Music Education for all Children?

As budget cuts see weekly music lessons scrapped from an Essex school, what does the future of music education look like in the UK?

Famously, plenty of schools in Finland lay the foundations for practising music very early on in a child’s schooling. Teachers provide pupils with instruments and they are encouraged to continue playing alongside their other lessons. This approach has been adopted by Gallions Primary School in East London. With a successful integration of music into the curriculum, all students have the opportunity to learn an instrument for free.

It is not a specialist music school, rather their ethos promotes learning through creativity. In addition to specific lessons, music is incorporated as an aid to support other lessons. For example, the use of number songs has proven to be extremely effective when teaching younger year groups, especially considering the 67% of children for whom English is not their first language.

Gallions have found that children are reaping the benefits of a comprehensive music program. From the definition of motor skills, to expanding creativity, to developing a true sense of perseverance, there are plenty of developmental advantages to working with music. However, this area of learning is at threat. Gallions seem to be a rare exception to the general trend.

This trend seems to be the deterioration of music in the curriculum, with more traditional academic subjects taking precedence. In her Guardian article, Charlotte C Gill explores the notion that music education is only accessible for children from privileged backgrounds. She notes that the music industry as a whole contributes hugely to the UK economy, but that this is not reflected in education. This became particularly evident with the introduction of the English baccalaureate in 2010, pushing music even further back on the agenda.

The issue, Gill explains, is that the widely documented benefits of music for young people are being ignored. As evidenced at Gallions Primary School, children’s developmental progress is heavily influenced by this genre of art.

A shift is taking place from free music to private lessons paid for by parents. This obviously is only accessible to privileged families, leaving the vast majority out. It also makes music more academic for those who are lucky enough to study it, rather than the looser, more explorative methods used by such schools as Gallions. Therefore, music is only a real option for academically intelligent, wealthy children, which is obviously a huge concern.

Stephen Moss, in his article, further argues that music shouldn’t just be for the most privileged in society. Why should the majority be prevented access to something potentially hugely valuable to their overall development – both academically and personally. His approach very much supports the way in which Gallions are implementing music into the heart of their school. He also shows much support for the Finnish creative education system, putting music at the foundation of schooling. Music doesn’t need to be academic or elitist, it should function simply as a way for children to further explore their creativity, their motor skills, a sense of collaboration, and their practical capabilities. It allows free experimentation and establishes a sense of equality, something very much lacking in the current framework.

We’d love to hear about some positive ways in which music has been incorporated into your setting. Perhaps budget cuts have meant getting creative! Comment on our Facebook post with your examples.