Out of tune: The impact of COVID-19 on music in schools Jump to main content

Out of tune: The impact of COVID-19 on music in schools

I am delighted that the ISM is publishing our report entitled The heart of the school is missing, which investigates the impact of Covid-19 on music teaching in schools in the UK. We listened to the views of over 1,300 music teachers from across the UK in September and October and they explained how the pandemic has caused significant disruption to our education system.

We are disappointed but not surprised to discover that music provision is being reduced in our schools as a direct result of the pandemic, with opportunities for pupils to make and create music becoming severely limited both in and out of the classroom. Our survey findings suggest all aspects of music education are being impacted including singing in schools, practical music making, instrumental learning and examinations.

It is vital that every child can access a quality music education. Therefore there needs to be sustained and meaningful leadership across all levels of government, actively encouraging safe music teaching in schools and in the wider community. We need to see clear, timely and consistent guidance across all four nations for the rest of the 2020/21 academic year and beyond so that music education is not disrupted further. If we do not do this then not only will less privileged children go without, but the heart of the school will be damaged in the long term.

Studying music must not become the preserve of the privileged few but this research has highlighted worrying inequalities for pupils at a local and national level. In particular, tighter restrictions in Scotland have prevented pupils continuing lessons in the same way that their peers have elsewhere in the UK. Elsewhere, a postcode lottery has developed for the cost of instrumental tuition which is contributing to an unacceptable and widening gap between those who could afford instrumental tuition and those who could not.

However, it cannot be forgotten that this crisis is affecting teachers as well as pupils. It is clear from these results that teachers are working incredibly hard, showing immense creativity in constantly adapting to provide continuous access to music for young people. But this extraordinary commitment comes at a cost. The health and well-being of music teachers is being negatively affected by the changes they are experiencing in the delivery of classroom and extra-curricular music. The benefits of music for tackling anxiety, stress and depression are well documented, so now more than ever it is crucial that the well-being of music teachers is being properly considered and that they are effectively supported by school leaders.

Going forward, the ISM will continue to argue that a broad and balanced curriculum must be delivered in all schools whatever their status across all four nations of the UK. And part of that board and balanced curriculum must be music. There are also other challenges, from seeking clarification about ambiguous guidance for schools to keeping bursaries for trainees through lobbying the Department for Education. We remain tireless in calling for music to be properly funded and reversing damaging policies that create gaps in attainment and participation between poorer pupils and their peers. Young people deserve access to a world class music education, sustained over a period of time to enable them to progress, and flourish and the ISM will always be at the forefront of campaigning to make that happen.

Deborah Annetts

Chief Executive, ISM