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Let’s get Music back into Schools

23rd October 2020

Survey finds that music delivery in schools has reduced, but the #CanDoMusic campaign can help.

The new academic year began with the pandemic still very much part of our lives.  Although 99% of schools reopened and most pupils returned to the classroom, it has not been quite the same ‘back to school’ as previous years.  The long-promised music-specific guidance from the Department for Education in England was very late coming, so schools (and music education hubs) have been playing catch-up whilst also watching the building of a second wave of the virus.

In August, we launched our campaign #CanDoMusic in partnership with the Incorporated Society of Musicians and Music Teachers’ Association.  This aimed to encourage schools to ensure that music was part of the school day and embedded in their recovery curriculum.  There is welcome evidence across the country that many are delivering a broad and balanced curriculum and that singing and instrumental learning is taking place.  However, it is also evident that not every school has resumed its partnership with its local music education providers.  Anecdotal and informal evidence of a very mixed picture emerged throughout September.  While every part of the UK had schools that welcomed music services and peripatetic tutors back in, equally everyone had stories of schools banning music outright or refusing any visitors before the October half-term at the earliest.

To gain a clearer view, Music Mark conducted a quick survey of its English membership of music education hubs and music services at the start of October, asking specifically how engagement with schools compared with the start of the 2019/20 academic year.

With responses from 60% of the Music Mark membership, the report is an accurate representation of the level of school engagement.  There are no real surprises within the results but they do demonstrate that whilst the government has provided guidance which confirms musical learning can resume with the appropriate safety measures in place, many schools are not ready to do so. Read the report here.

Last week, Music Mark’s CEO, Bridget Whyte, shared the survey with both Arts Council England and the Department for Education:

“In my covering email I stressed that whilst the reasons schools are not engaging with music services include some which are real and challenging – such as finding spaces where music lessons can take place safely – there also seem to be too many schools still feeling that musical learning is either not possible or not a priority.  I have asked for a meeting to discuss what might be done to put pressure on schools blocking opportunities for their students to continue their musical learning.  I await a response.”

The summary of the results offers a steer to Music Mark and other organisations representing the music education sector for the advocacy that is needed to persuade those schools that are still unsure and to challenge those who are simply going against the DfE’s advice and the scientific evidence.  It is safe to make music in the classroom and together, we can unlock music for our pupils.

Read the survey report here.  
For Covid-specific guidance for schools and music education providers, visit our Music Unlocked resources. 
For practical resources to help support school music teachers continue to make music in schools, visit