Reforms and redundancies kill off music in state schools

Education Editor,Richard Garner
Monday 27 December 2010 01:00

The future of music in state schools is in peril, with councils across the country laying off music teachers ahead of swingeing cuts to budgets.

Teachers and heads of local authority music services have already been threatened with redundancy as a result of the Coalition Government's squeeze on council spending.

At least 64 councils – one in four – have already issued redundancy notices to staff, according to the Incorporated Society of Musicians.

Deborah Annetts, its chief executive, who also chairs the Music Education Council, said: "Hardly a day goes by when we don't hear of a new threat to music services.

"It can be redundancy or it can be changes to teachers' conditions – leaving them with less hours."

Professor Sue Hallam, of London University's Institute of Education, and a former professional musician, added: "Music education always suffers when there are cuts. It is seen by some as a Cinderella service – although it is not. The long-term consequences can be completely disastrous."

The redundancies are the first part of a four-pronged assault on music education in the new year. In addition, funding of £82.5m a year specifically aimed at providing music education will cease in March.

The third threat comes from the decision to wipe out all funding for the teaching of arts and humanities courses at university – which will mean they will be solely dependent on finance from student fees.

Universities and music colleges will be drawing up their plans for charges early in the new year, and education experts believe the decision will force them to levy higher higher charges for arts courses than for maths, science and technology – which will still receive government funding.

Even conservative estimates believe the charge will be over £7,000 a year, resulting in a dearth of applicants.

"Already you've got a shortage of primary school teachers trained in music," said Carole Lindsay-Douglas, the secretary of the School Music Association. "We're going to get to a case of the blind leading the blind."

The fourth threat comes from Education Secretary Michael Gove's decision to bring in a new English baccalaureate certificate for students who get five A* to C grade passes in English, maths, science, a modern or ancient foreign language and a humanities subject.

Music students have been declared ineligible for the new baccalaureate certificate – which will be awarded for the first time in 2012. "This is deeply worrying," said Ms Annetts. "With the arts as a whole being excluded from the baccalaureate proposals, what can this mean for the curriculum review?"

Mrs Lindsay-Douglas said: "I think We're in danger of creating a divide between the state school system and the public schools, which value music very highly and teach to very high standards."

The Coalition Government is also under fire for its decision to scrap £13m of funding for a scheme which saw new parents supplied with free books to encourage a love of reading. The money was given to a charity called Booktrust. The decision was criticised yesterday by the author Philip Pullman as an "unforgivable disgrace" and by the former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion as "an act of gross cultural vandalism".

The Government appeared to perform a U-turn yesterday evening, saying it would now look at ways to develop a replacement programme.

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