‘Music is a lifesaver. Every child should have a chance to play’

Writing in the Guardian, Michele Hanson says that while the US is making music a core subject in schools, in Britain the system is in tatters.

It isn’t always clever to follow the example of Americans. They love guns, their steaks are too big, they fought against free healthcare, they’re more or less obliged to say their prayers, and a frightening number of them admire Donald Trump. But when it comes to music in schools, they are streets ahead of us. Because their Senate has just approved the Every Student Succeeds Act, which will reduce over-testing, return power to local districts, and make music a core subject. Yes, music!

No such luck here, with endless testing, teachers leaving in droves and the National Plan for Music Education in tatters. It promised that every child would learn a musical instrument. Fat chance. Try taking a child out of class for 15 minutes nowadays for an individual music lesson, as we used to in the 70s. They would miss some swotting for a test or wreck a target – and, anyway, what would the child play and how would they learn? What school could pay for instruments and one-to-one tuition? How could they ever build up an orchestra, for poor as well as rich?

Many do, because excellent teachers work themselves almost to breakdown, slaves to the dreaded music hubsoften on zero-hours contracts, because they know music is worth it…

Every child, from any background, should have a chance to play music if they so wish. And they all can. It’s a myth that music is difficult; a useful myth, for our tightwad, snobby government. Copy music, not war.

More at: Music is a lifesaver. Every child should have a chance to play


Do you agree with Michele Hanson that the state of music policy for our schools is in tatters?

How do you see the National Plan for Music Education, to which she refers, working out in practice?

And are things really that much better in the United States?

Please share your insights and experiences in the comments or via Twitter…

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  1. VictoriaJaquiss

    SchoolsImprove There’s a lot not to disagree with in this. Music MusicEdUK not just a nice idea, or an add-on – it shud be a right.

  2. StephenMcChrystal

    Music gave me everything. It gave me entertainment and pleasure on every imaginable level, it fostered my state of mind and gave me the life I wanted to lead. I started at junior school. There were weekly lessons and different levels of local orchestras. What now?

  3. Dr Anne James

    Having just completed a doctorate study of how we train primary teachers to teach music I can say that my findings point to a spiral of teachers with low confidence, weak role models and inconsistent practices in music in many schools. This is a national picture and I don’t see it being addressed by the National Plan. 
    Teacher educators were promised funding to run extra modules for music in training programmes – we have not seen these even though several universities trialed new modules to improve music teacher training in 2012.

    If we want music teaching to improve we need to train more confident and competent teachers and give all trainee teachers access to specialists in schools instead of making them undertake PPA activities whilst the music class happens.

    I have just spoken to a colleague from the USA where they have a music specialist in every primary school.

    The National Plan is all well and good but in reality it hasn’t impacted sufficiently on the core issues in my opinion.

  4. timmasonguitar

    SchoolsImprove pokey_hole Unfortunately, the feedback I get from parents is that getting quality instrumental teachers is hit and miss.

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