Access to Musical Education in School - Question for Short Debate

– in the House of Lords am 7:51 pm ar 18 Hydref 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Boateng Lord Boateng Llafur 7:51, 18 Hydref 2023

To ask His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to address inequalities in access to musical education in school.

Photo of Lord Boateng Lord Boateng Llafur

My Lords, in raising this Question for Short Debate, I declare my interest as an unremunerated, independent, non-executive director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Music matters. It drives both personal and intellectual development, lifts our spirits and the soul, and drives the creative industries that add so very much to our economy. So access to music matters—access to performances, and the opportunity to perform and to be employed in the industry of which music plays such a part. It matters.

For all this to be possible, music teachers matter. I cannot say those words without naming three: Leonora Rennel, Iris du Pré and Hans Seelig. More than 50 years ago, in the music block of a state school on a council estate of a new town called Hemel Hempstead, they gave me the opportunities that I have enjoyed ever since. They gave me access to music and the capacity to find in it something that has nurtured me, as I know it has all Members of this House present at this debate. We could not have a more distinguished list of contributors, as music has nurtured us all. All of us will be able to name the music teachers who were important in our lives.

Equity and access to music, and to the best qualified music teachers, matters. It is under threat today perhaps more than it has been at any time of our lives, despite the good intentions of government and numerous plans. I have no doubt that we will hear a lot from the Minister, whose sincerity and commitment in this area is beyond question, about those intentions and a refreshed national plan for music education. But however welcome the good intentions are and however much we applaud the ambitions, the lack of capacity and resource in the system is a grave concern. Our very own All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education concluded in its report, Music Education: State of the Nation, that

“the overall picture is one of serious decline. If the pace continues, music education in England will be restricted to a privileged few within a decade, and the UK will have lost a major part of the talent pipeline to its world-renowned music industry”.

The facts speak for themselves. The Independent Society of Musicians states in no uncertain terms that this year’s exam results are “a wake-up call”. They are, and they tell their own story: a 36% drop in GCSE and a 45% drop in A-level music entries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since 2010. There is a crisis in teacher training and recruitment, with schools increasingly forced to cut music provision or use non-specialists to teach music as a result.

It is also a picture of increasing inequality. All too often, those in a private school have access to the very best of music but those in a state school simply do not. In the most deprived areas, many do not have any access to music education at all. There is increasing pressure on resources and the current annual funding for music hubs of £75 million per year, however welcome, needs to be seen in context. It amounts to roughly £9.34 per pupil per year. Compare that to the £73.63 per pupil per year that we spend on sport. There is simply no comparison, yet both ought to be and are valued in our national life.

I have no doubt that we will hear much about the £25 million that has been ring-fenced to buy instruments, but that £25 million is less than we spent on training the rowing team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I know whose results I prefer and whose are truly outstanding. I am fond of rowing and encourage my grandson to row, but it does not play the part in our national life that music does.

We have a crisis. It needs to be addressed by funding but also by looking at the way in which we value music within our education system. The fact is that the English baccalaureate does not value the subject. I fear that the measures we use to establish the school league tables do not emphasise the importance of exposure to music education. This creates a perverse disincentive to teach music and to expose young people to music in our schools. How do the Minister and the Government propose to address that issue? What measures will they bring forward to ensure that these refreshed music hubs do what they are meant to?

The funding for music hubs is less than the £83 million- plus we were spending before they came into being. How are music hubs to be incentivised in their partnerships with schools, unless there is a statutory duty on schools to deliver a musical education? There is none. Do the Government intend to address that lacuna—that massive hole in all that we seek and aspire to do for young people in music education?

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has reported a 9% drop in funding per student between 2010 and 2020. There was a promise in this Government’s last manifesto for a £90 million arts premium. Whatever happened to that? There is an issue about funding that we simply cannot escape. When it comes to teacher training, the figures show that the number of secondary school music teachers fell by 15%, from 8,043 in 2011 to 6,837 in 2020. The ITT census for 2023 shows that only 64% of the target for music trainees has in fact been reached. So how do the Government intend to restore and fund a sufficient number of places for trainee specialist teachers of music?

We know it works, and we know it makes a difference. The work that the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is doing in Hull and Brent in driving talent and workforce development for the profession, and the improvement in schools such as Feversham Primary in Bradford, which went from a failing school to an outstanding school after it introduced three hours-plus of music per week for each individual student, tell their own story. There is an African proverb that says:

“Music speaks louder than words”.

Our education system needs to amplify the voice of music.

Photo of Baroness Fleet Baroness Fleet Ceidwadwyr 8:02, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, it is an immense pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Boateng. I congratulate him on securing the debate. I declare my interests as chair of the national plan for music education and the London Music Fund. We will, no doubt, hear from many noble Lords this evening who share our passion and commitment to music education and the absolute belief that it should be available to all children and young people, whatever their background and financial circumstance. This is at the heart of the national plan for music education, which I chair. I am determined that it will be implemented. The noble Lord made many excellent points. We are acting and are determined to move the dial. In this debate, I will focus on the importance of implementing the plan and on some of the barriers that I admit we have to overcome.

Music creates unimagined life chances, as I have seen, and found such pleasure and determination in, through my work as co-founder and chair of the London Music Fund. I set up the charity more than 10 years ago to give young people from disadvantaged backgrounds access to high-quality and sustained music education. More than 60% of our scholars are from black, Asian and ethnically diverse backgrounds. They often have little experience of life beyond their neighbourhoods. Over four years, we provide instruments, weekly music lessons, Saturday music school, mentors, opportunities to play with professional musicians, and visits to concerts.

The results from the first cohorts can now be seen. Many are at university, some at conservatoires. Flautist Aliyah is at the Guildhall, cellist Aisha at the BRIT School, saxophonist Yasmin studying medicine at Cambridge, and clarinettist Monique studying maths at Imperial College. All now have the opportunity to develop into outstanding young citizens, with the skills, knowledge and confidence to succeed in life and work. More young people like Aliyah and Aisha could be helped next year by the national plan’s new progression fund. This programme, which will support 1,000 young musicians from low-income families, needs to be replicated right across the country.

