Everyone listens to music. We can surely all agree that music is a big part of our lives, whether that be listening to the radio or a Spotify playlist on the way to work, letting our hair down in a nightclub on a Friday night, or watching a visiting orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, music is something that everyone can relate to. So why are researchers warning of the extinction of music in secondary schools in England?
The government introduced the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) in 2010, with a goal to increase the take-up of ‘core’ academic subjects like mathematics and science. This move, however, has left the arts lagging behind. The Ebacc does leave space for students to take arts subjects and there is no solid evidence that the new syllabus has affected GCSE arts subject entries. However, in the New Schools Network report on the EBacc and the arts, it has been found that ‘schools have misunderstood the intention behind the EBacc, using its introduction to reduce funding for the teaching of the arts.’ This has therefore led to a decline in the number of qualified arts teachers, correlating with declining figures on music teacher PGCE courses.
The music industry contributes £3.5 billion to the economy, and it is well known that arts education improves job prospects by making young people more creative, tolerant and broad-minded. It is therefore strange that it is not taken as seriously as one of the ‘core subjects’ that the government view as most important to a child’s education. Catherine McKinnell stated in debates on arts subject inclusion and petition in February 2016: ‘I feel that the Government’s policy and approach at the moment fundamentally risks undermining the benefits that can come from that experience… at the most fundamental level, we need these skills for our economy. If we put off children and young people who can flourish in those areas even though they may struggle in some other ones, the evidence shows that that would be a worrying trend.’
Not only does music enrich the economy, but it is also good for you. A study from the University of London’s Institute of Education ‘found that exposing children to classical music can aid in developing better concentration levels, self-discipline and social skills.’ Music is both valuable for the economy and for the individual and in Finland, teaching music and learning to play an instrument is the norm. It is, as stated by Stephen Moss in his article, Why not put music at the heart of education?, ‘the foundation of children’s schooling (in Finland); it should be the model for us to follow.’
So what are we waiting for?