UK school removes music lessons from curriculum

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

A school in Essex has decided to remove weekly music lessons for pupils aged between 11 and 13 due to budget cuts. Joyce Frankland Academy’s head teacher, Gordon Farquhar, told the BBC: “I don’t think we want to reduce any subject provision. Unfortunately in this situation I have a music teacher who left, so that has made me have to review the situation.” By cutting out music, Farquhar said the school can “be creative, and can continue to protect all the other subjects”.

A Department for Education spokeswoman commented that: “The core schools budget has been protected in real terms since 2010 and is set to rise from £41bn in 2017-18 to more than £42bn in 2019-20 with increasing pupil numbers.”

It’s this protection for ‘core’ subjects that has been gaining a lot of attention amongst the creative industries and musical education institutes. We’ve heard many warnings over the last year about the effects giving less emphasis on creative subjects will have to students, and eventually the creative industries in the UK.

This latest news appears to confirm what the likes of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and its Bacc For the Future campaign has been warning the government about. The school’s music lesson axe comes just two weeks after stats revealed that EBacc subjects are at an all-time high as fewer pupils are taking creative subjects.

In 2017, there were 3.85 million entries for the EBacc subjects, compared to 3.54 million last year, a rise of 9 per cent. As a result of this shift, the number of non-EBacc subjects has fallen, including creative subjects like music, art and drama. The number of pupils taking music at GCSE level saw a drop, from 41,850 to 38,750 between 2016 and 2017.

The Secretary of State must listen to the evidence and the teachers on the front line.

Bacc for the Future

A spokesperson from Bacc for the Future said: “These new figures confirm that the EBacc is having a devastating effect on the uptake of creative subjects at GCSE and A Level. “This evidence, on top of research published by the University of Sussex identifying the negative impact the EBacc is specifically as having on the provision of and uptake of music in schools, needs urgent attention from the Government.

“The Secretary of State must listen to the evidence and the teachers on the front line and scrap the EBacc in its current form before any more damage is done.”

Affordable Options

The Essex school is a perfect example of how it is becoming increasingly difficult for educational organisations to balance their budgets to keep creative subjects in the curriculum. But there are those out there who are trying to create ways to help provide resources to schools that are struggling.

Birmingham singing teacher Sarah Baker recently scooped an award for the creation of a music piece aimed at primary schools in the city who may not have the resources to offer music education to their pupils.

Baker, a vocal composer with Birmingham charity, Services for Education, has over 20 years’ experience of teaching singing in primary schools in the city. Her creation, ‘The Backwater Pirate and His Hairy Chest’, won her £1,000 through a competition organised by publishing house Lindsay Music and ISM.

“Any form of musical expression is so important for children and I encourage everyone to explore something new,” said Baker. “We are seeing more and more cuts to school funding, especially within the music sector, so I wanted to create a piece that is financially accessible for all schools.”

‘The Backwater Pirate and His Hairy Chest’ is 40 minutes long and includes a script, music and lyrics, which will be available for schools at the end of the year. As part of the win, Baker is expected to donate half the prize money to her chosen charity, which is Services for Education. The money will help the charity continue to provide vocal resources to primary schools across Birmingham and the West Midlands.

Any form of musical expression is so important for children.

Sarah Baker, singing teacher.

“We are thrilled for Sarah, and what she is trying to achieve in primary schools across the country is truly inspiring,” said Ciaran O’ Donnell, head of Music Service at Services for Education. “Working within schools, we recognise the impact music can have on a child’s development – socially and academically, which is why it is so important to bring children together through music.

“Under our current fundraising programme, we are able to double Sarah’s donation, so I want to thank Sarah again for her support.”

The Ebacc Effect

ISM says the cuts to school budgets has thrown the harmful impact of the EBacc into sharp focus.

In response to Joyce Frankland Academy’s music cuts Deborah Annetts, chief executive of ISM and founder of the Bacc for the Future campaign said: “The news that a school has felt under pressure to remove music from the timetable for Year 7 and 8 to balance their budget is becoming common, as revealed in research and also personal testimony from teachers at the Telegraph Festival of Education.

“Although the headmaster at this Essex Academy is trying hard to keep GCSE music as an option in the school with the introduction of a few music days, the removal of music from the timetable is severely limiting the opportunities open to children at this important stage of their education.

“Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Ofsted, was absolutely correct at the Telegraph Festival of Education last week when she said, “We have a full and coherent national curriculum and it seems to me a huge waste not to use it properly. The idea that children will not, for example, hear or play the great works of classical musicians or learn about the intricacies of ancient civilisations – all because they are busy preparing for a different set of GCSEs – would be a terrible shame. All children should study a broad and rich curriculum. Curtailing key stage 3 means prematurely cutting this off for children who may never have an opportunity to study some of these subjects again.”


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