In spite of reports of music in schools being in crisis, all of us here have, I believe, seen remarkable music in many different schools, not just private but state schools, in many communities. The noble Lord mentioned Feversham Primary Academy in Bradford. It is an outstanding school that has put music at its heart. The enlightened head teacher, who did this nearly 10 years ago now, is being rewarded with excellent results. All children learn to sing and to play a musical instrument. They do six hours of music a week. Imagine this—and it is all delivered within the school budget. It is not just about money but the determination of the head teacher to follow this route. Every primary school could follow its example and see results soar, as well as having many very happy children. A recent RPO poll showed that 85% of children want to learn a musical instrument.

It is good news that the DfE has provided £25 million for musical instruments; that all schools, primary and secondary, are now mandated to provide an absolute minimum of one hour a week of curriculum time for music; and that the Government have finally agreed to fund bursaries for music students in teacher training. But there are barriers. The workforce remains an issue. We need more specialist music teachers. Those we are lucky enough to have need to feel valued, rewarded and not left behind in the pay stakes. A top-up for the £79 million for music hubs would make a huge difference and show that the Government really care about music education. Most important of all, we must get every single head teacher, governor and parent on side to recognise the power of music and embed music education in their school right across the country.

Photo of Lord Watson of Wyre Forest Lord Watson of Wyre Forest Llafur 8:07, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness’s passionate contribution. I commend my noble friend for initiating this important debate. It calls for us to answer three things: we need to highlight the importance of music to education, identify existing shortcomings, and propose actionable solutions.

I offer these remarks as the non-executive chair of UK Music, to which I draw noble Lords’ attention to my entry in the register. UK Music is the umbrella organisation comprising 10 key industry organisations: the Ivors Academy of songwriters, the Featured Artists Coalition, the Musicians’ Union, the collecting societies PRS for Music and PPL, the Music Producers Guild, the BPI and AIM for the labels, the Music Publishers Association, and the Music Managers Forum. Together, they form the complex but vital ecosystem of our nation’s music industry, a sector that contributes £5.8 billion in gross value added to our economy and makes the UK one of only three countries in the world that is a net global exporter of music.

While these organisations hold varied views on many issues, they universally affirm that quality music education is vital for the future of the industry. It does not just prepare the professionals of tomorrow but enriches our society, as my noble friend outlined. Yet research confirms the comprehensive benefits of music, including the proven advantage across academic subjects between music students and their non-musical counter- parts. Regrettably, nearly half of adults say, when asked, that they wish they had invested more time in music. That might be because, as UK Music research says, parents acknowledge music’s positive impact on their children’s development.

Despite these benefits, I believe that we are facing an educational crisis. We have seen a deficit of nearly 1,000 secondary school music teachers compared to 2012. Less than a third of secondary school music teacher recruitment targets will be met this year, partly exacerbated by the scrapping of training bursaries in 2020. We are extremely grateful that the Government have reinstated them for 2024. It is a step in the right direction, but there could be more. Furthermore, and more worryingly, as my noble friend has highlighted, there is a steep decline in students taking exams— 45% at A-level is particularly worrying.

To tackle these issues, I suggest the following commitments that all political parties may wish to consider before the next general election. First, implement the arts pupil premium, which would ensure equitable access to music education. It was a government commitment in the 2019 election; it would be great to see it implemented by the next election. Secondly, train and recruit 1,000 additional new music teachers to redress the cuts made over the last decade. Thirdly, increase funding for music education hubs, whose real-term budgets have been cut by 17% since 2011, and establish a UK-wide commission to assess and remedy regional inequalities in music education. Here, we can learn from the Scottish Parliament, which has seen a 35% uplift in music instrument education since it made tuition fees free. Finally, we can expand apprenticeships and vocational qualifications, catering for the unique needs of the sector.

If we aim to succeed in music’s invaluable contribution to export-led growth, then resolving the decline in music education is absolutely imperative.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 8:11, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to join enthusiasts in this debate. When I asked a Question this week on music and other arts subjects, the Minister gave me to understand that all was well: generous bursaries would lure music teachers out of the woodwork and there would be money for music hubs. But there are still schools where there is no singing, no recorder playing and no banging of drums. As the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, has said, the EBacc has marginalised music.

I had two grandsons at a state primary school in Henley which has a very impressive musical tradition. The adult musicians had funded musical instruments for every state primary pupil to play. One grandson chose the double bass—which even as a child-size was quite an encumbrance—and played happily for two or three years. His brother chose the cornet, continued to grade 8 and has just graduated in music from Southampton. Each year there would be a grand concert, in the company of professional musicians, where all these little people played their hearts out. Many came from very disadvantaged backgrounds where music would have played no part, but the glee on their faces as they blew, scraped and banged was a joy to behold. It has to be said that the enjoyment probably exceeded the musicality, but no one worried because the experience was so beneficial. It was an amazing gift from Henley musicians, which few areas would be able to emulate. It set all those youngsters on a path of love of music and gave them confidence—obviously sometimes misplaced, of course—that they could play an instrument. I think violins are particularly prone to excruciating amateurism.

Not so long ago, all schools sang, particularly hymns in morning worship, but this has long disappeared. Singing requires only a piano, and not even that if there is a voice to start a tune. Children love to sing; how sad it is if they do not have the opportunity. What are the Government doing to encourage all schools to sing?

How valuable music is for disabled or disadvantaged pupils. There was a girl at my school who was never going to pass any exams, but when she sat down at the piano we could only marvel and enjoy. She was a true prodigy, who earned her place in our friendship because of her extraordinary talent.

What about music for blind and partially sighted students? Can the Minister say what support there is for braille or large-print music? I gather there are problems with this. For those who are missing sight, their hearing is often enhanced, and music can play a seminal part in their education. We think of amazing singers such as Andrea Bocelli, who became completely blind at 12 after a football accident, but whose wonderful tenor voice has enchanted audiences around the world. He played the piano and multiple instruments before abandoning a career in the law to pursue his talent. What a very wise decision.

Music has the capacity to evoke memories and give confidence to learners who struggle with class lessons. It should play a key role in all schools. Penny whistles, drums and recorders are not so expensive and, once acquired, can be passed down to succeeding generations, so some sorts of instruments could be within budget and encouraged. Many schools will still have pianos, or, if not, a friendly local church will have an organ, which a teacher with some keyboard skills could play. Surely most schools will have a teacher who has had piano lessons at some stage—or is that too a thing of the past? I speak as someone who was lured into being a reluctant organist at RAF chapels when my daughters announced that, “Mum plays hymns”.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, for initiating this debate. I hope against hope that all children, particularly those who have no music at home, will be able to benefit from music at school and, who knows, go on to delight us all with their talents.

