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Clarity needed as England goes into a Second Lockdown

6th November 2020

Music Mark has worked with three other national bodies for music education – the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), the Music Teachers’ Association (MTA) and the Musicians’ Union (MU) – to write a letter expressing concern around the national guidance which was published on 3rd November for people to observe in England as the country entered a second lockdown period.  This guidance included messaging which was unclear and unhelpful to music education providers.

Whilst subsequent publication by the Department for Education advising schools on their role during the lockdown, which started on Thursday 5th November and will run until the 2nd December, provided clearer guidance for provision for their pupils, it remained unclear as to whether the educational activity provided by music services and other music education hub partners was permissible or should stop.  The letter, which was sent on Wednesday 4th November, asked for clarity and understanding of the important role music education plays in supporting pupils health and wellbeing.

Read the full letter – sent as an email to the Secretary of State for Education (Gavin Williamson) and the Minster for Schools (Nick Gibb) below:

Dear Secretary of State and Minster for Schools

We write as representatives of leading music education sector organisations.  We would like to thank your Department for providing clarification in today’s Education and childcare settings: New National Restrictions from 5 November 2020 guidance which confirms that both classroom music and instrumental tuition can continue in schools during the new national lockdown period.

However, we would like to clarify the Government advice from the National Restrictions from 5 November issued on 3 November as follows: ‘You can leave home for education (formal provision, rather than extracurricular classes such as music or drama tuition)’.

Instrumental music teaching provided in schools by Music Education Hubs, Local Authorities and private instrumental teachers is a core part of formal education, promoting a broad and balanced curriculum, and supporting pupils’ preparation for GCSE, A level and other assessments. Some of this provision currently takes place outside normal school hours in compliance with Covid-secure measures. It is important that this teaching is understood to be formal, not extra-curricular, and that it continues in its current form. 

If an arbitrary cut-off (for example, anything before or after core school hours) is used to define some teaching provided by Hubs as ‘extracurricular’, and instrumental music teaching is therefore stopped for the duration of this new lockdown period, the staff employed by music services and other Music Education Hub partners will need either to be furloughed or to access other Government schemes.  This will have a significant impact on government budgets.  The cost to music services and other Music Education Hub organisations would also be significant, putting them at further risk of insolvency.

It is worth noting in this context that the guidance appears to go beyond the strict letter of the regulations, in which there is no definition of education, or that education does not extend to music tuition. The regulations do not say that ‘extra-curricular’ activities cannot take place in schools.

We therefore ask for clarification that Music Education Hubs, Local Authorities and private instrumental teachers are permitted to continue to provide teaching before or after standard school hours within reason and that the guidance mentioned above regarding national restrictions does not apply for instrumental music lessons which take place on school premises.  This clarification should also be made in a clear statement to school leaders.

Yours sincerely

Bridget Whyte
CEO, The UK Association for Music Education – Music Mark

Deborah Annetts
Chief Executive, The Incorporated Society of Musicians

Simon Toyne
President, The Music Teachers’ Association

Chris Walters
Music Education Official, The Musicians’ Union