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Music Mark and ISM respond to falling provision of music education in secondary schools

12th November 2018

Recent reports published by the University of Sussex and the Musicians’ Union have shone a spotlight on the provision of music education in our schools. The ISM and The UK Association for Music Education – Music Mark, the two subject associations for music education, have today responded to this troubling research, calling on our schools to take urgent action.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and Bridget Whyte, Chief Executive of Music Mark said:

‘As the two subject associations for music education, the ISM and Music Mark recognise the importance of collaboration and the need to lead and support the music education sector. That is why we are publishing this joint statement.

As shown by the recent University of Sussex research into secondary curriculum provision and the MU’s research into how household income affects the likelihood of a child learning a musical instrument, we need to take urgent action regarding the provision of music education in our secondary schools in England.

The University of Sussex research demonstrated the marginalisation of music in our maintained schools. The research showed an increasing number of schools are reducing or completely removing music in the curriculum for Key Stage 3 – year 7, 8 and 9 students – resulting in some schools now not offering music as a curriculum subject. In some others it is only taught as an ‘enrichment day’ once a year. The research also showed that 70% of music teachers are now often teaching outside their subject area to ‘fill gaps’ in ‘core subjects’. This is a disturbing development given that the Government recognised in 2016 the importance of specialist teaching in every subject in order to secure the best outcome for our children.

The MU report recommends that schools take a greater role in providing encouragement to children from low income families who are less likely to be promoted to learn by their parents. Secondary school music is for many their only access to music, and Music Education Hubs are available to support schools in helping children from low income families access learning.

Therefore the ISM and Music Mark are urging the following actions:

  1. We call on all schools to ensure that the national curriculum for music is delivered in all Key Stages.


  1. Further, we call on all secondary schools to reverse the trend of music disappearing at Key Stage 3. To make this happen, secondary schools must commit to delivering a minimum of one hour of music education per week for each year in Key Stage 3.


  1. We also call on all secondary schools to have at least one full-time music teacher who exclusively teaches music and no additional subjects.


If schools do not commit to these actions, the situation within our secondary schools will become more grave – and music education will become the preserve of only those who can afford it.’