Photo of Lord Berkeley of Knighton Lord Berkeley of Knighton Crossbench 8:15, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness. I salute the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, on securing this debate, which is so important.

I begin by mentioning something I mentioned 10 years ago in my maiden speech. I talked about how, through the Koestler Trust, I managed to get somebody in Wormwood Scrubs a guitar. He wrote to me and he said: “I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this instrument. If I had had the opportunity to express myself through music when I was at school, I would not now be serving life for murder”. It is that powerful. Music matters, as we have heard.

At this point, I would like to say that I also agree with the noble Lord that the Government have heard what we are all saying. My conversations with Minister Gibb revealed an aspiration that we all share. There is a lot to do, because we are starting from a rather bad point, but we are getting there. I salute the noble Baroness, Lady Fleet, for what she has done with her charity and for disadvantaged children.

That brings me to a particular point. The £25 million for instruments is enormously welcome, but we also have to think about repairing old instruments. I mentioned this to Minister Gibb and he was sympathetic, but the problem is that the way the £25 million has been apportioned, in Treasury terms, means that it cannot be used for repairs. This is something the Government might like to look at. I will give noble Lords an example. I managed to find a violin for one of the talented musicians of the noble Baroness, Lady Fleet. I had it looked at to see if it would work. I was told: “It could be very good; could be front-desk NYO”—that good—“But it needs £1,000 spending on it”. We managed to achieve that, but it shows exactly what the problem is.

The mention of blind and deaf people is terribly important. I declare an interest as president of Decibels, which tries to help deaf people have greater access to everything, not just music. Think of the achievements of somebody such as Dame Evelyn Glennie, who learned to be able to play music to a very high level by using vibrations as a means of reading music. The point about braille is very important. There is a wonderful story about a young man who has a real talent—I have heard him play—but who says: “I cannot keep up with my colleagues because there aren’t the funds or time to transcribe my music into braille”. Is it not wonderful that you can transcribe music into braille? To be honest, I did not realise that before, but what a wonderful thing to be able to do. I encourage the Minister to look at the possibility of funding this—I do not suppose that it would be a vast amount.

We live in very difficult times—the ENO, the Middle East, Ukraine. While I do not suggest that music can in any way explain or improve these things, I think it can help us to process them. Consider Beethoven and the problems that he had to overcome: in listening to his music, we understand the greater truth about ourselves. Music can take us to places that almost nothing else can, and that is because it is an abstract art. In its abstraction lies a certain magic or mystery, which is why so many artists aspire to the condition of music.

Photo of Lord Polak Lord Polak Ceidwadwyr 8:20, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Boateng—and, if I may, the three teachers who inspired him—for initiating this debate. I went to King David High School in Liverpool, a Jewish state school, where music was one of the top criteria for getting in. We had a school of 500 pupils, with four orchestras. You knew on the first day of the new term that if a child was not carrying a violin case then they were a pianist.

One of my closest friends is a lawyer, Stephen Levey, who has a real passion for music—so much so that, in his mid-50s, he left the law and became head of music at Immanuel College, Bushey. The inspiration that he shows to the pupils, as I have seen first-hand, is quite remarkable. For him to have left the law to do that and to follow his passion means that that passion is passed on. Maybe I should ask the Minister if she can find a way to have Stephen cloned, because clearly we are short of passionate music teachers. My own grandchildren go to Sacks Morasha school up in Finchley. I learned today that, since last September when the music teacher left, there has been no specialist music teacher at their school.

I shall concentrate today on a charity that I have got involved with—I am not a trustee but have just got involved—called Restore the Music. In many different ways, it does things that my noble friend Lady Fleet talked about. A friend of mine, Gordon Singer, who moved from the US to manage a hedge fund here, and Polly Moore, who left her work as a commodities broker, met and created this charity. In my view, the Restore the Music model is an answer to some of the lack of funding and resourcing of music departments. That model is quite simple: a capital grant programme funded by the private and charitable sector; the delivery of grant awards between £10,000 and £20,000 directly to schools; and a focus on highly socioeconomically deprived areas. The spending of the grant is bespoke to the school, allowing the teacher to build their own vision for their own school and their pupils.

That model gives young people a place in school, as we all know, to find their voice, to find their place and to follow their passion. As the charity says on its website, a young person in school is a young person not on a street or in a gang. I went to a “battle of the bands” that it did at a school not far from here a couple of years ago, and I was particularly moved by the 15 or 16 year-old guy who stood up, holding his electric guitar and ready to play, and said, “If I wasn’t holding this electric guitar, I’d be holding a knife and I’d be in a gang”. It does so much good, as we all know.

Over the last five years, the charity has funded 125 schools with £2.2 million in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham. I repeat that it is unique because it is bespoke to the schools; the schools are told to build a solution that fits their community. I ask the Minister if she will meet the founders to see not only how they can be supported in expanding their work but if they can be helpful in ensuring that the £25 million, which is extremely welcome, will be spent in the best way.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords), Chair, Services Committee, Chair, Services Committee 8:24, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, the way that this debate is evolving, and I suspect it will go on in the same way, is already demonstrating that everyone—in this Room, anyway, and I include the Minister in that, no matter that I may not entirely agree with what she is going to say in the end—is not only convinced by the importance of music education but trying in their own way, to the best of their individual ability, to promote it. It is just that there are an awful lot of different ways of doing that, and they are not terribly joined up. I pay great tribute to my noble friend Lord Boateng who has set out the agenda very clearly, to the noble Baroness, Lady Fleet, for the work that she is doing, and to everything that we have heard about so far that demonstrates how much is actually going on.

So I hate to start with a “but”, but there is one: there are inequalities, and they are deeply rooted. There are inequalities within the maintained sector because, as we have heard, some schools do very well and choose to give special emphasis to music and effectively make themselves specialists, but others choose not to or feel they cannot. The point is that it is a choice that any school is free to make about music but which no school is free to make about maths, English or science. I do not want to repeat all the evidence and stats about how music has been deprioritised in many state schools, but we have evidence that it has, and that has consequences, many of which have already been mentioned.

