts education.” In his heart, I know he believes in it and he can do that funky Gibb dance today.

Chris Ruane Portrait Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 9:59 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir George. I extend my thanks and gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Frith), who convened this debate. I want to thank a number of organisations that supplied us all, in preparation for the debate, with information on what is a vital issue. They include the all-party parliamentary group on music, the BPI, PRS for Music, UK Music, the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, the Musicians Union and the all-party parliamentary group on arts, health and wellbeing, which is ably co-chaired by Lord Howarth of Newport and the right hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey).

I have to declare an interest. I have loved music since I was a child. I sang to my children when they were babies—three songs every night. My two girls now have grade 8 in singing. I do not put it all down to me, but I think that little bit of impetus when they were so young had an effect. I sing on my way to work in the morning. Even in these terrible Brexit times I still manage to get a tune or two out as I walk in through the Victoria gardens. I was Pharaoh in the school production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and even got an encore, but unfortunately at the tender age of 17 I did not know what an encore was, and just carried on. I have been a member of Rhyl folk club for 37 years. It celebrated its 50th anniversary in the Jubilee Room here a few years ago.

I was a teacher for 15 years before becoming an MP, and for six of those years I was deputy head of a Catholic primary school. Music infused the curriculum of the school where I worked, Ysgol Mair. A lovely lady, Mrs Malleliu, would hold singing lessons in the break and dinner times, in her own time. Mrs Jemmet would hold recorder and guitar lessons. Mr Russel was a grade 8 piano teacher who played music at every assembly. We had Christmas and Easter musical productions.

In my class I would weave music into as many areas of the curriculum as possible. We would use Don McLean’s “Vincent” when we were painting in the style of Van Gogh. We would use “The Last Leviathan”, a beautiful song sung by Melanie Harrold, when we studied the demise of the whale in environmental science. I used classical music as a background, to quieten the class for reflection and prayer, or just to prepare for studies. We would use disco music in the gym and for dancing lessons. It was a Catholic school so we sang hymns and prayers morning, noon and night. That steeped the whole school in music. I would encourage the children, even out of lessons, in the playground, to work on songs and perform them in the 10 or 15-minute reflection period at the end of the day.

The right hon. Member for Wantage said that music can raise an individual’s self-esteem, and that is true. I spoke to a young man—well, he is now in his forties—whom I taught when he was eight. He would practise to be Freddie Mercury in Queen, and would be out practising at break times. At the end of the day he would burst forward with a rendition of “We Will Rock You.” He said those were the best moments of his life. I attended a school reunion three weeks ago, and former pupils in their 30s and 40s fondly remembered those times gilded by music and song in their old primary school. Music was central to their education, and their education was all the better for it.

We know intuitively that music is good for us. I think that goes back to the womb. From the time when we first hear the metronome of our mother’s heartbeat, we are accompanied by beat, pace and rhythm. What we feel intuitively is backed up by top-quality scientific research. I thank the What Works Centre for Wellbeing for supplying information on dozens of scientific randomised controlled tests on the benefits of music for individuals at all stages of life. There is high-level scientific proof that if a mother plays classical music for 30 minutes a day for two weeks it will reduce stress, anxiety and depression. I believe that if we want to encourage a lifelong love of music for children, it should start in the womb. Other research showed that for pensioners choral singing in groups had a positive effect on morale, depression and loneliness. The What Works Centre said that there were dozens of those experiments, including on teenagers and young adults, but very few looked at the effect of music on school-age children. Perhaps the Minister’s Department could commission some research on that. The What Works Centre summarised the research:

“Listening to music can alleviate anxiety and improve wellbeing in young adults. Regular group singing can enhance morale and metal health related quality of life and reduce loneliness, anxiety and depression in older people compared with usual activities. Participatory singing can maintain a sense of wellbeing and is perceived as both acceptable and beneficial for older participants. Engagement in music activities can help older people connect with their life experiences and with other people, and be more stimulated.”

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:06 a.m.

I am not sure whether it has been mentioned yet, but community bands are important in working in tandem with music education in schools. The hon. Gentleman may not know—I expect he will enlighten me if he does—that last week there was a tremendous opportunity to see some community bands performing in our own Northern Ireland cultural tradition. There are flute bands, accordion bands, pipe bands and brass bands, and they create character and personality, and friendships that last forever. They bring people together in love of music in every sphere, and that—community bands, education and music together—is important.

