Music's future in school under threat

Autumn is shaping up to be one of the busiest ever for the ISM. I have recently been invited to give several speeches about pressing issues facing our sector. Some of these relate to copyright and how creators earn their living. Others have focused on music education, and it is music’s future in school that has been causing me some of the greatest concern.

On 17 September 2012. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, announced his intention to replace GCSE with something called ‘the full English Baccalaureate’. The effect of this proposal will be to downgrade the place of music and other creative subjects in children’s education. The ISM will be making sure that we respond strongly. However, everyone including every single ISM member needs to play their part, if we are to safeguard our children’s creative futures.

Whatever one may think about the GCSEs, at least pupils had the opportunity to select areas of study which suited their interests and vocational ambitions. The new English Baccalaureate (EBacc) pressures them to make choices based on a restrictive structure. Only if pupils achieve a certificate in five subject areas namely maths, English, science, languages (ancient and modern) and humanities (defined only as history or geography) will they get the EBacc certificate. So, for any young person choosing to study music or indeed subjects such as art, drama or design and technology, this will harm their efforts to secure the certificate. In fact, we have already seen schools reducing what they offer to pupils as they refocus on the EBacc subjects.

Not only is the EBacc bad for children, it is also bad for the economy. Our creative industries are world-beaters – they contribute 6% of GDP, employ two million people and export over £16 billion annually. Music alone contributes £5 billion of this to the UK economy. That is why employers through the CBI and the Creative Industries Council have criticised the absence of creative and cultural subjects from the EBacc league table.

If GCSEs are to be reformed, then this must be done carefully, taking account of the needs, not just of progression and academic attainment, but also the emotional and social benefits which come from pupils studying a broad range of subjects.

Musicians and all those working in the creative sector must, with one voice, urge the Government to include a sixth pillar as proposed by Darren Henley in his Cultural Education Review. It is for this reason that the ISM has launched a campaign whose aim is to bring together voices from across the creative sector to put pressure on Government and stop these ill thought out plans.

You can add your voice by signing our petition atbaccforthefuture.com.

We must build momentum and make the Government listen. If we do not, not only will our children suffer but also our art and our economy. Please help.

Many thanks

Deborah Annetts
ISM Chief Executive