I wonder if the Minister has had time to listen to a series of instructive programmes that are currently being rebroadcast on Radio 4 called “Rethinking Music”. She is nodding her head, so I suspect she knows what it is about. I want to make a point about this: one of the key contributors to those programmes is Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, who used to be CEO of UK Music. What does he do now? He is the Prime Minister’s director of strategy. Let us hope that his evident concern about the decline in engagement with music education, which he makes very clear in the programme, will lead him to use his considerable influence within government to help to halt that decline.

I shall make one more point, which is about the inequality between the state sector and the independent sector. My daughter, as I have mentioned before, is a professional musician. Alongside her life as a performer, she provided individual tuition for many years at an independent London day school, which had dozens of music staff. There was virtually no musical skill or genre that students attending that school could not access—at a price, of course. By contrast, her own children, educated in the maintained sector, got music tuition but not at school; they got it because their parents knew it was valuable and were prepared to pay for it. Not everyone can do that.

I know what the Minister will say, and we will all nod along because a lot of what she will want to say is entirely admirable. By the way, I hope she will mention and acknowledge the excellent work being done by arts organisations large and small, charities and indeed churches in providing opportunities for young people to experience and participate in music. Sadly, however, these initiatives, worthy and significant as they are, are no substitute for the proper reinstatement of music into a forward-thinking, broadly based school curriculum from early years to A-level. That is what we need before it is too late.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 8:29, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, I join the universal thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, for securing this debate and introducing it so clearly. We have to note that we are holding this debate as the Guardian publishes an article noting how the £370 million government fumble in funding allocations to schools sees education in England in danger of being reduced to a “barebones, boilerplate model”. Those are the words of an Essex head teacher, James Saunders, whose school is going to receive £50,000 less than anticipated.

Of course we are seeing the risk of cutting teaching assistants, which is of particular importance to children with special educational needs. A number of headteachers the Guardian has spoken to focus on the fact they will have to reduce enrichment activities to balance their books. What we have been talking about up to now are not so much the enrichment activities—the added value, of which music could be such an important part—but basic education in the national curriculum.

It is worth looking back at the recent Ofsted report. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, among others, referred to inequalities. Ofsted has looked at these and said that in over a decade the situation has not improved. There has been some progress in primary schools, but secondary schools are still not giving enough time to music education to meet what is supposed to be the national curriculum requirement. The point I make in this context is that there are only so many hours in the school day. If we are forcing schools to become exam factories and to teach to the test, following on the English bacc subjects—a very narrow range of subjects —no matter how much money there is, there are not enough hours in the day. We need an education for life, not just an education for exams. That is not what we are getting. It is very easy to focus on the potential economic benefits of music; many have, and I agree with all that. But it is useful to focus on the way in which we need people in our communities who are able to contribute to community music.

I particularly want to bounce off the wonderful contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, which was delivered with such verve—“tempo” is perhaps the right word—and think about the well-being and mental health benefits of ensuring that a proper amount of music education is available to all pupils. I draw on a UK Music study, which says:

“Over half of parents whose children are learning an instrument believe it has helped their children with other skills like creative thinking … boosting their confidence … and encouraging perseverance and patience”.

Playing music, listening to music and understanding music are good for people as human beings, equipping them to cope with the modern world and the many challenges we are facing. Yet there is such inequality:

“50% of children at independent schools receive sustained music tuition” compared with just 15% in state schools. If we look at professionals, we see that

“17% of music creators were educated at fee-paying schools, compared with 7% across the population as a whole”.

Music is something that is good for our society.

Finally, there is no proposed specific music T-level. The closest is media, broadcast and production. That demands work placements of a minimum of 315 hours, which the music sector is going to find very hard to provide. Could the Minister update us on how she sees music being included in the T-level future?

Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Llafur 8:33, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, I also commend my noble friend Lord Boateng on securing this important debate and setting the scene most effectively, not least in listing the worrying statistics around the provision of musical education today.

A decade ago, I welcomed the establishment of a network of music education hubs, which provide a framework of provision on which schools can draw. But there is still significant variability in music provision, particularly in primary schools. The Independent Society of Musicians has major concerns about the investment programme the Government have announced, because it will cut hub numbers from over 100 to just 43 hub lead organisations. The hubs’ current annual funding of £79 million sounds quite promising, yet is less than before the creation of hubs, when music services received around £82 million. That cannot be described as progress.

In response to a survey conducted by UK Music, more than 50% of responding primary schools said they did not meet their curriculum obligations to year 6 due in the main to the pressure of SATs testing, which demands that schools concentrate on English and maths to almost the exclusion of most other subjects. The same issue exists at secondary level, with the EBacc and Progress 8 measures.

Along with my noble friend Lord Knight, I am a member of the Select Committee of your Lordships’ House that is considering 11-to-16 education. I should have said that the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, is also a member of the committee. We heard from numerous witnesses that key stage 3, which includes compulsory music education up to age 14, is often shortened to allow subjects to be narrowed in year 9 in preparation for GCSEs. In evidence to the committee the chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, stated that she was opposed to any curtailing of KS3, yet stopped short of saying that her inspectors would mark down any school found to be doing so.

Music education should not be a political issue, but I am afraid to say that it is. As the Independent Society of Musicians highlighted in the briefing sent to all noble Lords participating today, much of the decline in music education is directly attributable to government policies. Funding cuts have squeezed school budgets, while those school accountability measures I mentioned—EBacc and Progress 8—have steadily undermined music in schools since 2010.

A major aspect of inequalities in music education provision concerns children with special educational needs and disabilities, for whom access to music can often be hugely beneficial. There is a perception that deaf children will not be able to access music but, for improving hearing, music can be really important and possible when they have access to early support through auditory verbal therapy. Earlier today, along with many other parliamentarians, I attended Auditory Verbal UK’s event in Parliament as part of international awareness day for challenging perceptions of what deaf children can achieve. We met both Noli and Louis, who have developed a passion for music as a result of the role it played in allowing them, through auditory verbal therapy, to speak confidently and to thrive in mainstream education. But more than 90% of deaf children who could benefit from auditory verbal therapy are currently unable to access it. The Government should increase the support that they provide to extend those services because of their very beneficial nature.

In wider terms, I have to ask the Minister whether the Government are content for music in schools to remain dominated by the better-off, because that, as noble Lords have said, is what is happening. The Education Policy Institute reported prior to the pandemic that disadvantaged pupils’ performance in music was 20 months behind that of their better-off peers. That was the biggest gap of any GCSE subject. That cannot be allowed to continue.