Chris Ruane Portrait Chris Ruane - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:06 a.m.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I am half Irish, and the Irish are probably one of the most musical nations on earth. I know that the debate is about music education in England, but we should look further afield to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and anywhere where music is central to education and society.

It is not just humans who benefit from music and song. There is a field of research called zoomusicology, which studies the impact of music on living creatures. Whales, dolphins and other mammals sing to each other in the courtship process. The production of cows’ milk has been enhanced by 3% by listening to classical music—and it is a better quality of milk as well. The stress levels in dogs in kennels has been shown to reduce when they are exposed to classical music. Perhaps the most beautiful sound in the animal kingdom is birdsong. Older birds teach the younger ones in colonies how to sing, for the purpose of mating and marking out territory.

Should not something that is good enough for whales, dolphins, cows, dogs and birds be good enough for our young people? It is not just a human foundational capacity but an animal one that goes back to the beginning of time. We should encourage it in words but also in deeds. Teachers, parents and pupils need to know that politicians value music in education, and that that value extends to proper funding and guidelines, and indeed to celebration. We should use this House to celebrate music in education more.

Music is appreciated in certain types of school. In the independent sector it is right up there: we have heard statistics that 50% of pupils in the independent sector get regular music week in, week out, and that the figure is only 15% in the state sector. The independent sector recognises music education by putting its money where its mouth is and funding it. There is already inequality in the education system in England, but the inequality does not end with the school bell at 3 or 3.30. It is perpetuated in the home life of children from different socioeconomic groups. Children from middle-class backgrounds are twice as likely to learn an instrument because they are encouraged to by their parents. A societal, cultural and educational change is needed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury North has given a list of excellent recommendations, which I fully support. I urge the Minister to commission research on education in music, as I said before, and I remind him of the intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), suggesting that it should be stipulated that no school can gain outstanding status without its full complement of music.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:09 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir George. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bury North (James Frith) on securing this important debate. I, too, have a musical background, but a classical one; I am a choral conductor and an organist. When I mentioned that before in the main Chamber, I was astonished at the speed with which the former hon. Member for Banbury came up to me and booked me as the organist for his funeral. Fortunately, I have not yet had to play for that, as he is still very much alive and thriving, but at least I have one booking in the bag.

I congratulate the all-party parliamentary group for music education on a fantastic report, which sets out a huge number of criteria and statistics. I will not repeat them, but I will draw attention to the report and the points it makes. It mentions that music tuition is compulsory between the ages of five and 14. That is fine, but the problem comes a bit later and in that earlier period, where I feel that the music teaching profession has been so put down that we need to do something to improve it. I will come back to that at the end of my speech.

A number of hon. Members have already mentioned how the sheer love of expressing themselves goes to the heart of what being a child is all about. If they cannot express that through music, I do not know how they can express it. I quite agree with those who have said that whatever sort of music we try to achieve, it brings out the inner person within us.

The hon. Member for Bury North touched on the importance of the music industry to the UK, but I will just repeat some of that. The industry is worth close to £4.5 billion a year for the UK—a phenomenal amount. The all-party parliamentary group brought out the point that we punch well above our weight internationally. We have something like 1% of the world’s population, but when we think of the hard-hitting albums that have been sold, we realise that a huge number have come from the UK.

If we look at the impact of music, as a number of hon. Members have already commented, we see the imagination it creates among young people. I would also bring out another thing it creates: team building. Anyone who has ever played in an orchestra will know how much team building counts in producing a good sound. Certainly, in the days when I was a clarinettist and played in a number of orchestras, it was a discipline that I appreciated.

Music therefore has a big impact on mental health, and the sustainability of music education is something we should pay a lot of attention to. As the Minister himself has said, music should not simply be the preserve of the elite; it should be available to us all. The school curriculum is not enough on its own to achieve all that; we need a range of extracurricular activities—school orchestras, school bands or whatever they may be. We need a range of other activities that fit in with what is going on in the school curriculum.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) mentioned Youth Music, a national charity helping young people to change their lives through music. I have a great deal of affection for Youth Music, not least because my son is an ambassador for the charity, helping to push forward its aims. I met him last night, because I knew I was going to participate in this debate, and we discussed a number of these points.

Personally, I am disappointed to see the declining number of areas in which singing is encouraged. When Sing Up was Government funded, it had an enormous reach in schools and provided a great base for primary school children. I would like to see more done to help to push that along, and to keep on developing the skills needed to keep a singing culture alive. We are one of the few cultures in Europe that has largely lost its tradition of folk songs; most people do not sing folk songs to their children, despite what the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) may have sung.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:15 a.m.

