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New Musicians' Union Research Reveals Perilous State of Music Education and Calls on Government to Let Every Child Learn Music

The Musicians’ Union (MU) has launched State of Play, a comprehensive report into the state of music education, following extensive research led by Dr Jonathan Savage (Manchester Metropolitan University) and David Barnard (MU Music Education Official).

Published: 02 April 2019 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:29 PM
Children learning trumpet and clarinet in classroom setting

The Musicians’ Union (MU) has launched State of Play, a comprehensive report into the state of music education, following extensive research led by Dr Jonathan Savage (Manchester Metropolitan University) and David Barnard (MU Music Education Official).

The report – based on the responses of over a thousand instrumental teachers, classroom teachers and music managers – provides more evidence that there are serious continuing issues around the provision of a comprehensive and quality offer of music education for all children across England.

The MU is calling on Government to let every child learn music. The Government must accept that the cumulative effect of education policies over the past nine years has been detrimental to how music education is delivered to and accessed by children and young people. Current music education provision is leaving children from low income households behind.

The MU is keen to work with the Department of Education (DfE) and Arts Council England (ACE) to ensure that the issues raised and recommendations made are incorporated into the next National Plan for Music Education (NPME).

Members of the public are being urged to take action by writing to their MPs in support of the recommendations made in the State of Play report and signing up as MU Supporters for free.

The research was conducted in partnership with UK Music and the Music Industries Association.

Diane Widdison, MU National Organiser for Education, said:

“Music must be an integral part of every child’s educational life. Access to a broad and balanced curriculum, including the arts, should be experienced by all children regardless of their background.

“The success of any Music Education plan or policy is dependent on a skilled and supported workforce who are engaged to teach on proper terms and conditions with all the necessary checks and balances in place.”

David Barnard, MU Music Education Official, said:

“The growth of bogus self-employment and zero-hour contracts has undermined music teaching as a career option. Recruiting qualified and experienced teachers has become increasingly difficult as job security and career progression has all but evaporated.”

Dr Jonathan Savage, Reader in Music, Manchester Metropolitan University, said:

“This research demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that music education has reached a crisis point and that schools need to be supported properly to ensure that music is continued to be included as a national curriculum subject”

Horace Trubridge, MU General Secretary, said:

“As has been widely acknowledged, talent is everywhere in the UK but opportunity isn’t. If we are to maintain our fantastic talent pipeline, this Government desperately needs to ensure that all young people from all areas of the UK and from all socio-economic backgrounds have easy and affordable access to musical instrument tuition.”

Michael Dugher, CEO, UK Music, said:

“UK Music is pleased to support the Musicians’ Union and this new research, which is a vital contribution to the debate about music in education.

“Despite many of the very positive things that the current Government has done to support access to music in education, this report shines further light on a looming crisis in our talent pipeline as a result of a decline in music in education in many parts of the state sector.

“We welcome the constructive steps the Department for Education has taken in recent months to work with the music industry on these issues and ask that this report is properly considered by the Department as part of the refresh of the National Plan for Music Education.

“Ministers undoubtedly support an education system where every child is given access to music. Making that a reality is an objective we all share and this report by the MU is a further important opportunity to reflect on where we have more work to do to strengthen music in schools.”

Paul McManus, Chief Executive, MIA, said:

“This excellent research reveals the sad decline in the support for music in schools. There is a real risk of children missing out on wonderful world of making music. We stand firm with the Musicians’ Union and all our music partners in the continued need to champion the rights of children to have a properly funded music education.”

Read the full report

For more information, please email MU PR & Marketing Official Keith Ames at or 07967 449096

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