Labour is committed to introducing a broad curriculum, including design and technology, music, art, dance and drama. These are not soft options, but rigorous, creative subjects, vital to the prosperity of the economy and the enrichment of society as a whole. That curriculum will be compulsory for all state-funded schools. Until children are offered a properly broad and balanced curriculum, I fear we will not witness a reverse of the downward trend of uptake of music at GCSE and A-level. That would require a change of direction, if not emphasis, which in itself will require a change in government to one which actively values and will properly fund creative subjects in general and music education in particular. Fortunately, we have one in waiting.

Photo of Lord Hampton Lord Hampton Crossbench 8:37, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, for initiating this very important debate. As ever, I must declare my interest as a teacher of design and technology in a state secondary school. The Minister is going to be rather surprised and, perhaps, relieved that she and I are not going to go through one of our recent dances where I complain about the crushing weight of the curriculum and she replies that a knowledge-rich curriculum is good for everyone. No, I am going to suggest that there is, perhaps, some good news for once, because I think there is a simple first fix for addressing the problem of inequalities in access to musical education in schools.

When one thinks of music lessons, one tends to think of a single child playing an instrument, which, of course, is expensive and at the far end of the spectrum where most parents and children do not want to go, even if they could afford it. We must think of music lessons initially as a more collaborative process, whereby everyone gets to join in. As the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, said, we cannot all sing in tune, but nearly all of us can clap, stamp or make a rhythmic noise. It is that unity—the training to get a group making sounds in unison—that is at the heart of music’s benefit to students, for this encompasses discipline, athleticism and co-ordination in a way that not even sport can better, often for students who hate PE. From this may come a lifelong love of music that will, perhaps, encourage students to continue the subject on to GCSE, take up an instrument, or follow it towards a career in the music industry.

The school where I teach has a thriving music department. We take the newly arrived year-7s and give them choir practice for an hour a week during the school day. After six weeks, at a parents’ evening, the parents are treated to 220 year-7s, around half of whom will be eligible for pupil premium, singing “Moving On Up” in three-part harmony. I also speak as a parent when I say that it is an experience that truly makes the hair stand up on the back of one’s neck. As a team-building, confidence-building, stress-relieving exercise for students, this is hard to beat. The music lessons then continue as part of the curriculum until the end of year 9, when GCSE choices are made.

For a rewarding music experience for all pupils, therefore, schools just need to provide the willingness to give music the opportunity to thrive: the room to do it in and the expert teachers with the enthusiasm to teach it. Therein lies the problem. As noble Lords have said, schools are under pressure. Teachers are leaving the profession and, from our experiences, new teachers are hard to find. Reintroducing bursaries in 2024 for music teachers can only be a good thing, but it will take time for that to filter through. The value of music must be recognised so that teachers, who are vital to any subject, may be persuaded to stay and can see their work valued.

Taught properly by specialist music teachers, the value of music can be as an effective way to foster the benefits of teamwork for all, to improve behaviour, to reduce stress and to benefit cognitive learning skills in maths and communication for a minimal cost. Why would anyone not encourage this?

Photo of Lord Knight of Weymouth Lord Knight of Weymouth Llafur 8:41, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, it is great to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, and like others I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Boateng for securing, and the way he introduced, this debate.

The evidence of unequal access to music education is clear. My daughter, Ruth, had private instrument lessons and now her production of “La Traviata” opens on the ENO stage next week. Our 12 year-old, Coco, has private piano lessons and is learning the power of practice as she struggles on through her grade 7, but their privilege in having parents who can afford tuition is clear.

I recently read an excellent book by Jude Rogers, entitled The Sound of Being Human. In it, she quotes the cognitive psychologist, Professor Daniel Levitin. He points out that the earliest human-made artefacts were musical instruments, including a 60,000 year-old bone flute found in Slovenia. Singing around a campfire helped early humans to stay awake and ward off predators, but it also helped us develop co-operation and turn-taking, strengthening human group dynamics. Not only does Levitin find that music is at the very core of being human but he finds that it is absolutely core to the brain development of children. It encourages different parts of the brain to work together in an integrated way, and the curiosity that in turn allows the development of language is formed from there. Three separate parts of the brain are connected by conversation through music: the most advanced with the most mechanical, connecting our most primitive with our most advanced selves.

The science around how music triggers subconscious memory is also well known. The neuroscience is clear. Music must be a core subject, especially in early years education. So how is it going? Like the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, I have been reading last month’s Ofsted report on music education in England, which was published with the headline:

“Music teaching too variable in quality and often not given enough time”.

The report says:

“The inequalities in provision that we highlighted in our last subject report … persist. There remains a divide between the opportunities for children and young people whose families can afford to pay for music tuition and for those who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds”.

We have also heard today about the decline in GCSE and A-level music entries since the EBacc was introduced 13 years ago. Yet, in the last 20 years, vocational music qualifications taken in schools have rocketed.

I remind the House of my education interests, especially as a member of Pearson’s qualification committee. Has any thought been given to the impact on vocational music if the Government proceed with defunding BTECs to prioritise money for T-levels, which contain no music, as we have heard, and will have to be significantly reformed if they are to be a part of the advanced BS that the Prime Minister proposes? The decline in the music teaching workforce is also deeply worrying. Two years ago, we were recruiting into initial teacher training at 71% of target, and last year at 64%. If the National Foundation for Educational Research is correct, just 31% of target will be met this year. What is the evidence that a £10,000 bursary is enough?

In closing, I ask the Minister to reflect with her colleagues on the need for a change of approach. I am pleased that the Prime Minister wants a more balanced post-16 curriculum, but we need the same rebalancing throughout the secondary curriculum. We need a change to the accountability system of the EBacc and Progress 8 to give much-needed oxygen for the creative subjects. As the minister knows, AI is marching on apace. Our current curriculum is equipping our children to be outcompeted by technology. Our competitive advantage against machines is to be better humans. What better way to prepare our children for their human future than by ensuring that they have a strong music education?

Photo of The Earl of Clancarty The Earl of Clancarty Crossbench 8:46, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, on his passionate introduction to this debate. I start by quoting from the letter co-signed by music directors Edward Gardner, Mark Elder and Antonio Pappano on the proposed cuts to the English National Opera, which appeared in the Times yesterday:

“These cuts will put a stranglehold on the artistic future of the company, wherever it is based. Opera should be available to everyone — this is the founding premise of ENO …This isn’t levelling up, it is the killing off of the art form”.

