I read an article in The Guardian about music disappearing from the English school curriculum as research has shown the number of schools offering the subject at A-level (Advanced Level) is in sharp decline, and fewer students are taking Music at thirteen to sixteen years of age which I believe is down to the new English baccalaureate putting more emphasis on STEM subjects (Science, Technology and Maths) and a humanities plus a foreign language.
How long could it be before Geography or History and other humanities are considered subjects people can ‘study outside of school hours’ and they get dropped, and why not? You can read these books alone outside of school! The majority of 16-year-olds are now expected to stay in compulsory 16-18 education but the options for what you can study is becoming restricted to what ‘The Government’ want to pay for. I’d love to read your opinion even if it differs from mine.
With music, you need help to read the musical language and set you off on how to play musical instruments. Music technology has also declined by more than 32% in the last two years. The problem with only offering music ‘out of school hours’ is the cost for parents and I suspect that if checked the schools that don’t offer a full music provision are those in most deprived areas. In 2012, when I left school, music was a compulsory subject for 11-13 year-olds (up to Year 8), this survey says it is only compulsory in 47.5% of schools now. Music department staffing has fallen by 36% which is a concern for music graduates as a whole employment route is being closed down. Humans don’t just make music for work and career purposes, for many it is their enjoyment, their hobby, a way of socialising and meeting likeminded groups of people.
At my primary school basic singing took place in groups but if you wanted to play an instrument you had to pay extra for a half-hour lesson during breaks or after school. At High School musical instrument tuition and solo singing were outside of the music lessons, I have been truly blessed that my parents paid for these classes but they were supplemented with free GCSE’s (General Certificates in Education) in contemporary dance, drama, and music and I doubt you could fund sufficient lessons privately that would be required without any performing arts in the curriculum and you would be missing out as a student in key skills.
I was the only student taking Music A (Advanced) level at my 6th Form college 16-18 so I took the lessons in a BTEC music group (which is mainly performance based without the music literacy) which restricted the academic rigour of the Advanced Level course and once again my parents stepped in to pay for several private lessons to fill the gaps I discovered I had after my first year of study, this is not to take anything away from my music teachers they were both wonderful, however, they didn’t have the time or funds to help any more than they did. I would not like to have started at a music conservatoire without the full music theory grounding, in fact I’m not sure I would have got in.
Perhaps we in England may need to stop school 6th forms if they can’t offer a full enriching curriculum. Then channel all 16-year-olds into County colleges to consolidate several schools A level cohort (16-18-year-old) giving more student numbers per course? What do you think?
We now have the UK Government deciding what English pupils learn, I wonder how many of them have Music degrees? Perhaps this is a new job prospect for music graduates – enter politics in order to ensure creatives are represented in the seat of power.
I would add that both of my brothers are in professions considered ‘academic’ STEM-related study areas now, yet both were allowed to study the performing arts, Drama and Dance and both took singing lessons and this has enriched their characters, enabled them to enjoy working in teams, and given them the ability to make presentations to big groups of people without too much fear. Both of them still ballroom dance and most of all it taught them persistence, dedication, and not to give up on hard to learn skills. The arts can also provide a relief from stress and is good for their mental health and well being that they can find escapes in art and creative pursuits.
During my studies and training, I have found the help of my music teachers and mentors invaluable, they have each guided my development and progression to date and helped me achieve goals that would have been unattainable without them. I am currently studying with Rosa Mannion who is both an inspiration and encouraging taskmaster. We are currently studying together the importance of the soft palette in vocal technique and I’m excited to hear more about her research and put into practice the recommendations.