The release of the new budget report this week has coincided with more news regarding music education in schools. The BBC reported that it could ‘face extinction’ due to schools cutting it from their timetable. They are under pressure to enter students for the EBacc, which doesn’t include arts subjects such as music and drama. As a result:
- Fewer schools are offering music BTEC and GCSE
- Fewer schools are making music compulsory for Year 9s
- Music teachers are facing redundancy, and up to 30% of schools are managing with just 1 music teacher
- Many schools can only make music available to the children who can pay for it
These reports are fairly commonplace now, with similar news making the headlines every week. We have become quite numb to the effect. My husband and I are both music teachers. We are parents to a 7-month-old baby boy. And we fear for his future. I implore you all, please, to take 5 minutes out of your day, and to question, and I mean really question – why does it matter anyway?
Music in Schools – Why Does it Matter?
Why does it matter that children are unable to study the subjects that they excel in? That they work hard throughout their childhood, to become proficient in a subject that they love, only to be told that it is not worth their time? That youngsters who struggle with ‘academic’ subjects are not able to feel the same sense of achievement that others feel, because they’re not allowed to study the arts? I have talented students, who have achieved grade 6 piano and above, who are unable to sit GCSE music. Some go to schools where music has been blocked together with other arts subjects, so they cannot be taken in conjunction with each other. Others go to schools where it has been cut altogether.
Why does it matter if children with autism, learning difficulties and disabilities lose their opportunity for sensory experiences? If they lose their access to music and art and drama, who really cares? So what, if children are expected to become carbon-copies of everyone else, with no artistic individuality, and no room for creative thought? So what if they are not allowed to use their imagination, and to dream? And if they are pushed aside because they haven’t achieved their C grade in maths, it doesn’t really matter. Does it?
Music Privitisation – Why Does it Matter?
Why does it matter that budget cuts are causing the wide-spread privatisation of music lessons? That only children from wealthy backgrounds are able to learn an instrument? That it is becoming an elite subject, not available to everyone? Even in Paraguay, where they children have nothing, they have prioritised music. They know what a wonderful, life-assuring, uplifting experience it can be. Their instruments are made out of junk found in a land-fill site, and yet they still have better access to music than some of the kids in our first-world country.
Why does it matter that schools call on music departments to entertain governors, to send kids to perform at local events, and to represent the school at open days, while continuing to cut their resources? And that instrumental teachers are sent away when OFSTED are in, for fear of the disruption to lessons they will cause? Why does it matter that music accompanies every important occasion in this country, but young musicians are being discouraged from participating? What if theatre and live music disappeared? What if weddings, funerals, christenings, and everything in between, happened without music? Would it matter then?
Future of Music – Why Does it Matter?
Would it matter if mothers were unable to comfort their babies with lullabies? If speech development were delayed because children were not sang to? If family activities were accompanied by a blanket of silence, and a soundtrack of memories were not created? Would it matter if the elderly, the sick, the lonely, had no music to keep them company? Would it matter if people didn’t dance anymore? If they had no spirit? Would it matter if we were driven insane by the silence that would follow us around our homes, in shops, in restaurants, in the car on the way to work?
Does the cultural future of this country have to die before people realise that it matters?