There is a sense in which these words are emblematic of the struggle facing not only classical music but all the arts in this country, although the ENO is of course under particular threat.

We need to recognise, too, the ecology of the arts and the reality that industry and education work together and education does not exist in isolation. It is part of a wider ecology, which should also include the widest possible work and educational opportunities in music—and not just in the UK, but Europe too. What signal is now being relayed by these proposed cuts—and with the music director himself now resigning in protest at these cuts—to young people currently at school who are considering a career in music?

We have reached a crunch point. Some blame the Arts Council but, ultimately, this is the end result of 13 years of this Government’s severe funding cuts to the arts, both in direct funding and to local authorities. Of course, it is the funding cuts, both in education and the arts themselves, that are a major factor in increasing inequality in educational provision in the arts. As the Independent Society of Musicians says in its excellent briefing, from which others have quoted, music education is in “serious decline” in England and the situation “requires government intervention”. Look no further than that independent schools have mean yearly music budgets that are over five times greater than those of maintained schools. However, I also say to a potential future Government that, before they target independent schools, they should consider the educational models that may be driving that spending on the arts. This is not just about rich parents. These models may well be in opposition to the current knowledge-rich curriculum and academic educational environment in the state sector, where it is becoming increasingly hard for individual participation, performance and expression in the arts to gain a foothold.

At the heart of this constricting philosophy, of course, are the EBacc and Progress 8, which need to be removed. As the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, pointed out, since 2010, GCSE music entries have fallen by 36%—12.5% in the last year alone—and A-level music entries by 45%. Moreover, Cambridge Assessment data tells us that only 5.4% of young people from groups that experience high social deprivation took GCSE music; the EBacc will again exacerbate this.

As others have pointed out, there is a growing teacher recruitment crisis in music. It is good news that bursaries for teachers of arts subjects have been reintroduced, although since these bursaries are worth only just over a third of those for science subjects, this has to be heavily qualified good news. The National Foundation for Educational Research predicted earlier this year that music will reach only 63% of the target for teacher recruitment, as opposed to 98% or more for chemistry and biology, for example. Science subjects should of course be supported, but does the Minister agree that it is difficult to interpret the stark difference in the value of these bursaries as anything other than discriminatory?

I am a firm believer in bringing music properly back into schools, where there is the greatest likelihood of universal access, but as long as we have music hubs they should be supported. Yet it is clear that the sector has considerable concerns about this, with less money now going to hubs than to pre-hub music services, as well as a serious cut in the number of hubs themselves.

Finally, as others have asked, what happened to the £90 million arts premium, promised in the last Conservative Party manifesto? Will the Minister say something about that?

Photo of Lord Faulkner of Worcester Lord Faulkner of Worcester Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 8:50, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, like every Member of your Lordships’ House who has spoken in this debate, I extend my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Boateng. Even he must be surprised at the quality of the debate that followed his brilliant introduction. I have learned so much, as a non-musician and someone who cannot sing in tune or play an instrument but loves listening to music, from the contributions from all over the Chamber this evening.

I want to concentrate on the question of inequality, the subject of my noble friend Lord Boateng’s Question, and speak up in favour of music hubs. It is deplorable that the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain still draws only around 50% of its members from state schools, and it has been like that for years. Surely one simple target we could set today would be to express the hope that that percentage will grow in the next few years, and that we learn how to measure it.

Work by the Child Poverty Action Group in its Cost of the School Day campaign found that low-income families experience barriers to accessing music education:

“Music is a subject that creates additional costs for families when their children want to participate fully. Children in both primary and secondary schools have told us that instrument tuition usually comes with an additional cost for families: not only the cost of the tuition itself, but also the purchase or hire of an instrument so children can practise outside their dedicated lesson time”.

Everyone agrees that there is a need for more and better music in schools. Schools generate interest and encourage development, and the responsibility for supplying that lies with the hubs established under the music hub investment programme since 2012. There are over 100 hubs in all, and DfE money to support their work has been distributed on an agency basis by Arts Council England. We have heard this evening that the number of hubs is to be reduced to just 43 next year. Can the Minister explain to me why that is so?

Though hubs did and do so much good work with the money they receive, the last 10 years have seen widespread concern about a fall in music teaching in schools—we have heard that in the debate this evening. There has been no authoritative evaluation as to whether the first 10 years of the national plan for music education have been a success or a failure. No one therefore knows whether musical attainment and proficiency levels have improved or declined. We have, instead, a compliance regime which is excessive, intrusive, often contradictory and, in some cases, unattainable. With standstill funding at the moment, the only way to extend music education is for hubs to generate more activity on their own account, but so much staff time is taken up in meeting funding requirements that the ability to do so has been compromised. Frankly, they are drowning in process, such that the administration of the programme reduces the potential for, and thus acts against, the achievement of its aims.

The Government’s current answer to more and better music in schools was the publication in 2021 of the model music curriculum, which was recommended by the group chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Fleet, whose contribution I particularly enjoyed earlier in the debate. Music hubs are now expected to promote the model music curriculum as a condition of their funding. This is making compulsory to one party, the hubs, something which is entirely voluntarily to the other, the schools. Hubs are being made the enforcers of something entirely outside their powers. Surely we can do something to make life easier for the hubs and get a better relationship between them and the schools.

Photo of Lord Aberdare Lord Aberdare Crossbench 8:55, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, I had not planned to speak in this excellent debate, introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Boateng. However, having chaired an online education conference on music education this morning, with speakers from schools, hubs and other music education bodies, I am grateful for this opportunity to speak briefly in the gap. I declare my interest as chair of a small classical music education charity. I will highlight three points which came across strongly, all of which have been echoed in the debate.

First, several speakers emphasised that delivery of the national plan and of the proposed realignment and reduction of music education hubs must address inequalities that arise from the widely varying needs of different local and regional areas. Schools in rural areas, such as Suffolk, disadvantaged by lack of local music resources or, indeed, scope for partnerships, face challenges which require forms of support from hubs that are different from those in better musically served urban areas. They also face extra costs, such as travel to music venues or events—it costs over £100 just to get there by bus—and greater difficulties in raising funds, whether from parents or from grant-makers like the excellent charity of the noble Lord, Lord Polak.