May I invite the hon. Gentleman to join the all-party parliamentary group on folk arts, chaired by myself with my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd as vice-chair? We are looking for more Tory members.

John Howell Portrait John Howell - Hansard

For a moment, I thought the hon. Gentleman was going to invite me to sing, which I promise, Sir George, I will not do in this session. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his very kind invitation and I will certainly look closely at that.

We have already discussed how powerful music is in developing the personal and social skills of all those who participate in it, but there is one area that I brought up in an intervention that I would like to bring up again. The Music Commission and Youth Music have challenged the curriculum because it does not provide enough technology. The reason they stress technology is that, whether someone is a classical musician or not, the technology involved in composing or producing the music is the same across the whole industry. My son is a composer and uses a tremendous amount of technology to do that. I urge more emphasis on the technology aspect of music.

I said I would return to one thing in particular that I think we can do. We have had a number of campaigns in the past that have taken social workers, for example, and tried to ensure that they feel loved, valued and part of society. We should do the same for music teachers too. We need a great effort on all our parts to ensure that music teaching is appreciated, that it is seen to be appreciated, and that we can all play our part in taking it forward.

Thelma Walker Portrait Thelma Walker (Colne Valley) (Lab) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:17 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir George. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Frith) for securing the debate, and I will also say how much I enjoy working with him on the Education Committee.

I will begin by sharing some of my own musical journey and the important role that music has played, and does play, in my life. At the age of around six I had a new teacher. She was the youngest teacher I had ever had, because I went to a very formal, traditional primary school. She was warm, she was funny, she was different, and I loved her. She read us Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha”, but on the second reading she asked us to beat the rhythm of the poem on to our wooden desks with our fists. I could not believe that we were allowed to do that or that we could make such a noise. I remember the excitement and liberation of being allowed to bang my fists on the desk. She then gave out different percussion instruments, and on the third recitation we were asked to use our instruments, keeping to the rhythm. It was chaos, but it was fun, and it was very noisy. It was like an awakening. I was so excited that I could hardly breathe. I longed for every lesson where this new teacher would play music and we could experiment.

She allowed me to play on the piano in the school hall, as my parents could not afford for me to have formal lessons. She gave up her own time to sit with me, and I never forgot her kindness or the joy of touching the keys of that piano for the first time. I did not get the opportunity to continue with the piano sessions, as my parents could not afford it, and the fact that I cannot play an instrument today is one of my few regrets. However, I do know that, throughout the most important times in our lives, music is the thread. At family celebrations, the music chosen is key. At funerals, the songs that we play to say goodbye are so important to us all.

Then for me there was the ’70s disco dancing—including the funky gibbon—around handbags. These are the musical milestones of everyone’s life. Fast forward and I am a teacher and a parent. I vowed that my own children and the pupils in my school would have every opportunity to enjoy and experience music. My own children knew the joy of local authority-funded music lessons. Both now play an instrument and have a lifelong love of music. The local music centre gave young people the opportunity to perform at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Royal Albert Hall. They loved playing and they made friends for life, one of whom, Tom Challenger, went on to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and is now a professional saxophonist.

As head of a large primary school in a deprived area, I was determined that every child would get the opportunity to sing and play instruments. The creative curriculum was valued and invested in. I appointed a specialist music teacher, and every child experienced that quality teaching. For every child, music mattered. One of my proudest moments was having pupils perform on Radio 3 as part of the Huddersfield contemporary music festival. The following year, our school was awarded Artsmark Gold. It was an inclusive school, filled with music and the children’s joy of learning through music.

What do most children experience today? The Fabian Society report entitled “Primary Colours” tells us that 68% of teachers in England say that arts provision in their primary school has decreased since 2010, and 49% believe that the quality of arts provision has worsened since 2010. There is also a significant regional disparity, with primary school teachers in the north 16 percentage points more likely than teachers in the east of England to feel that there is a lack of resources.

I asked Thom Meredith, principal of Musica Kirklees, how he sees music in our local schools today. Thom has been an inspirational and much respected conductor for choral and instrumental music in Kirklees for many years. He said that school funding cuts mean that schools simply do not have the money to pay for resources or teachers. Musica Kirklees used to receive £299,000 from Kirklees Council each year, but by 2016 that was cut to nothing as a result of local government cuts. That resulted in the closure of two music centres, and lessons for gifted young musicians had to be cut. Although it currently appears that nationally there has been an increase in the number of young people engaging with music education, schools are actually lumping more students into larger classes. In fact, the number of young people in smaller, long-term music classes or lessons in which they are properly engaged and learn how to play an instrument or sing has dropped dramatically.

