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Music: A subject in peril?

10 years on from the first National Plan for Music Education

The ISM's education report Music: A subject in peril?, published as we await the government's refreshed National Plan for Music Education (NPME), presents the findings from a survey of music teachers across the country. In the absence of any meaningful consultation with teachers on the contents of the refreshed NPME by the Department for Education, the ISM invited teachers to share their experiences and views with us directly.

Over 500 primary, secondary and peripatetic music teachers from all types of settings responded to our survey. Their responses tell a heartbreaking tale of the neglect and marginalisation of music in schools over the past decade. The report also makes recommendations based on its findings about what the government must do to address these issues.

Read the executive summary

It has been more than 10 years since the National Plan for Music Education (NPME) was published, 12 years since the introduction of the EBacc, and seven years since the introduction of Progress 8, all of which follows years of cuts to education spending. Schools are now attempting to recover from two years of serious disruption due to COVID-19, which impacted music provision across the country. Meanwhile, we await the long-anticipated refreshed NPME, due to be published in Spring 2022.

Read the report recommendations

The recommendations of this report relate to the current situation in school music departments in England, the continued decline of music in schools and the measures which need to be put in place to address them, including teachers’ own suggestions.

Headlines from the report include:

  • After years of underfunding for schools, ‘Music: A subject in peril?’ gives voice to devastating testimony from music teachers on the state of music education.
  • Teachers told us in stark detail about the serious inequality at the heart of music education.
  • Music teachers also call for reform of accountability measures such Progress 8 and EBacc which ‘have done huge damage to music in schools… resulting in courses not running and music departments shrinking.’
  • A staggering 99% of those who responded to the ISM survey want to be consulted on the refreshed NPME before it is implemented as originally promised by the DfE. The DfE now say they will not be doing this.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said:

‘I cannot overstate the importance of the ISM’s new report, ‘Music: a subject in peril?’. Hundreds of music teachers took the time to tell us their experiences in the classroom and this report is an honest reflection of their experiences.

This is a critical time for music education with the refreshed National Plan for Music Education due any time now. Although the Plan has an important part to play in the future of music education, it will not be able to fix the issues which the report uncovers. We call on the DfE to adopt the recommendations of the report which can be found here.

In particular we need to address the huge inequalities in music education which are rooted in inadequate funding, and there needs to be a fundamental overhaul of the accountability measures, in particular Progress 8.

What is clear is that our music teachers are dedicated and passionate and they know what good music education is. The Department for Education must commit to a full consultation on the refreshed National Plan for Music Education before implementation.’

If you have any questions about the report or would like any further information, please contact the ISM's Head of External Affairs, Colin Stuart, at [email protected].

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