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MU Addresses Education Select Committee on Music Education

Chris Walters, MU National Organiser for Education, spoke to the cross-party committee of MPs about funding for music education and music teachers’ pay and conditions.

Published: 30 May 2024 | 1:20 PM
Chris Walters speaking to  the cross-party committee of MPs on music teaching.
Chris Walters, MU National Organiser for Education, told MPs that the MU would recommend a national pay scale and a contract for visiting music teachers. Image credit: © Parliament Live TV.

On 21 May, the Education Select Committee held a one-off evidence session in Parliament to investigate issues facing music education hubs. During the session, MPs heard from experts about problems being caused by the reduction of hubs from 114 to 43, along with discussion of funding for hubs, music in schools and visiting instrumental teachers’ pay and conditions.

In the first panel, the committee heard from leaders of organisations running hubs. The second panel featured the MU, alongside representatives from the Independent Society of Musicians and Music Mark. The final panel saw MPs question Damian Hinds, the Schools Minister, alongside the Director for Curriculum and Qualifications at the Department for Education.

Funding and the reduction of hubs

On low levels of funding and the impact of this on universal access to music education, Chris Walters, MU National Organiser for Education, told MPs:

“One way to measure good outcomes is through social justice for children from less well-off backgrounds, whose experience is going to be limited to that taster bit of learning an instrument. Then there isn’t the ability to continue because there isn’t the resource behind that child progressing, whereas another child whose parents can afford it will be able to continue.

“Over time, that leads to inequality in who progresses on a musical instrument, who takes it into a career, and what the balance of the music industry looks like.”

On the reduction of hubs, Chris said:

“There is a sense that this is not an organic restructure. It has been imposed. We are going to see some huge struggles and problems.”

Visiting music teachers’ pay and conditions

On instrumental teachers’ pay and status, Chris said:

“When I was learning an instrument, there were lots of career instrumental teachers – peripatetic teachers who were employed and had parity with classroom teachers in terms of their status and professional standing.

“They were not paid hourly only for contact time, and they were not on freelance contracts, dubious or otherwise. They were employed and it was their career. That led to greater oversight, more consistency and better outcomes for children and young people.

“The shift to where we are now has largely gone under the radar, with minimal political oversight, ending up in a situation where visiting instrumental music teachers are treated in a way that is quite different from other teachers who are part of a funded education programme.

“The Musicians’ Union would recommend a national pay scale and a contract for visiting music teachers, because they all basically do the same work. It does not make any sense that there is this huge variety of different types of contracts and statuses that have been driven by affordability, rather than genuine fit for the work that is being undertaken.”

Next steps

Two days after the meeting, the committee wrote to the Schools Minister seeking reassurances on funding for hubs, the rationale for reducing the number of hubs, and access to the TPS in hubs. The MU was disappointed that teachers’ terms were not included in the letter.

The announcement of a general election makes it unlikely that the current Government will be able to address the concerns raised in the letter. The MU will work with the next Government to ensure that these important points are addressed, including the issue of teachers’ terms.

Meanwhile, support for employers’ contributions to the TPS for teachers in hubs is urgently needed, and we are continuing to work Government officials on this.

Chris Walters commented:

“This meeting of the Education Select Committee was an excellent opportunity to highlight MU members’ concerns and raise awareness of issues around music education policy and funding.

“We look forward to working with whoever forms the next Government on these important issues.”

Watch the committee meeting

You can watch a recording of the meeting or read a transcript of this here.

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The MU has a strong community of teaching musicians, with over 12,000 members. We advise music teachers on specific topics, including pay and contractual issues. Through our resources and employment advice, we support and create careers in music teaching.

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