Music can comfort and heal. It can lift our spirits and bring people together. As Shakespeare said,

“If music be the food of love, play on”.

Let us fund music properly in our schools, so that working-class kids, just as I was, can be given the chance to play on.

David Warburton Portrait David Warburton (Somerton and Frome) (Con) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:23 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir George, and to take part in this debate. We have heard so many eloquent and passionate speeches, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Bury North (James Frith) on bringing us to this place and allowing us to enjoy talking about such an important topic.

I, too, have to declare an interest. I was lucky enough to have an extensive classical music education at music college—I tried to stay there as long as possible so as not to get a proper job, which I continue to try to do. I was lucky enough also to be a music teacher for many years, and I now chair the all-party parliamentary group on music and am vice-chair of the APPG for music education, and I serve on the boards of various organisations—the National Youth Orchestra and so on. I therefore have lots of conversations with many inspiring and passionate advocates for music education and hear about a lot of their successes at first hand. However, it is easy to let the activities of great organisations such as that hide the bigger picture—the picture as it is for most people around the country.

As hon. Members will be aware and as we have heard today, Ofqual statistics show that between 2014 and 2019 the number of students taking A-level music has declined by a whopping 30%. I think that is a statistical canary down the mineshaft, warning us of the result if current practice continues. If that decline came from any general disinclination to study music that has suddenly appeared, that would be regrettable but unavoidable. But I think it rather improbable that a wave of musical apathy has swept over Britain’s young people, so we have to ask ourselves why fewer students are choosing to take their musical education further. If there is no mysterious and spontaneous reason, what barriers are preventing those who do wish to pursue it, and how do we eradicate those barriers?

If we look at earlier age groups, we can see critical points at which the pipeline also narrows. The availability of music tuition at key stage 3 is a factor. According to the “Music Education: State of the Nation” report, between 2010 and 2017 there was a fall of 6.4% in curriculum time dedicated to music. Department for Education workforce data shows a drop in music teacher numbers at key stage 3 of more than one quarter.

I do understand, as a former music teacher myself, that more of one subject means less of another. I know how it feels to face the problem of matching students’ aspirations with the realities of available time, and I realise that the EBacc is there not to shrink opportunities, but to allow talent from every area of society to flourish. But to me, a core curriculum that excludes the arts is not a core curriculum—that is an oxymoron—so I would welcome a re-examination, as other hon. Members have said, of the possibility of adding a sixth pillar to the EBacc for creative subjects, including music.

The thoughtful and wide-ranging remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education at the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership conference in February described very well some of the fundamental issues in making education work across all areas of the country and all sectors of society. He focused on

“the five foundations of building character”.

Two of those—creativity and performing—directly correlate with music. His focus on those five foundations was very welcome and is significant in the context of this debate.

Given the consensus on cultural capital in relation to life chances, the gap in music provision between the state system and independent schools, which we have heard discussed, is a trend that must be stopped. The BPI reports a decline in state music provision in the past five years alongside an increase in the independent sector. The gap is widest—surprise, surprise—in schools with a higher percentage of students on free school meals. Relative poverty does not equate to a relative poverty of ambition, but ambition without the opportunity to visualise and then pursue its fulfilment leads to frustration and then disengagement.

The UK’s music industry contributes £4.5 billion to the economy, as we have heard. We saw it generate £2.6 billion in total export revenue in 2017—that figure was up 7%—and it is an instrument of soft power that will only become more important in the years ahead, given the wobbly world picture out there. However, that is just part of the story. The creative industries as a whole contribute more than £100 billion to our economy. We are very good at this stuff, despite the barriers that come before us. Therefore, even if we look at things in a purely utilitarian way, a greater investment of curriculum time and resources can only make sense.

I know that it is much more difficult to quantify the cognitive benefits of understanding the structure of a Bach chorale or the blues scale than it is to see an uptake in STEM subjects or exam entries leading directly to jobs in the engineering industry, but equipping our students with an understanding of our musical, philosophical and artistic heritage does something even more difficult and important: it allows those students to anchor themselves within the centuries-old progression of thought and to understand their place in the society in which they live. The anchor provided by the arts is not just a means of generating economic value; it allows young people to understand what is of value in others. Denying them an understanding of the value of their artistic heritage hides their eyes, ears and minds from the world around them.