Secondly, hubs were seen as having key roles as champions of accessibility and inclusion and in promoting the partnerships which were such a crucial part of delivering music education, not least for special needs pupils. It was suggested that the national plan would benefit from having some more specific targets or outputs or, indeed, that core parts of the plan could even be made statutory.

Thirdly, one of the strongest common themes emerging—and, indeed, emerging this evening—was the need for a joined-up workforce strategy for music education and delivery of the national plan, consistent with the Government’s broader vision for the music and creative sector as a whole. Several speakers commented on what they saw as a mismatch between the ambitions of the plan and the ambitions of the DCMS strategy for the sector.

Many speakers raised issues of underrecruitment of specialist music teachers, of teachers leaving the profession early and of the pay and conditions offered to music teachers, making it less appealing as a career. There can be no effective music education without enough suitably qualified teachers.

Speakers at the conference radiated Lady Garden-like verve and commitment to delivering high-quality music education and addressing inequalities in access. They also highlighted many of the obstacles that we have heard about this evening. I look forward to hearing from the Minister how the Government seek to tackle those.

Photo of Lord German Lord German Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 8:58, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, to echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, this has been a passionate debate of people who are all in one team—the music team—who seek to find ways to deal with the inequalities that exist. Summing up what I have taken from each contribution, I think the Minister has to answer three key questions. First is the need for great teachers—that has been obvious from the debate. Second is the need for increased resources and capacity, in particular to deal with the inequality of provision. Some of that inequality is directed towards those with disabilities, as outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. Third is the need to value music education, not least in our curriculum.

I would like to turn back a page. The national plan outlines on page 7 the purpose of music education— I believe these words were written by the noble Baroness, Lady Fleet, but even if they were not, they are very good words:

“For some, music will be the foundation of a career in one of the country’s most important and globally-recognised industries. For others, it will provide experiences and skills which develop their creativity. For many, music will simply be a source of joy, comfort and companionship throughout their lives”.

I will take that further. As the noble Lord, Lord Knight, indicated, some fundamental skills are not mentioned in that report which are crucial to understanding why music education is so important. Music education contains a huge range of important and transferable life skills. For example, music provides an essential understanding of the key skill of being on time and in time. It involves working collaboratively; as we have heard, ensemble work, at whatever level, requires discipline and develops an ability to work closely with others on a shared outcome. It also involves confidence—the ability to speak out and express yourself. Listening skills are fundamental to music; the ability to hear others while performing yourself, to listen to your own performance and to appreciate changes in dynamics and timbre, all lead to better listening skills, which are transferable to much that we do in life. If the ability to use time well, work collaboratively with others and have good listening skills is important for the personal, social and economic well-being of our country, we must ensure that this subject area is recognised as a primary way of delivering the benefit.

However, to deliver real inclusion and game-changing music provision for all pupils, we need a fresh approach and increased investment. We need to raise the quality of music education, extend its reach and build the confidence of non-specialist teachers, particularly in primary schools, who have not had much of a mention tonight. Our music educators have the potential to improve lives and give young people the opportunity to develop and believe in themselves as individuals and contributing members of society. If all young people received high-quality curriculum music at school, supported by a properly trained workforce who could identify and encourage those who wished to go further, we would be in a much better position to allocate resources wisely. Without proper funding, equality of access will never be achieved.

Photo of Baroness Twycross Baroness Twycross Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 9:02, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, I join others in commending my noble friend Lord Boateng for securing this debate. I was particularly struck by his comments on his childhood experience and on the need for the value of music education to be reflected in funding and have time allocated to it. I regret to say that I struggle to remember the names of any of my music teachers, but I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Polak and Lord German, that inspiring teachers matter.

Clearly, there is consensus in this House that music education matters. I do not think anyone could reasonably argue with the Government’s refreshed national plan for music education’s aim of ensuring that

“all pupils receive a high-quality music education, strengthen the creative pipeline, and help create the musicians and audiences of the future”.

However, we need to see the Government take this from aims that we can all agree on to delivery for all children, irrespective of the type of school they attend. Access to music education, future careers and instruments should not be a postcode lottery or dependent on your parents’ income. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, even repairs can be costly.

It was good to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Fleet, about her commitment to the implementation of the national plan and of the excellent work of the London Music Fund. I should declare an interest in that I work for the Mayor of London.

My noble friends Lord Faulkner and Lord Watson of Invergowrie mentioned the reduction in the number of music hubs. It would be particularly helpful to understand from the Minister how that reduction will increase the quality and scope of music education and equality of access, rather than do the opposite.

As this debate has shown, this Government have potentially overseen a decline in music education, limiting equal access to the music education that should enable young people to be part of the music industry and the range of roles within it. As my noble friend Lord Watson of Wyre Forest highlighted, the Musicians’ Union estimates that the industry was worth £5.8 billion in 2019, just before the Covid pandemic.

My noble friend Lord Knight and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, quoted the recent Ofsted subject report on music education, which found that inequalities identified in 2012 persist. Can the Minister outline how the Government plan to address this and to reverse the decline in music education? The noble Lord, Lord Polak, made a powerful argument for music education having a social good in giving young people a valuable opportunity potentially to stay out of gangs and out of trouble. It was inspiring to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, about the work in his school to inspire pupils to sing and learn collaboratively. The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, mentioned the need for access to music for children with vision impairment, and my noble friend Lord Watson referred to the value of music education for children with hearing impairments. Can the Minister tell us how the Government will ensure that children with disabilities, including vision and hearing impairments and other special educational needs, can have equal access to music education?

As I said at the start, and as has been clear from this hugely interesting debate, there is consensus that music education and ensuring equal access to instruments, tuition, exams and careers in this vital UK industry is hugely important, but more still needs to be done to ensure that this happens in practice.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 9:06, 18 Hydref 2023

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, for securing this debate and congratulate him on restructuring BBC Radio 4’s schedule to put on “Rethinking Music, the Next Generation” just as I was driving home after dinner on Saturday evening. I thought it was extremely well organised of the noble Lord to make sure that we were all particularly well briefed for this debate.

Noble Lords across the House know that there are many schools across the country that deliver high-quality music lessons to pupils and offer high-quality co-curricular opportunities. Equally, as we have heard so powerfully today, in some areas of the country music provision may be more limited, and equality of access is vital, as the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, set out.

