Deborah Annetts' speech to Westminster Education Forum Jump to main content

Deborah Annetts' speech to Westminster Education Forum

ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts has delivered a speech to the Westminster Education Forum as part of a panel discussion.

The subject for the panel was 'Priorities for the music education workforce - managing workload, recruitment and retention, and the likely impact of ITT reform' and speeches were followed by a question & answer session.

Topics discussed included the treatment of peris and VMTs in schools. Experiences of being charged for use of classrooms and not being given access to the staff room were raised.

Deborah's contribution used information from the ISM's legal team, surveys and research that we have conducted.

Also on the panel were Simon Toyne, President, Music Teachers’ Association; and Executive Director, Music, David Ross Education Trust, Chris Walters, National Organiser, Education and Health & Wellbeing, Musicians’ Union and Lindsay Ibbotson, Project Lead, First Thing Music; and Honorary Research Fellow, Durham School of Education. The session was chaired by Lord Watson, Shadow Education Minister.

Full text of the speech

Next steps for music education and implementing the new curriculum

I am not going to talk about how the refreshed National Plan for Music Education and model music curriculum might help or hinder music in our schools. However, before I get into the detail of what is happening with the workforce, I would like to share with you the core change which we believe the Department for Education (DfE) should do right now. As many of you will know the ISM has been calling for reform of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) since it was introduced. The fall in arts uptake at GCSE over 2014 – 2021 has been dramatic with music down 17%.

We need a more diverse approach than just a knowledge-rich curriculum. We need to reform accountability measures such as Progress 8 so that arts education can be supported and not restricted, and to allow for parity of subject status. Reducing the number of subjects included in such measures to maths, English and science – a Progress 5 – would help maintain the broad and balanced curriculum until the end of Key Stage 4 and allow pupils more flexibility in their subject choices to better reflect their interests, talents and future plans.

This would also be good for the music workforce who would feel more valued by both Government and by the schools in which they teach.

The ISM has carried out a huge amount of research into the challenges facing music teachers. Indeed, just yesterday, we were in The Supreme Court arguing that hourly paid music teachers should receive their full entitlement to holiday pay under the Working Time Regulations. We have been supporting ISM member Lesley Brazel since 2013 in her holiday pay case. She works part-time, teaching clarinet and saxophone at an independent school operated by The Harpur Trust. Like many VMTs and Peris, Mrs Brazel has a permanent ‘zero-hour style’ employment contract, so there are no guaranteed minimum hours. The case has huge implications for how music teachers are treated, and we are keeping our fingers crossed for a positive outcome.

As you will know since 2011 the overall number of teachers has in general not kept pace with increasing pupil numbers. Since 2010, recruitment numbers for teacher trainees in music education have consistently fallen below the target. And to make matters worse, while bursary offers changed dramatically for the 2021/22 trainee cohort, bursaries in music for the 2021/22 cohort were cut to zero. This is not exactly a positive signal being sent by Government to the sector.

In December 2020 the ISM released the – ‘The heart of the school is missing’ which drew together over 1,300 music teachers’ experiences from across the UK and they explained how the pandemic has caused significant disruption to our education system.

The headline findings were as follows:

● Music provision was reduced as a direct result of COVID-19
● Almost 10% of primary and secondary schools were not teaching class music at all, even though it is a requirement of the curriculum
● 68% of primary school teachers and 39% of secondary school teachers reported a reduction in music provision as a direct result of the pandemic
● The study found that 8% of primary schools and 9% of secondary schools had removed classroom music completely for some or all year groups as a result of COVID-19
● Teachers’ workloads had increased due to the pandemic because they had to rewrite schemes of work due to COVID-19.

One teacher told us;

‘It’s been decimated!... I now only work with two-year groups for music… I am teaching maths and English interventions for the rest of the time… I’ve lost my studio which is now a staffroom’

Our in-house legal team have seen their workloads double over the past 18 months, so we have taken on more staff to address the huge need in the music community for legal help. I asked my legal colleagues for their perspective as to what is going on and these are their thoughts:

● Generally, there are more often workload issues if teachers are working for a music service. Now music services are demanding more from their teachers and for less money
● There is a big issue regarding employment status in the music education sector. The independent school sector and music services are telling teachers they are self-employed when they are workers or employees. Self-employment status means that music teachers don’t get National Insurance contributions, sick pay, or holiday pay. Teachers are fearful that if they raise the issue, they simply won’t receive any more work
● There is no regulator in employment law – the onus is on the teacher to raise a complaint which can lead to victimization
● The ISM is currently receiving a lot of cases about the conditions music teachers are expected to work in. Music teachers are often last in the line for room allocation and are frequently left to teach in spaces without heating or ventilation. This is the same for self-employed or employed teachers. There is a feeling that music is always last in the queue

In our last survey of peris from July 2021, zero-hours contracts were normal for VMTS and Peris with 72% saying they were on one, while 9% were unsure. Two-thirds earned less than £20,000 per year as music teachers.

So this is a workforce where more and more is expected of them and yet they work in poor conditions for low wages on insecure zero-hour contracts. The Government is saying that it does not wish to consult with music teachers about the revised National Plan for Music Education. This is all of a piece. With a workforce this badly treated, it is hardly surprising that the Government does not wish to consult with them about what they will be asking them to do in the future.

Speech ends