As we look ahead to the new national plan for music education, it is vital that we re-examine both the performance of music provision within secondary schools and the metrics used to measure that performance. As we heard from the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), it is clear to me that no school should be awarded an outstanding judgment by Ofsted if it fails to provide strong arts and cultural education. The next national plan for music must focus on ensuring that these benefits are spread as widely as possible. As well as looking at the curriculum, that should also involve thinking about how to ensure that the flexibility given to academies is not a licence for them to sideline music education or treat it as an optional extra, especially given that 72% of secondary schools are now academies.

The greatest artistic achievements, from the encyclopédistes of the enlightenment through to “Sgt. Pepper”, aspire to universality. As such, they have a democratic impulse at their core. A failure to share their benefits as widely as possible not only lets down our young people, but runs contrary to the spirit of the arts themselves.

Tracy Brabin Portrait Tracy Brabin (Batley and Spen) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:31 a.m.

It is an absolute pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. Sir George. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Frith) for securing the debate. If this is his first Westminster Hall debate, he has a great career ahead of him; his speech was powerful and impassioned and addressed an important and urgent question that will affect many youngsters across the country. We have heard several excellent contributions from people who have lived experience in this world. Their concerns about the crisis of music education in England are profound and compelling. I will pick out a couple of moments of great interest.

The right hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) was, as always, a passionate advocate for the creative subjects for all. The work he did creating music hubs and the Henley report is a solid base from which we all work. The highlight of his speech must be funky Gibb, which will stick with us from now on. My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) talked about singing for pleasure and the element of wellbeing. His statistic about cows will also stay with me. The hon. Member for Henley (John Howell), who I will book for my own funeral—he is obviously going to have several bookings now—mentioned early years. Although music is in the list of Ofsted’s expectations, what is the quality of the music provision for the under-5s? We had a debate yesterday about the first 1,001 days of life, and we know that brain development is supported by access and exposure to music. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution.

My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Thelma Walker) made a profound contribution, speaking about her own experience. No one could challenge her experience of being on the frontline as the head teacher of a school, creating a brilliant experience for young people and giving them an opportunity to live a full and enriched life.

Finally, the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton) talked about the extra pillar to EBacc. I had a meeting with the Secretary of State to discuss that. His response was, “It will not make a difference.” I hope that when he looks back at this debate he will read the profound and passionate pleas from people who know and have experienced it in their life, and see that this would make a difference.

I welcome the work undertaken by UK Music, Music Industries Association and the Musicians’ Union highlighting the perilous state of music education across the country. As we heard from the hon. Member for Henley, UK Music’s “Measuring Music” reports that the music industry’s contribution to the economy is £4.5 billion, with £2.6 billion export revenue. Britain has less than 1% of the global population but one in seven albums sold worldwide in 2014 was by a British act; I can only imagine those numbers have gone up. Music is a critical part of Britain’s soft power and in the current climate, as we career out of the EU, that power could not be more vital.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s own report on sector economic estimates showed the value of the creative industries rose by 7.1% in 2017—almost twice as much as the UK economy as a whole—to £101.5 billion. Sadly, the evidence gathered, not just by the unions and other trade bodies but by the all-party parliamentary group for music education, shows that music education is at a point of crisis, with creeping cuts to music education, chaotic music education policies and plummeting morale among teachers and educators.

The Music Industries Association report, “The State of Play—a review of music education in England 2019”, proved beyond doubt that the inequalities in music provision are real, concluding that children from families earning under £28,000 a year are half as likely to learn a musical instrument as those with a family income above £48,000. There are children, certainly in Batley and Spen, for whom coming from a family with an income of £28,000 would make them feel very well off. We should always be mindful of children whose lives are so chaotic that they will never get the chance to experience the joy of playing an instrument or singing in a choir.

Eight years have elapsed since the coalition unveiled its national plan for music education; there was much fanfare around the commitment to give every child the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, with the establishment of Government-funded music hubs. Despite this commitment, as we have heard, the truth is that coherent and impactful music education is entirely dependent on the whims and talents of headteachers, the priorities of the music hub and the youngsters’ postcode. Added to this, the decline in take-up of schools offering music at GCSE and A-level means even those kids who do not necessarily want to play but have a love of music do not get the chance unless their parents can pay for costly out-of-school provision.

