At Music for All, we offer grants to individuals and community organisations to assist with obtaining instruments and music lessons. Our interactions with schools usually occur when a school is contemplating removing or reducing music from its curriculum – which is something that seems to be on the rise.
A few years ago, our community grant scheme typically didn’t get grant applications from schools, but rather from local projects such as music community projects, ensembles and so forth. The fact we’re now seeing an increase in applications from schools to help support their music provision demonstrates the impact that budget cuts are having in this area. Around 15% of our community applications now come from schools, and increasingly, even music services.
Early last year, for example, we gave 19 acoustic guitars to a school in Birmingham, which was about to stop teaching music to its pupils, and you can find many similar stories on our Facebook page (facebook.com/musicforallcharity).
I sit on a number of music education bodies, including the Music Education Council and the National Music Council, and am in regular contact with the Musician’s Union and Incorporated Society of Musicians. While we’re not representative of teachers as such, I sit on those bodies with my charity hat on to make sure we’re aware and involved with what’s going on politically.
To a certain extent, primary schools have always varied in terms of the music provision they offer – from those with a teacher who’s not really a musician but does their best at providing some kind of musical experience for children, through to others that either employ teachers with training in teaching music or have visiting peripatetic teachers that provide it for them.
It’s fair to say that this variance has never been greater than it is now, because in some schools the money simply isn’t there for that visiting tutor any more. From the music services we deal with, we’ve learnt that many peripatetic teachers are on self-employed contracts, due to the lack of LA funding that music services are now having to deal with.
There are well-trodden arguments that say making music can make you better at maths, but I prefer to concentrate on other factors – that music is, in itself, is wonderful thing to do, and can bring out the creativity in children while helping them to socialise and interact with their peers. It’s amazing how truancy levels can be reduced in some schools just by having kids take part in music projects that they enjoy.
School is where most of us will have our first experiences of music making. If creative subjects get continue to be marginalised schools it will be a sad day.
Paul McManus is the chief executive of the Music Industries Association (MIA) and its charity Music for All