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The Spring Summit 2021: A Student’s View

25th March 2021

Music Mark’s annual Spring Summit took place virtually this year. Daisy Enfield, a Music student from Cardiff University, joined the event as part of a one-week work experience placement and below are her thoughts about the day.

On the 22nd March, Music Hub leaders from across England gathered virtually for Music Mark’s 2021 digital Spring Summit. The invited speakers included those from the Department for Education, Arts Council England, as well as three provocation sessions to discuss prevalent issues in music education today. Throughout the summit, the standout themes were those of equity and diversity, and what post-pandemic approaches different organisations are beginning to have in response to the ‘new normal’.

The first session with the Department for Education discussed how the call for evidence in early 2020 was the first stage of consultation for the plan to refresh the National Plan for Music Education. The pandemic has caused delays to the plans on funding and the refresh but having gained input from individuals from the call for evidence, the DfE are now able to consider all viewpoints in the new plan and act accordingly. Katie Walden, who is part of the department’s music policy team, remarked on the innovative ways that Hubs have been able to adapt delivery to counteract the impact of COVID-19; she was accompanied by her colleague Victoria Timperley.

Following on, the delegates were split into large breakout rooms in order to discuss the following questions based around the presentation given by the DfE:

  • What impact do you think the shift to MEHs delivering music education remotely has had on regional and local inequalities?
  • What has the pandemic revealed about the way that hub partner organisations – including schools – operate, for example, in how sustainable, flexible and/or tech savvy they are?
  • What innovations from the past year will have a long-term impact on the way music education is delivered and consumed?
  • How should the refreshed NPME reflect the MEHs role in a post-pandemic landscape?

In these discussion sessions, concerns were raised surrounding the decline in instrumental lessons as well as a loss of learning and peer support, and challenges in recruiting new practitioners. They also spoke about the inevitability of having to prioritise the core roles and deciding what is essential for the road to recovery. The long-term use of digital and blended approaches to music education are likely to be sustained in order to deliver education across the country.

Concerns were voiced about the financial resources to support the National Plan as well as worries on the process and timeframe for implementation.  Fears about its delivery in a post-pandemic world were also raised. Collaboration, innovation, and engaging with high-quality teaching and provisions with a diverse workforce is the path to recovery. The pandemic has made it clear that there is an ongoing need for a refresh of the National Plan.

Arts Council England also released promising news about their continuing work with Music Mark to support Music Education Hubs. Music Mark will be working in partnership with Arts Council England and Sound Connections to deliver the Arts Council England 2021/22 Hub Support Programme.

After a short break, there were three short provocations followed by discussion in small breakout groups. The first provocation was led by Matt Griffiths, Chief Executive of Youth Music, running a discussion on ‘Equity and Inclusion – Why It Matters Even More’. The past year has facilitated more time for reflection, and there is a greater recognition of change and transformation music can have. One of the main topics discussed in breakout rooms was the need to diversify GCSE and A Level syllabuses. Working to dissolve the hierarchy within the set works and emphasising the equity of each work was an approach suggested to diversify the curriculum.

The second provocation on ‘Racial Diversity and Governance in the Workforce’ was given by Sam Spence, who is working with Music Mark as a Researcher and Advisor to explore racism and representation in Music Education. She is currently undertaking research with the London Music Education Hubs, and presented some of her preliminary findings.

‘Time for talking is over, now is the time to act’ set the message clear in her presentation, alongside an introduction to Music Mark’s ‘Talk into Action’ campaign, allowing for more recruitment, retention, succession, and progression within a diversified workforce and governance. Within the breakout room discussion, a standout comment was made on how an individual cannot be diverse, however in a collaborative space tackling issues in creative ways, a group can be classified as diverse.  From my experience, universities are also starting to take these steps towards inclusivity and equity, such as programming much more diverse concerts and performers within concert schedules.

The final provocation, ‘Now is the Time for a New Normal’, was led by Judith Webster, the Chief Executive of Music for Youth. As a large-scale events organisation, a post-pandemic Music for Youth will look very different, due to the decimation of live music events. Change is especially challenging for large organisations, but Judith spoke positively about how now the time is to embark on a once in a lifetime opportunity. The pandemic has shifted Music for Youth towards becoming more of a collaborative and creative partner; their aim is to provide new cyclical year-long engagement projects. The ‘new normal’ moves their outlook to being solution based, rather than problem focused, with new visions and ambitions for the organisation. Developing and embedding the voices of pupils, and consulting with them directly allows them to have an identity which is represented in the organisation. Competing in Music for Youth myself, having a sense of ownership and purpose within personal success is key to engage young people.

After a year in and out of lockdowns, Music Mark were still able to organise a successful Spring Summit, and a lot was learned. The overall success of the event can be seen in the responses of attendees in the survey.  One attendee said it was ‘an excellent session with relevant and informed speakers’, whilst others also commented on the usefulness and effectiveness of the small breakout rooms to discuss the topics and provocations. Another delegate was in favour of the virtual format, saying to ‘please continue to offer a virtual event so that colleagues can join if they can’t travel or attend for the full session’.

Being given the opportunity to attend such a large-scale online event on work experience was really engaging and I feel very fortunate to have been part of it. As the summit was aimed at English Music Hub Leaders, it was interesting too to contrast this with my own experiences of being part of Hampshire Music Service’s hub programmes and ensembles.

The day was a great opportunity to connect, collaborate, and meet with colleagues whilst looking towards a future of equitable and accessible music education for all. Here’s to hoping next year we can all be reunited in person!

Daisy Enfield is a 2nd year Music student from Cardiff University and spent a week with Music Mark for her work experience placement as part of her ‘Business of Music’ module.