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'The case for change' report launched

The ISM has released a major new report on challenges facing the music education workforce.

The case for change: The music education workforce in 2022 examines the working conditions of the music education workforce and makes positive recommendations for improving workplace conditions.

The report includes data from an ISM survey of peripatetic teachers working in schools across the UK, and finds casualisation in the music education workforce has taken hold over the past 20 years, with 72% of peripatetic teachers engaged on insecure zero-hours contracts. The report also finds a lack of professional respect for this part of the workforce in schools, further education and higher education settings.

It comes the week after ISM member Lesley Brazel won a landmark ruling in The Supreme Court on holiday pay after a nine-year battle. The Supreme Court ruling on 20 July 2022 in the case of Harpur Trust v Brazel made it clear that the amount of leave which part-year workers on a permanent contract are entitled to must not be pro-rated. Holiday pay must be calculated by taking the average weekly pay and multiplying it by 5.6. Mrs Brazel was supported throughout the case by the ISM and all ISM members have free of charge access to the ISM legal team.

The case for change focuses on the peripatetic instrumental and vocal workforce as well as academics working in further and higher education who have faced increasingly insecure contracts as a result of government policy, changing business models and funding cuts.

The findings highlight the negative impact of increased casualisation, which has resulted in many teachers being confused regarding their employment status and a lack of access to professional development. Such insecurity causes anxiety. Teachers’ rates of pay and their terms and conditions have been affected and yet many have found themselves required to undertake a significant amount of unpaid work and are experiencing a lack of professional respect at work. One respondent quoted in the report said, ‘The way we are paid and the way we are expected to work is very demoralising’ while another said, 'I am seriously considering leaving this profession and retraining due to the financial insecurity of this job as it is today.’

As well as placing employment rights and conditions under the microscope, The case for change explores the challenges that face freelancers and the self-employed.

Recommendations include (see recommendations in full on p.26 of the report):

  • The government should ensure that there are clearer statutory definitions of employment status and support widespread awareness and understanding of employment rights.
  • Organisations should expect to pay self-employed staff higher rates than salaried staff to reflect the fact that they are responsible for their own sick pay, holiday pay, pension and training costs.
  • Zero-hours contracts should not be used if there is a regular pattern of work or a regular number of hours on offer. Nor should they be used if an individual wants an employment contract that guarantees a minimum number of hours.
  • All teachers must have access to professional development regardless of their employment status.

Commenting ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said, ‘This new report is an important exploration of the music education workforce in 2022. During our research for the ISM’s influential Music: A subject in peril? report earlier this year we found much concern about working conditions that had to be investigated further.

The report The case for change finds concerning levels of casualisation and a lack of professional respect for our music education workforce. There is also confusion about employment status and rights. It’s clear that steps must be taken to improve condition, practices and pay for this sector.

The report is particularly timely following the publication last month of the refreshed National Plan for Music Education called The power of music to change lives and the mounting cost of living crisis which appears set to continue. Peripatetic instrumental teachers are a vital part of the wider music education eco-system, and without changes to their working conditions there is a concern as to whether the refreshed National Plan can be delivered successfully. We desperately need a properly paid music education workforce who are fully supported in the workplace and have access to good quality professional development. The same goes for those working in higher education where for too long there has been creeping casualisation.'