Schools may be open but the impact of the pandemic is still being felt in the music classroom. Earlier this year Furlong reported on the growing crisis in music education due to Covid-19. Sadly it looks as if the effects are going to be long-lasting and we are urging all our school partners to keep raising the topic with all key stakeholders and influencers in a bid to save music education.
In December 2020 the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) showed that during the pandemic extracurricular musical activities were discontinued in 72% of UK primary schools and 66% of secondary schools and that overall 68% of primary school teachers and 39% of secondary school teachers reported a reduction in music provision. Very sadly, almost 1 in 10 primary and secondary schools were not teaching music as part of the curriculum at all, singing ended in more than 38% of primary schools and 23% of instrumental lessons ceased altogether.
This is a sad state of affairs, but some may say, understandable considering the restrictions that schools were facing due to the pandemic. However, what is more worrying is that even after lockdown has been lifted there is strong evidence that things are not returning to pre-pandemic normality.
Even before Covid-19, music teachers were facing a challenging time in the classroom, as policy makers had been questioning the value of music and other arts subjects in the curriculum and we know that numbers on examination courses were in rapid decline (All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education (APPGME 2019). On top of this, as we have seen, due to the necessary changes that were made in schools to facilitate less movement around school estates and teaching in ‘bubbles’, much music education was adapted or even suspended to enable other ‘mainstream’ subjects to be prioritised.
"the situation for music teachers in schools continues to be perilous”
Dr Anthony Anderson, Research Assistant in Music Education at Birmingham City University researched these changes and reported (2021) that due in part to the physical restrictions of accessing music resources or sharing musical instruments, “Music Education Hubs have struggled to realise pre-Covid levels of engagement in music-making” and that “the situation for music teachers in schools continues to be perilous”. Anderson goes on to report that “The impact on young people of this approach is significant, with teachers describing disengagement and a lack of music-making amongst the young people that they teach”
As many schools will attest, the creativity shown by music teachers who are desperate to teach, has been remarkable. However, as Anderson notes, we must be concerned about the “cultural impoverishment” in our schools as a result of this on-going crisis.
Most schools are fully aware that this crisis in music education could also have a serious impact on the wider development of each child. As we reported previously, Reigate Grammar School found that students who learned a musical instrument achieved better results than their non-musician peers, their data shows that:
36% of students who learnt a musical instrument achieved A*s in their A-levels, compared to just 28% percent for non-musicians. In addition to this, 43% of musical instrument-learning students achieved A grades, in comparison to 36% for non-musicians.
When the schools analysed pupils playing more than 1 type of musical instrument, 58% of these students achieved an A*.
As Shaun Fenton, Head of Reigate Grammar School states:
“It is data like this that reaffirms my commitment to provide a wealth of musical opportunities in the curriculum, through learning an instrument, through choirs and ensembles, through house events and more”.
music education can directly influence pupils’ current or future learning and wellbeing
In addition to analysis in the UK, International studies showcased on dosomething.org, have shown that children who study music tend to have larger vocabularies and more advanced reading skills than their peers who do not participate in music lessons. We also know that secondary students who participated in a music group at school reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances (tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs). The benefits go further than this as remarkably, young children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year, compared to children who do not receive musical training and children with learning disabilities or dyslexia, who tend to lose focus with more noise, could benefit greatly from music lessons.
The policy makers who have questioned the value of music in education could do well to take heed of this research, together with the point that schools that teach music have an attendance rate of 93.3% compared to 84.9% in schools where music is not available.
Schools clearly need to keep music healthy and active within the school curriculum, not only to encourage academic success but for the development of wider skills that could directly influence their pupils’ current or future learning and wellbeing.
Software can facilitate prioritising music education scheduling
Many schools are turning to software and automation to help facilitate music education in an increasingly complex school environment. Platforms such as our music management software Maestro can be used for resource booking and ensemble scheduling to strategically plan instrument practices to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Tools dedicated to visiting music teachers also means you can carefully plan external visits safely whilst still ensuring you get the most from them. And of course, with safeguarding in mind, it is possible to track the movements of students around the school at all times.
An important feature of Maestro is the analytical tool that gives schools the chance to assess who might want to play an instrument and who could be helped through music education. This increases the opportunity for pupils to achieve excellent exam results but also to benefit from all the wider benefits that music education brings. The entire system can significantly aid communication between parents, staff, VMTs and students plus the advantages it will bring will not only benefit the music department but will bring harmony to the whole school!
At Furlong, we are passionate about the need for music education in schools. If you want to find out more about how Maestro can help your school to ensure that music education stays a priority for all, click here to book or email
firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1264 354 111 to find out more.