Of those surveyed in the “State of Play” report, 60% said the introduction of the EBacc has directly affected music provision in their schools. In a recent National Education Union—then the National Union of Teachers—survey, 97% of the union’s teachers agreed that SATs preparation did not support children’s access to a broad and balanced curriculum, saying the time taken to prepare children for assessment in maths and English has squeezed out other subjects and activities. The problem does not go away when our children leave primary school. As we have heard, the proportion of 15 and 16-year-olds taking subjects like music and drama has fallen to its lowest levels. There are outliers: Feversham Primary Academy in Bradford recently made headlines with its focus on music leading to improved outcomes for its pupils. It made the national press, which would suggest it is unusual. It should not be.

While this is not a competition between schools, one of the many reasons parents pay the eye-watering fees to send their children to places like Eton is the attractive music provision. At Eton, there is a purpose-built orchestral rehearsal room, a recording studio, a 250-seat concert hall, an organ room, the opportunity to learn music taught by seven full-time professionals, 70 visiting teachers with over 1,000 lessons a week, teaching the full range of orchestral and solo instruments, as well as the sitar and tabla. Pupils can join the symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, jazz, wind and pipe bands, choirs and choral groups, as well as write and produce their own music in the well-equipped music-tech studios.

I am not saying this to attack other schools in any way, but to reinforce the point that those parents know the value of this enrichment. They know that not every child will go on to be a professional musician, a composer or a singer, but they will have developed as a human being and young person with a love for music and it will stay with them all their life. A recent report from the University of Oxford suggested that 15 million jobs are at risk from automation, but artists such as musicians are at less risk. Parents who send their children to schools with great arts provision are future-proofing their children’s destinies.

Creative subjects are marginalised in the curriculum and the number of post-grad students training to be music teachers has shrunk. As Members of Parliament we can encourage local opportunities. I have seen how music can transform the lives of youngsters and adults in the Batley and Spen Youth Theatre Company’s production of “Les Misérables” and Creative Scene’s production “Batley Does Opera”. They transformed lives, reduced loneliness and mental health issues, boosted confidence and raised aspirations.

We know that creative subjects are a magnet for children who are not naturally academic. They might struggle to read, but come to life on stage; they might be unable to concentrate in class, but play the ukulele for hours. No one loses in music, so we all benefit; there are no winners or losers. Music aids better brain development and maths skills, and it increases human connectivity and concentration levels, but we should look at music for its own sake. It is a gift handed down from generation to generation. Everywhere we go we are surrounded by music. We all attach music to pivotal moments in our lives.

What can we do? Labour is committed to reviewing and reforming the EBacc and ensuring that children get the broad and balanced curriculum they need for the 21st century. Creative subjects will be at the heart of that, with a boost of £160 million for arts education. We will use the cultural capital fund to invest in instruments for music hubs and upgrade music facilities in state schools to match the those found in many private schools. Each child will have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and we will instigate a creative careers advice campaign. Our creative pupil premium will support schools, ensuring that every child has access to the cultural capital that others in less disadvantaged areas can easily access.

Post Brexit, we will need our arts more than ever, not only for jobs and the economy, but for our spirit and soul. We must support children by giving them every opportunity to love music and engage with it, and to be better human beings from accessing music.

Sir George Howarth Portrait Sir George Howarth (in the Chair) - Hansard

I am sure the Minister needs no reminding, but he needs to leave a bit of time for the encore by the mover of the motion.

The Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb) - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:42 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir George. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bury North (James Frith) on securing this debate. He speaks with a passion for music, which I share. He is preaching to the choir—excuse the pun. I say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) that this funky Gibb will and does stand up for music in our schools. One of the initiatives that I am most proud of in my time as Schools Minister is the Classical 100 website, promoting classical music in primary schools, which was produced by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Classic FM and Decca Records. Over 5,000 primary schools are already signed up to the site and I urge every primary school to do so.

The opportunity to study and explore music should not be a privilege; it is a vital part of a broad and balanced curriculum. All pupils should have access to a world-class music education. That is why music is compulsory for all pupils aged five to 14 in state-maintained schools. Academies, which do not have to follow the national curriculum, have to provide a broad and balanced curriculum. Ofsted’s new inspection framework, coming into force from September, will support that, providing a greater focus on the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum.

