#CanDoMusic campaign calls on government to reinstate bursaries for trainee music teachers

Children should have the music education to which they are entitled

The ISM, MTA and Music Mark have written to the government to express concerns about the reported removal of postgraduate bursaries for Initial Teacher Training in Music. Unless urgent action is taken with teacher recruitment, music could disappear entirely from many schools.

  • Government targets for teacher recruitment have been missed for the past seven years and the musical experience of children in schools across the UK is already desperate.
  • The ISM’s State of the Nation report highlighted that music is no longer taught across the three years of Key Stage 3 in half of state-funded secondary schools.
  • This in turn has led to an alarming 20% decline in the numbers of students being able to take GCSE Music since 2015 and it is now the fastest disappearing subject at A Level, with a 38% drop since 2010.

The need to attract the finest musicians to teaching is the greatest it has ever been. Schools are the only places where young people are guaranteed to receive music education (it is a statutory requirement until the end of Year 9) and so it is vital that lessons are accessible and meaningful. The surest way of achieving this is through recruiting outstanding teachers.

Commenting on the joint letter, ISM Chief Executive, Deborah Annetts, said:

‘It is vital that every child can access a quality music education. Without continued and appropriate levels of funding for teacher training, we risk damaging our children’s music education. We strongly encourage the government to reinstate postgraduate bursaries for Initial Teacher Training in Music to make sure that music is at the heart of the recovery curriculum rather than just an afterthought.’

‘The benefits of music for tackling anxiety, stress and depression in young people are well documented, so now more than ever it is crucial that mental health problems and existing inequalities are not exacerbated through a lack of funding.’


Commenting on the joint letter, CEO of Music Mark, Bridget Whyte said:

‘The music department in a secondary school can often be one of the largest as it will include all the visiting instrumental teachers and workshop leaders who support the curriculum staff. But the department needs the strong foundation provided by at least one skilled music teacher who can plan and deliver an inspiring music curriculum and coordinate (and co-deliver) the extra-curricular opportunities which bring the school community together. Like the Music Education Hubs in England, which are a partnership of organisations including schools, who provide an exciting and enriching music education for children and young people across a local area, the school music department is a hub for their pupils, as well as the wider school community including staff, parents and carers, as well as the pupils and staff at feeder primary schools. If the pathway into the profession is restricted to those who can afford to train, the music education ecosystem in many schools will be severely affected. The government must reconsider their decision or their expectation that every student will have access to a broad and balanced curriculum which includes music (as well as other arts and humanities subjects) will become a postcode lottery.’

Commenting on the joint letter, President of the MTA, Simon Toyne said:

‘In schools, the single biggest influencer on children and young people’s musicianship is the music teacher. Outstanding music teachers form outstanding music departments. And where there is an outstanding music department, the school itself is outstanding. The impact of an outstanding music teacher, therefore, goes beyond a single music lesson to school communities at large.


‘The need to attract the finest musicians, representing the socio-economic and ethnic diversity of the country, to work as music teachers, is the greatest it has ever been.

‘Unless urgent action is taken with teacher recruitment, we are concerned that music in schools will only be available to the schools fortunate enough to employ a music teacher out of an ever decreasing pool. It could disappear entirely from many schools.

‘We urge the government to rethink its decision, and to reinstate bursaries for music teacher trainees that have been afforded other STEM subjects. We also offer the services of our organisations to help the government promote music teaching, which we believe to be one of the most rewarding jobs possible.’

Notes to Editors

The #CanDoMusic campaign was launched earlier this year by the ISM, MTA and Music Mark to protect music in schools. Its mission is to celebrate the innovation of music teachers and to share practical resources that will deliver music in engaging new ways.

The joint letter can be found here.

The ISM’s State of the Nation report can be read here.

More information about Music uptake for GCSEs and A-levels.

Government statistics on recruitment to initial teacher training can be seen here.

About the ISM

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is the UK's professional body for musicians and a nationally-recognised subject association for music. Since 1882, we have been dedicated to promoting the importance of music and protecting the rights of those working in the music profession.

We support over 10,000 music professionals across the UK and Ireland with our unrivalled legal advice and representation, comprehensive insurance and specialist services. Our members come from all areas of the music profession and from a wide variety of genres and musical backgrounds.

We campaign tirelessly in support of musicians’ rights, music education and the profession as a whole. We are a financially independent not-for-profit organisation with no political affiliation. This independence allows us the freedom to campaign on any issue affecting musicians.

For more information, please contact [email protected]

About Music Mark

The UK Association for Music Education - Music Mark a membership organisation and Subject Association for all those who support its vision of excellent musical learning in and out of school for all children and young people in the UK which inspires and enriches their lives. We aim to support our members through training and resources, help to connect them with colleagues across the UK through newsletters and events, and influence on their behalf at a national level.

About the MTA

The Music Teachers’ Association is the largest and longest established association of music teachers in the UK, supporting all who are connected with a school music department.

It is the Mission of the Music Teachers’ Association to provide first-class training, support and networking opportunities to all those who work in Music Education. Through our Teaching Notes podcast, outstanding publications and our exceptional Annual Conference and CPD programme, we inspire a membership which passionately believes that schools and their students’ lives are deeply enriched by high quality music provision.