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Bridget’s Blog: Ensuring the Future of Music Education

12th March 2024

Bridget is wearing a black blazer, a blue and white polka dot shirt, and a Music Mark badge.

As I recently flicked through the latest doormat flyer from one of the political parties who wants my vote I noted that there is never any mention of arts education within these promotional pamphlets. I know that there are some very important topics current and potential MPs will want us to hear their views on – health, social care, housing, the environment and even education more broadly – but for me Music Mark’s vision is paramount: Accessible, excellent musical learning in and out of school for all young people which inspires and enriches their lives.

I will very happily talk for hours on this topic, of the transformative power of music, how it supports wider learning, social skills, has health benefits – both physical and mental – and of course how it is an important academic and extra-curricular subject in its own right. However, short of catching a canvassing politician unawares, as we head towards the next general election, I don’t think I will get hours with current or potential MPs!

Whilst it is reassuring that when there is a reshuffle or a change of government the civil servants remain constant, with every change, there is the worry that few MPs will be experts in the policy area they are appointed to and even if a minister has had some experience of education it is even less likely that they will have the knowledge and more importantly the understanding of the power of music. So what can we do to educate all those who would like to run the country?

Recognising that there won’t be many opportunities for long conversations, although I’m delighted to report a few Music Service and Hub Leaders have been able to talk to their local MPs at length recently, what is needed is a simple ‘lift pitch’. That is, we all need to have a clear statement or set of statements which encompass all that we would want from the next government for children and young people’s musical learning.

Last week we published what we feel are the six key areas a new Secretary of State and their team of Ministers (whatever colour of government we end up with) should focus on. I need to practise my ‘lift pitch’ but we’ve aimed to distill all the conversations we’ve had in the past 6 months into a clear set of asks. We’ve tested them on the membership at our Big Meet a couple of weeks ago and tried to keep the headlines to one page.

I am working with our political consultant – Mark Pemberton – to try and get an audience with a few key MPs in the various political parties, and will go armed with this paper and my pitch. However, I also hope it will be useful to our membership. Not everyone in the membership can lobby (and Music Mark cannot lobby either because of our Local Authority Members), but those who can talk to their MPs may find it useful to have a set of ‘asks’. And a common message – for us all to be saying the same headlines, even if we embellish them with more local flavour and our own case studies. Hopefully, this unified ask will help to provide a clear message of what is needed and why.

And then we just have to hope that when the MPs are shuffled into their roles, those we have spoken to will both remember the conversations and be ready to hear more from Music Mark (and our other national colleagues) as we start to hold them to their election promises, even if they were not on those promotional pamphlets!

If you’d like to see what we’ve been sending our current government to advocate for the music education sector, see our correspondence here.