Music Education

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 6:38 pm ar 19 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds Minister of State (Education) 6:38, 19 Mawrth 2024

I echo my hon. Friend’s words about the power of music, and I join him in paying tribute to the great work of NMPAT. I do not have the statistics at my fingertips to assess where in the table, as it were, those thousands place it relative to others, but it certainly is a very impressive reach.

The expectations set out in the plan, starting from early years, are unashamedly ambitious, and informed by the excellent practice demonstrated by so many schools, music hubs and music charities around the country. As highlighted in the Ofsted “music subject” report published late last year, we know some schools do not allocate sufficient curriculum time to music. Starting this school year, schools are now expected to teach music lessons for at least one hour each week of the school year for key stages 1 to 3 alongside providing extracurricular opportunities to learn an instrument and sing, and opportunities to play and sing together in ensembles and choirs. We are monitoring lesson times to ensure that that improves.

Another weakness in some schools that was highlighted in the Ofsted report was the quality of the curriculum, in which there was insufficient focus on musical understanding and sequencing and progression. To support schools to develop a high-quality curriculum we published a model music curriculum in 2021, and, based on a survey of schools from last March, we understand that around 59% of primary schools and 43% of secondary schools are now implementing that non-statutory guidance. We want to go further in supporting schools with the music curriculum, which is why we published a series of case studies alongside the plan to highlight a variety of approaches to delivering music education as part of the curriculum. We are also working with Oak National Academy, which published its key stage 3 and 4 music curriculum sequence and exemplar lesson materials late last year, with the full suite of resources to follow in the summer.

While the refreshed plan rightly focuses on the place of music education in schools, it also recognises that music hubs have a vital role in supporting schools and ensuring that young people can access opportunities that schools on their own might not be able to offer. I join colleagues in paying tribute to the work of our music hubs across the country, including the organisations who lead them and their partners, who for the past 12 years have worked tirelessly to support music education.

One such organisation is of course the Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust, which I was pleased to hear my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton North speak of in such glowing terms. I join him in thanking its chief executive, Peter Smalley, who I gather might be with us today. Just last week I had the privilege of seeing the work of another music hub in Surrey. I was very impressed by all that its partnership is doing to support schools to provide high-quality music and offer amazing opportunities to young people also beyond the classroom.

This year, hubs have continued their excellent work against the backdrop of a re-competition of the lead organisations led by Arts Council England. I recognise that that will not have been easy. As no announcement of which organisations will be leading the new hubs has yet been made, Members will understand that I cannot comment on the individual circumstances of any organisation currently in receipt of hub funding.

From September a new network of 43 hubs made up of hundreds of organisations working in close partnership will continue to build on the outstanding legacy of the hubs to date, and I offer my wholehearted thanks to everyone who has played a part in the music hub story so far. It will be exciting to see how the new hub partnerships develop and flourish with the support of the announced centres of excellence, once they are in place.

One area where hubs provide support to schools is in helping them to develop strong music development plans. This year we have invited every school to have a plan that considers how they and their hub will work together to improve the quality of music education. Our sample survey of school leaders last March showed that slightly under half of schools already had a music development plan in place. Of those, the vast majority—nine in 10—of school leaders intended to review it for this school year. Of those without a plan, nearly half reported intending to put one in place this school year. I hope it will not be long before every school has a strong music development plan that sets out how the vision of the national plan is being realised for their pupils.

The quality of teaching remains the single most important factor in improving outcomes for children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. We plan to update our teacher recruitment and retention strategy and build on our reforms to ensure that every child has an excellent teacher, and that includes those teaching music. Our strategy update will reflect on our progress on delivering our reforms, as well as setting out priorities for the years ahead. For those starting initial teacher training in music in academic year 2024-25, we are offering tax-free bursaries of £10,000. That should help attract more music teachers into the profession and support schools in delivering at least one hour of music lessons a week. The Government will also be placing a stronger emphasis on teacher development as part of the music hub programme in the future, including peer-to-peer support through new lead schools in every hub.

There is fantastic music education taking place across the country. Indeed, the opening remarks of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton North did a better job at bringing that to life than I ever could. For my part, I offer and add my thanks to every music teacher in every setting for all that they do, but there is still a lot to do to make our vision for music education become a reality for every child in every school. I am confident, however, that our reforms are having an impact and will lead to concrete action that every school and trust can take to improve their music education provision. Through partnership and collaboration with hub partners, we will ensure that all young people and children can have access to a high-quality music education.