This Government are committed to music education. We are putting nearly half a billion pounds into arts education programmes—more money than any subject other than PE—to fund a range of cultural and music programmes between 2016 and 2020, in addition to the funding schools receive to deliver their curriculum. In November 2011, we published the national plan for music—referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage—which sets our vision for music in schools: to enable children from all backgrounds in every part of England to 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 expertise. We will refresh the national plan. We will consult widely on it and make further announcements in the coming plans.

Schools are responsible for delivering the music curriculum, but they cannot do it alone. Our network of music education hubs supports schools to provide high-quality music tuition. I pay tribute to the vital role my right hon. Friend played in the development of that policy. Between 2016 and 2020, we are providing in total over £300 million of ring-fenced funding for music education hubs, in addition to the funding that goes to schools to deliver the curriculum. Earlier this year, we announced an extra £1.3 million for those hubs. That funding supports pupils, whatever their background, family income, or special needs. No child should be excluded from music because their parents cannot afford to pay for lessons or an instrument, or because they have physical disabilities or other special needs.

Music education hubs help hundreds of thousands of young people learn to play an instrument in whole classes every year. They also ensure that clear progression routes are available and affordable. Many hubs subsidise the cost of lessons for pupils. The programme helps schools to nurture the budding seeds of musical passion that can unlock so much pleasure throughout life, as we heard from the hon. Member for Bury North. In the years to come, many adults with a passion for music will have the work of music hubs to thank for first introducing them to the joys of playing an instrument and playing in ensembles. In the provision of music education, the Government believe in excellence, as well as equity. Talented young musicians need the opportunity to make music with others of a similar standard, and access to selective ensembles and a demanding repertoire. Music education hubs provide high-quality borough or county-wide ensembles and direct the most talented towards specialist provision.

Bury North is served by the Bury music hub, which works as part of the collaborative Greater Manchester music hub. In this academic year, the Bury hub has received over £292,000 of funding from the Government. Last year the hub delivered over 3,500 individual singing and instrumental lessons, and 14,000 small group singing and instrumental lessons. A report by Birmingham City University showed that in 2016-17, hubs worked with 89% of schools on at least one core role and helped over 700,000 pupils to learn to play a musical instrument in whole-class ensemble teaching. That is an increase of 19% on 2013-14, the first year in which like-for-like figures are available, when the number was 596,000.

My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell) spoke about singing. The Government recognise the value of singing in schools. Developing a singing strategy to ensure that every pupil sings regularly is a core role of the music education hubs. According to the last published figures, 70% of schools in England were supported by hubs with singing strategies.

I want to ensure that the music lessons young people receive are of the highest quality and that pupils leave school having experienced an excellent music education, so that those who wish to do so can take up opportunities to pursue musical careers. To ensure that, we have started work with music experts to develop a high-quality model music curriculum, which builds on the national curriculum and forms part of our plans to ensure that all pupils can benefit from knowledge-rich lessons. It is being drafted under the direction of an expert panel composed of practitioners, education leaders and music specialists, and will provide schools with a sequenced and structured template curriculum for Key Stages 1, 2 and 3. I hope that the curriculum will make it easier for teachers, including non-specialist teachers, to plan lessons and will help to reduce their workload. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Henley that folk songs are an important part of our musical heritage and I hope they will be included in that curriculum.

The hon. Member for Bury North raised concerns that careers in the arts have become the preserve of the privileged and privately educated. To ensure that that is not the case in years to come, the Government are continuing to fund more than 500 full-time places at four specialist music schools, including the Yehudi Menuhin School and the Purcell School, and a similar number of places at four specialist dance schools, including the Royal Ballet School, through the music and dance scheme. The vast majority of pupils board, and means-tested bursaries are available to ensure that entry to the schools is based on pupils’ talent, not on their parents’ ability to pay fees. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage pointed out, funding for the music and dance scheme has been maintained since we came into power. The scheme also funds places at the junior departments of six music conservatoires.

As well as supporting the music hubs, the Government are committed to a number of programmes, including the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and the National Youth Orchestra, that aim to enhance the musical opportunities of young people and ensure that the talent pipeline that is so important to this country remains open. Our funding helps to ensure that no one is turned away because their parents cannot pay. We also provide funding for In Harmony, an intensive orchestral experience focused on schools in some of the country’s most deprived communities.

