In this very special Music Makes Lives Better because... article, our Director, Gail Dudson, responds to the new plan for music education, 'The Power of Music to Change Lives':

DfE and DCMS published their long-awaited refresh of The National Plan for Music Education, in June 2022. The new plan will be in place for eight years, so the next update is not due until 2030.

Overall, we welcome the renewed commitment to ensuring that young people have access to high quality music-making both in and out of school and reinforcing the idea that schools should have a broad and balanced curriculum which includes music.

We agree with Youth Music, whose response is here … Refreshed National Plan for Music Education | Youth Music – that young people should have the power to use music to change their lives, and we’d include in that the freedom and power to make their own musical choices, and find their own creative track.

In more detail, here are our highlights in the refreshed plan:

  • Re-stating the importance of music in the curriculum for every school, the need for school music plans, Lead Schools for music and firmer relationships between schools, Music Education Hub Lead Organisations, and other partners
  • The inclusion of Early Years music activity as an important part of childhood development
  • The requirement for Inclusive music practice that ensures that children and young people with additional needs or additional barriers will be able to participate in music making in ways that are high quality and fulfilling for them
  • The weight given to the importance of music activity in alternative provision settings (like Secure Children’s Homes and other places where YY&M musicians work)
  • The importance for Hub Lead Organisations to work with specialist partners and providers who have knowledge, skills and expertise to work in specific settings (which is what we do)
  • The emphasis on the creation of ‘musical communities’ which can take many forms; geography, musical preference, or the situation of members

We think there are some missed opportunities too:

  • Young people’s musical choices seem to be missing from the plan; we think young people should choose the instrument (or the technology) they like, and play and create the music that engages them. That doesn’t mean we want young people to have limited musical horizons – quite the opposite. We know that engagement needs to come first, and exploration can come later.
  • Music Technology; the report says that 25% of young people are ‘making music digitally’ and the creative and economic value of digital industries is emphasised, but this doesn’t seem to translate into an integrated approach to Music Tech in learning. It still seems to be separate from ‘instruments’ and ‘singing’ in the plan, whereas for young people it clearly isn’t, and as we live in an increasingly digital universe that is unlikely to change.

We’re glad there was a first National Plan for Music Education, and we’re glad there’s a refreshed one. But we also note this paper from the BJME which indicates that barriers to music-making have not really been lowered over 20 years. This cites young peoples choices, location of services, joined up working by organisations, affordability and progression, and transition from Primary to Secondary school. So there’s still a lot to do...

Time for change? Recurrent barriers to music education | British Journal of Music Education | Cambridge Core

Our mission here at YY&M is to remove the barriers to music-making for children facing the most challenging of circumstances here in our region and we will continue to support our local hubs in changing access to music education for the better.