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Research Shorts: Launching research on environmental sustainability in UK music education

23rd April 2024

This week, I’m exploring research from a slightly different perspective, the research project is live, and you still have chance to be part of it! As part of preparing for This Is Not A Rehearsal, we knew we wanted to be able to understand more about what was already happening across hubs and services, and to learn more about how we can support our members and the wider sector.

Music Mark has commissioned a research from Dr Ross Purves, Associate Professor for Music Education at the Institute of Education, UCL, to lay out where things stand. Ross’s existing research experience in investigating the relationship between the climate crisis and music pedagogy gives us a great chance to hit the ground running with this essential work.

I asked Ross what he was most excited about, “Music holds such a prominent place in society, and we all know that it is extremely popular with young people. We also know that musicians, teachers and young people are keen to address environmental challenges and enhance sustainable working practices. Music services, hubs and their partner organisations collectively procure and maintain large stocks of instruments and equipment, and invest large amounts of money, resources and energy to support their work. This is a time of significant financial challenge and organisational change for many working in music education. We hope that our research can help identify working practices and educational approaches which not only enhance environmental sustainability but also contribute to improved financial sustainability and perhaps even highlight innovative forms of creative practice. We think that harnessing the power of music, and of practical musical activities within our schools and communities, has real potential to raise awareness of the issues and give voice to people’s concerns about them.”

The research project will aim to establish the extent and nature of sustainability-related activity already happening across the UK. It will allow us to consider links with activities between schools and national government education policy (DfE, DFE in NI, Education Scotland, and Department for Education and Skills in Wales). The project will highlight challenges and barriers for music hubs and services, as well as partners. As well as this, it will identify examples of good practice that reflects a diverse range of lived experiences.

Ross explained that the project will work over a series of phases, firstly with gathering initial feedback from interviews from the sector, as well as a sector-wide online survey. There will be case study visits to selected organisations, and then a period of evaluation and writing up to share the findings.

Ross, and his colleague on the project Emma, would be delighted to hear from anyone working with a music service, hub or a partnering school or organisation who would be interested in participating in a confidential, online interview. Do you have an interest in sustainability within music education or are you interested in developing your practice in this area? Have you been involved in an environment-related or sustainability-related project within a hub, music service or partnership organisation? Ross and Emma are keen to talk to as diverse a range of people as possible so please do get in touch directly with them to find out more.

Here at Music Mark, we will use this report to plan our own activities, to identify where we can share training and events to support the sector, and where we can advocate for further resources and materials. In our journey in responding to the climate crisis this research is going to be a fantastic tool to really understand what is going on.

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Interview by Dr Sarah K. Whitfield – Research Lead for Music Mark

Music Mark logo, text that says 'Research Shorts' and spring flowers along the bottom of the image.