The EBacc, which the hon. Member for Bury North and others raised, was introduced to give young people the same chances to succeed through education. It is key to increasing social mobility, and an important part of that is giving all children the opportunity to study the five core academic areas at GCSE: English, maths, science, humanities and a foreign language. The range of subjects that the EBacc offers provides a sound basis for enriching pupils’ studies, opening up a variety of careers beyond the age of 16 and giving a broad general knowledge that will enable pupils to participate in and contribute to society. Research published in August 2017 by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies found that studying the EBacc combination of GCSEs increases the likelihood that a pupil will stay on in full-time education.

It is not the case, however, that the EBacc has had an impact on the uptake of music GCSEs. Since 2010, the proportion of pupils entered for GCSE music has fluctuated but remained broadly stable at approximately 6% or 7% of the total GCSE cohort. People tend to cite the raw numbers, which have fallen since 2010 along with the total number of secondary school pupils, but the proportions have remained broadly stable.

Tracy Brabin Portrait Tracy Brabin - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:52 a.m.

The question is about the family backgrounds of those 6% or 7%. Are those children taking music because they are supported by wealthy families who can afford the instruments and the lessons?

Nick Gibb - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:54 a.m.

The proportions have remained broadly stable during that period. I do not have a breakdown of the free school meal figures, but there is nothing to suggest from the raw proportions that there should be any change in those figures. However, I will come back to the hon. Lady with the precise numbers, which I hope will reassure her.

The EBacc was designed to be limited in scope to allow pupils to study additional important subjects such as music. The percentage of time spent teaching the arts subjects in secondary schools remained broadly stable between 2010 and 2018, and our survey of primary schools indicates that they spend the same amount of time teaching music as they spend teaching other important subjects such as history and geography.

It should also be recognised that many pupils decide not to study the arts as academic subjects, but continue to take part in artistic activities in and out of school, such as singing in choirs, playing in orchestras and bands, and performing in school plays. The DCMS Taking Part survey in 2018 showed that 96% of children aged five to 15 had engaged with the arts in the previous 12 months. We are investing more than £70 million this year to support young people and adults to get high-quality careers provision, including careers advice on arts-related careers.

Northampton School for Boys is an example of how the EBacc does not necessarily mean a reduction in the arts. It has more than 20 ensembles and choirs, yet it also enters 70% of its pupils for the EBacc combination of GCSEs—significantly above the national average of 38%. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage cited Didcot Girls’ School in his constituency for its exemplary music provision; at 52%, its EBacc entry figures are way above the national average.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (David Warburton) pointed out, the music industry is vital to this country; the hon. Member for Bury North was absolutely right to pay tribute to it. We are a nation with natural musical talent and a love for music that we all have an interest in cultivating. UK Music’s report “Securing Our Talent Pipeline” helpfully highlights the importance of the music industry to the UK economy, and I agree with its conclusion that if we want to produce the stars of the future, we must invest in talent for the future. I hope that it is clear to all hon. Members present that the Government are committed to doing precisely that.

I am enormously grateful to the hon. Member for Bury North for his securing this debate and for his passionate case for the importance of music education. He raised some important concerns, and I hope that I have reassured him that the Government share his commitment to ensuring that music can be enjoyed by every young person. The new model curriculum, the refreshed national plan for music, the ongoing support for our successful music hubs and our other music programmes will make sure that the next generation of music superstars have all the support that they need in schools, from their first exposure to the joys of music at a young age to provision for the brightest and most talented young musicians. All children deserve the chance to fulfil their musical potential. Thanks to the national network of music hubs, the music and dance scheme, and the support of organisations such as UK Music, I believe that pupils are being provided with that opportunity.

James Frith Portrait James Frith - Hansard
17 Jul 2019, 10:56 a.m.

I find myself at risk of repeating earlier arguments—like when I was the singer in a band and we were invited to do an encore but had run out of songs. I thank the Minister for his response, and I thank hon. Members for such a warm, engaging and, at times, spirited and witty debate on such an important issue. It is so good to reach consensus across the parties on a subject that we deeply love and are clearly all passionate about.

In years and years of trying to record an album and find the right sound engineer, the right producer and the right moment to capture the sound we were after, I initially took comfort in the phrase, “It’s all right—we’ll fix it in the mix.” Subsequently, however, I realised that re-recording is always the answer. EBacc is not something that we can fix in the mix; we have to re-record it. The case has been well made that music and the arts are integral and should be part of the core curriculum, protected by core curriculum time, away from the complex lives that so many children leave school to return to.

If we protect music by including it in the EBacc, we can do away with the myth of fixing in the mix. A Government who commit to an EBacc with music education as a formal part of it—that is the hit we are all after.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered music education in England.