More than a third of teachers say their year 9 pupils do not get regular music lessons, a poll has revealed, after the government said it wanted schools to provide an hour a week.
A new survey by Teacher Tapp also shows two in five primary teachers say pupils lack access to free instrument lessons, with music classes increasingly being taught by non-specialists.
The figures show the scale of the challenge ahead for schools and the government in implementing the Department for Education’s new vision for music.
The new national plan for music education was published on Saturday. It said schools should ensure at least an hour’s timetabled music provision a week at key stage 3, after a similar expectation was introduced at key stages 1 and 2 last year.
But 22 per cent of secondary teachers polled reported that year 9 pupils received no compulsory music lessons at all, and a further 13 per cent said they only studied it on a “carousel” for part of the year.
Fifty-three per cent said their school offered it to year 9 pupils at least once a fortnight, with the number offering weekly lessons not known.
Meanwhile 23 per cent of teachers said their school did not offer GCSE music, and 39 per cent of those with sixth forms said they did not offer A Level music.
Fees for music tuition despite instruments pledge
Schools were also told in the plan to offer access to tuition across a range of instruments and voice, with parents “not charged for it”.
At primary level, 41 per cent of teachers said there were no opportunities for everyone to learn an instrument at school without a charge
It suggests the DfE’s newly pledged £25 million investment in 200,000 instruments is unlikely to be enough to ensure pupils can learn free.
Half of primary teachers also said music was taught by class teachers not qualified in music, and one in 20 said classes lacked regular music lessons.
In 2019, 37 per cent of primary teachers said music was taught by class teachers not qualified in the subject. But that edged up to 44 per cent last year, and 50 per cent this year.
New expectations of schools
The DfE’s plan admitted current provision is “patchy”, the same phrase used in its past plan in 2011. It said every school should draft its own music development plan to ensure high-quality provision for all pupils.
Schools are expected to have a choir and/or vocal ensemble, space for rehearsals and individual practice, a termly school performance and the chance to enjoy live performances at least annually.
Schools and trusts should also have designated music heads or leads. Guidance is non-statutory, but schools have been told to implement it from September and the DfE will be “monitoring progress”.
Most music teachers say budgets inadequate
One headteacher said it would be an “impossible task” to meet all the DfE’s expectations, saying he could not afford the £20,000 music budget some DfE case study schools had.
Michael Tidd, head of East Preston Junior School in West Sussex, called the DfE’s claim case studies showed excellence was possible within existing budgets “disingenuous”. Analysis of DfE data suggests his school receives £1,073 less per pupil than the average of six featured case study primaries.
In a widely shared blogpost, he said being “constantly told to do more” made the job “intolerable” and could eventually push him to “jack it all in and walk”.
Some 61 per cent of music teachers polled earlier this year by the Incorporated Society of Musicians said budgets were inadequate, with one saying their school’s worked out under £1 a year per pupil.
The ISM had called for the music plan to raise and ring-fence music department funding, and tackle other pressures squeezing music provision.
EBacc pressures squeeze out music
Ninety-three per cent of teachers in the ISM poll also said accountability measures such as the EBacc and Progress 8 had “caused harm to music education”. They reported the KS3 curriculum “continues to be narrowed, mostly in academies”.
The Musicians’ Union also warned this week the latest plan fails to fully engage with “broader issues that mitigate against music in schools”.
The MU welcomed the DfE’s overall vision, and its long-term funding for music hubs.
But it said keeping annual funding flat at £79 million marked a “significant real-terms cut”.
With new duties for hubs, they risk being “asked to do more for less”. Visiting music teacher pay could stagnate, with DfE not reviewing pay as the Welsh government’s recent music plan did.
The plan also potentially “sets up a clash” between hubs, contractually obliged to deliver services, and schools, still not statutorily obliged to use them.