House of Lords debate music education

Last night, the House of Lords put music education in the spotlight in a 72-minute debate, in which James Rhodes’ Don’t Stop the Music campaign was repeatedly highlighted.

The proceedings were kicked off by Lord Aberdare – a singer in the Parliament choir – who asked what the government is doing “to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of music education hubs and the National Plan for Music Education.”

He highlighted issues of concern, many also raised by James Rhodes in his campaign, including the decline in central government funding for local music education services (from a total of over £82million in 2010-11 to £58million in 2014-15), the lack of funding commitments beyond March 2016, issues with teacher training, and the absence of music from Ofsted’s inspection framework which “means inevitably that schools give less priority to their music education activities than they might otherwise do.”

"Access to instruments is another problem”, added Lord Aberdare, highlighting James Rhodes instrument amnesty encouraging members of the public to donate instruments.

There were also many references in the debate to a lack of consistency in music provision across the country. “We also need to ensure that the work that is done is reaching children from disadvantaged backgrounds. There is something of a postcode lottery about the provision of music education… and the playing field is still uneven across the UK,” said Lord Black of Brentwood.

The Lord Bishop of Lichfield added: “As cuts are made, the success of instrumental learning and one-to-one music lessons is diminished, which significantly affects the opportunities for students to progress. Recognition of the importance of music in education and for general well-being is essential if it is not to return to being seen as elitist, where only those with surplus money can afford lessons.”

Lord Lipsey seconded Lord Aberdare’s praise for James Rhodes’ “wonderful programme”, and highlighted the importance of head teachers and teachers knowing the value of music. “They are under tremendous pressure from Ofsted, the Government and the Michael Goves of this world to show their results in maths and English,” he said.

Many of the contributors to the debate reflected on the importance of learning and listening to music in their schooldays and lives today, such as Lord Black of Brentwood who recalled: “I was lucky enough to have an amazing music education at school… I could not have wanted for more, and it has become my lifelong passion as a result. But what I – and, I suspect, all noble Lords – want is for every child to have the opportunity to have their life enriched by music in this way.”

Read the debate in full

Sign James Rhodes’ petition calling on Nicky Morgan to honour the government’s pledge to ensure every child in England has the opportunity to learn a musical instrument.

Complete Ofsted’s consultation on inspections, Better Inspection For All.


House of Lords debate music education
House of Lords generic image. Copyright House of Lords/Roger Harris
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