In December last year, The Guardian reported on the “unprecedented crisis” facing music education because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The article discussed the findings of a report by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) which stated there was “genuine cause for alarm” over the pandemics impact on music provisions including singing, instrumental lessons, extracurricular activities and end-of-term concerts.
This is a crisis that needs to be addressed and we can’t assume that it will get better now schools are re-open.
Whilst music education will undoubtedly be easier now than in was during the virtual learning days of lockdown, there is a danger that it won’t be prioritised, with many of the musical activities that were planned before the pandemic, not being picked up again.
The ISM findings discussed in The Guardian showed that during the pandemic:
- Extracurricular musical activities have been discontinued in 72% of UK primary schools and 66% of secondary schools.
- 53% of primaries and 63% of secondaries that normally hold a festive concert at the end of the first term of the academic year were not planning on doing so last year.
- 68% of primary school teachers and 39% of secondary school teachers reported a reduction in music provision.
- Almost 1 in 10 primary and secondary schools are not teaching music as part of the curriculum at all.
- Singing has ended in more than 38% of primary schools.
- 23% of instrumental lessons ceased altogether.
The reasons for many of these figures are clear and we must never underestimate the unprecedented situation schools were in last year. Of course, social distancing guidelines meant that holding a concert for parents would have been impossible.
However, it is vital that schools don’t inadvertently let go of music provisions completely because of the last year. Opportunities to incorporate musical activities into academic life need to be constantly assessed and rediscovered.
The reason this is critical is the overwhelming benefits to performance in lessons and wellbeing that music has been proven to have. As reported in the IE Today, Reigate Grammar School “found that students who learned a musical instrument achieved better results than their non-musician peers”.
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 in the article:
“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”.
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.
- In the past, 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).
- Children with learning disabilities or dyslexia who tend to lose focus with more noise could benefit greatly from music lessons.
- 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.
- Schools that have music programs have an attendance rate of 93.3% compared to 84.9% in schools without music programs.
It is undeniably clear that schools need to keep music at the forefront of their planning, doing so will encourage academic success and the development of skills and attributes that could directly influence their pupils’ future and current wellbeing.
The difficult question is how this can be achieved, when we are still restricted by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. One option is to consider alternative ways to undertake certain activities; whilst holding a concert where parents physically attend might not be possible, schools could consider livestreaming events. If the pupils performed within their existing bubbles, they would still get the experience of playing together, as well as the numerous benefits to their academic learning and mental health.
In addition to this, 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 those visits.
One of the most important features are the analytical tools that give schools the chance to assess who might want to play an instrument and who could be helped through music education. Increasing the opportunity for those pupils to achieve brilliant exam results and more.