Press release

Government launches its first national plan for music education

The first ever national plan for music education – “The Importance of Music” – will enable every child to have the chance to learn to play a musical instrument for at least a term and ideally for a year by transforming the way music is delivered to schools.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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  • Government to fund expansion of In Harmony
  • Music ‘hubs’ will provide music education
  • New fairer funding system for music education

The Importance of Music: A National Plan for Music

The In Harmony programme, based on the inspirational El Sistema scheme from Venezuela, will be rolled out across the country under plans announced today.

The first ever national plan for music education ‘The Importance of Music’ will also enable every child to have the chance to learn to play a musical instrument for at least a term and ideally for a year by transforming the way music is delivered to schools.

This is part of the Government’s aim to ensure that all pupils have rich cultural opportunities alongside their academic and vocational studies.

From 2012 music education will be provided by new “hubs” which will deliver music education in partnership, building on the work of existing local authority music services.

In Harmony is currently run in Liverpool, London and Norwich. The programme provides intensive instrumental training to children from deprived backgrounds, teaching them to play in ensembles and orchestras.

The Government will provide £500,000 per year and, working with the Arts Council England and with an additional £500,000 matched funding, will expand the programme across the country, seeking new projects in, for example, the Midlands and the North East.

Other announcements in the new national plan for music education include:

  • A new national funding formula to make sure all parts of the country get fair funding for music on a per pupil basis, with a weighting for deprivation. There will be protection for areas that would otherwise have seen reductions of more than 10 per cent funding in 2012-13 and more than 20 per cent in 2013-14.
  • Funding of £77 million, £65 million and £60 million confirmed for the next three years. Most of this will go to the music education hubs.
  • A new music teaching module will be developed for trainee primary teachers, to give them extra skills to teach music.
  • Continued funding of £500,000 per year to the National Youth Music Organisations fund, matched by the Arts Council England currently via Youth Music.
  • Continued support for the internationally recognised Music and Dance Scheme - which provides money for exceptionally gifted young people to attend the highly specialist music and dance schools.

Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, said:

All pupils should have the opportunity to enjoy and play music. However, for far too long, music education has been patchy across the country. Pupils from the poorest backgrounds have suffered most from this situation, creating a musical divide.

The national plan for music will deliver a music education system that encourages everyone, whatever their background, to enjoy music and help those with real talent to flourish as brilliant musicians.

Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, said:

A high-quality music education can make a hugely beneficial contribution to the lives of young people. It is often a source of regret for adults that they didn’t learn a musical instrument when they were at school; now every child will have the opportunity to develop this life-enhancing skill.

Not only will this give them great pleasure, but it will help provide our fantastic creative industries with the next generation of talent.

World-renowned cellist, and Chair of In Harmony, Sistema England, Julian Lloyd Webber said:

In Harmony has proved that music really does have the power to transform the lives of children and their communities and its success has been a triumph for all the children, parents and teachers involved. It is wonderful that the government has backed this visionary programme which I am certain will become an asset for England to treasure.

Darren Henley, Managing Director of Classic FM and author of the Review of Music Education in England, said:

There’s a great deal of really excellent music provision across the country, but I did consistently hear two very clear messages when I was carrying out my Review. The first was the need for an over-arching strategy for the subject and the second was the requirement to eradicate patchiness in provision.

The new national plan for music education is a major step towards tackling both these issues, helping to ensure that all children receive the best possible music education. I’ve met a lot of highly inspirational individuals who change children’s lives for the better through music and I’m really pleased that the national plan also recognises the vital importance of the work done by music teachers both in and out of school.

Mike Welsh, past President of NAHT and a member of the newly formed National Plan for Music Education monitoring board, said:

Good schools recognise the importance of music for every student and ensure that it permeates the whole school. The national plan for music education highlights the role music can play in the lives of children and young people and provides schools with a framework within which to provide a high quality music education.

Working in partnership with the new music education hubs, schools will have the opportunity to consider their provision and to ensure that they are not only catering for those children who have shown an interest or aptitude for music.

From August 2012, music education hubs will be funded to bring together local authorities and local music organisations, like orchestras, choirs and other music groups. They will work in partnership to make sure every child has a high-quality music education, including the opportunity to learn to sing, to play an instrument and to play music with others. The hubs will be fully operational from September 2012.

The hubs, which will be held accountable for their effectiveness, will also help improve the consistency around the country and make sure all pupils receive a high-quality music education.

The national plan for music education has been produced by Department for Education and Department for Culture Media and Sport following a review of music education by Darren Henley, Managing Director of Classic FM.

He made 36 recommendations for central and local government, and for the music sector itself. One of the recommendations was for the Government to produce a national music plan.

At the time of Darren Henley’s report, to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to music education, the Secretary of State confirmed that funding for music education for 2011-12 would be £82.5 million - the same amount as went to local authorities in 2010-11.

The Department has asked the Arts Council for England to run the application and approval process for the new music education hubs. Applications will need to demonstrate how they will deliver at least the core roles, which are to:

  • Ensure that every child aged 5-18 has the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument (other than voice) through whole-class ensemble teaching programmes for ideally a year (but for a minimum of a term) of weekly tuition on the same instrument.
  • Provide opportunities to play in ensembles and to perform from an early stage.
  • Ensure that clear progression routes are available and affordable to all young people.
  • Develop a singing strategy to ensure that every pupil sings regularly and that choirs and other vocal ensembles are available in the area.

Saddle the Pony played on the mandolin

Notes to editors

  1. The national plan for music is available from the publications section.

  2. The Henley Review and the Government’s response to it is also available to download from the publications section.

  3. Further information on the application process to become music education hubs can be found on The Arts Council website.

  4. Information on funding allocations can be downloaded in an Excel spreadsheet from the Department for Education’s.

  5. Local authorities will receive funding, via the Federation of Music Services, to continue providing music education services until August 2012. Allocations will be made on a per pupil basis with a weighting for pupils eligible for free school meals. There will be protection so that, in 2012-13, no area loses more than 10 per cent compared to its 2011-12 funding. In 2013-14 no area will lose more than 20 per cent compared to its 2012-13 funding. By 2014-15 the historical imbalances in music education funding will have been eradicated and all areas will be funded based on their actual pupil numbers.

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Published 25 November 2011