To address this and to improve music education in England, a refreshed national plan for music education was published in June 2022. I echo the thanks of other noble Lords to my noble friend Baroness Fleet for her great work in leading and shaping that plan, and for her continued ambition to see it implemented with maximum impact. The plan clearly sets out the Government’s ambitions to 2030: that every child, regardless of circumstance, needs or geography, should have access to a high-quality music education that affords them the opportunity to progress their musical interests and talents.

The expectations set out in the plan, starting from early years, are unashamedly ambitious. They are informed by the excellent practice we see demonstrated by many schools, music hubs and music charities around the country. We heard today from my noble friend Baroness Fleet about the work of the London Music Fund. I have been lucky enough to attend one of its events and was incredibly impressed and moved by what I heard. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, talked about the work of the Koestler Trust and my noble friend Lord Polak referred to Restore the Music. I would of course be happy to meet with the founders of the charity—the Battle of the Bands sounds like a great event. As the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley, and Lord Hampton, said, music helps to unlock not just our talent but our humanity, and, in choirs, orchestras and bands, that sense of being part of a shared endeavour. Certainly, my recent visit to the Harris Federation’s staff conference was exactly the kind of neck-tingling experience the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, described. Even though it was not my children who were playing, the choirs, bands and orchestra were extraordinary and very moving to watch.

As we heard from a number of noble Lords, when Ofsted published its recent music subject report last month, it highlighted that some schools do not allocate sufficient curriculum time to music. Schools are now expected to teach music at least one hour each week of the school year for key stages 1 to 3, alongside providing co-curricular opportunities to learn instruments, sing and form ensembles and choirs.

Higher levels of co-curricular participation have been reported this year, compared to May 2022. One of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Wyre Forest, was the importance of the involvement of parents. The survey data are due to be released any day now, but I can share with the House advance notice that 63% of parents in the survey in June of this year stated their child had received singing lessons during the academic year, compared to 52% in May of last year. Some 57% of parents stated that their child had received musical instrument lessons, compared to 43% last year. Some 40% had watched a live performance, and 35% had taken part in one, a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal.

Ofsted’s report also highlighted that curriculum quality of music provision is weak in some schools, with insufficient focus on musical understanding, sequencing and progression. To support schools to deliver a high-quality curriculum, we published a model music curriculum in 2021. According to a recent March survey of schools, some 59% of primary schools and 43% of secondary schools are now implementing this non-statutory guidance. The quality of curriculum was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie. I did not quite recognise the description that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, gave of music hubs as enforcers of the curriculum. It is non-statutory guidance, and that model music curriculum was put together by a panel of real experts in this area. I very much hope that it does not feel like it is being forced on people.

In partnership with their music hubs, we also invited every school to have a music development plan from this school year. The noble Baroness, Lady Twycross, asked about equality of access and the emphasis on each school having its own plan. That requires schools to consider how they will work together to improve the quality of music education. Our sample survey of school leaders in March showed that slightly under half of schools already had a music development plan in place. Of those without a plan, nearly half reported intending to put one in place in the current school year.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner of Worcester and Lord Watson of Invergowrie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Twycross, asked about the reduction in the number of music hubs. As the House will be aware, there was a re-competition of the music hub programme, led by Arts Council England. That competition is currently under way. This will enable hub lead organisations to become more strategic and build a wider number of strong partnerships, so that children and young people receive high-quality support in every local area, including particularly those areas where provision may currently be limited. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, raised the importance of partnerships in this area.

As a number of noble Lords highlighted, we know that it is incredibly important that there is access for all levels of participation in music across the country. As part of levelling up, our plan is to provide an additional £2 million of funding to support the delivery of a music progression programme that will support up to 1,000 disadvantaged pupils to learn how to play an instrument or sing to a high standard, and over a sustained period.

A number of your Lordships quite rightly raised the importance of the quality of teaching, including my noble friend Lady Fleet and the noble Lords, Lord Boateng and Lord German. Of course, this remains the single most important factor in improving outcomes for children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Just to clarify, I should say that close to 100% of hours taught in art, design and music are taught by a teacher with a relevant post A-level qualification. However, we are updating our teacher recruitment and retention strategy to build on our reforms to make sure that every child has an excellent teacher, including in music.

The noble Lord, Lord Watson of Wyre Forest, asked how we are going to encourage more teachers. For those starting initial teacher training in music in the academic year 2024-25, we are, as the House heard, offering £10,000 tax-free bursaries, which we hope very much will attract more music teachers into the profession and support schools in delivering at least one hour of music lessons a week. We are also establishing four national music hub centres of excellence, which will focus on inclusion, continuing professional development, musical technology, and pathways to industry. We plan to appoint all the centres by the autumn of 2024.

A number of noble Lords raised the issue of children with disabilities, particularly those who are visually impaired, blind or deaf. The national plan makes clear the importance of music being fully inclusive, and indeed it was widely praised by charities representing children with special educational needs and disabilities. The capital grant will emphasise the use of this funding for pupils with SEND, including blind and partially sighted pupils, and including the use of Braille or large print—in fact, that is across the whole curriculum, of course, not just for music—and we will consider how the capital funding could be used to provide Braille music machines in particular.

The noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, talked about how music would be included in the advanced British standard. Of course, as he is aware, we will be consulting extensively on this, but I have seen in the documentation that has already been published that there are examples of possible combinations of major and minor subjects, and music could appear either as a major or a minor in future.

The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, talked about the importance of a strong musical and cultural offer in all the regions of this country. I remind him of the incredible focus that was put on exactly this point through the cultural recovery fund.

My apologies; as ever, I have run out of time.

Again, in relation to location, I mention to the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, the BRIT School North, a new 16-to-19 academy being opened in Bradford that will have a creative curriculum specialising in music and production.

There is still a lot to do to make our vision for music education become a reality, but I hope that in some way I have been able to reassure the House that together our reforms will lead to concrete action that every school and academy trust can take to improve their music education provision. As we have heard from all your Lordships this evening, studying and engaging with music is not a privilege; it is a vital part of a broad and ambitious curriculum, and our reforms ensure that all pupils will have access to high-quality music education and all the knowledge, joy and connection that brings.

Photo of Lord Evans of Rainow Lord Evans of Rainow Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I put a plug in for the Parliament Choir; it is always looking for new members.