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Carols show music education is not just for Christmas

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting Paddington Academy School, which was buzzing with excitement as pupils and teachers prepared for their brilliant end of term performance of School of Rock.

As thousands of families attend musicals, seasonal celebrations and carol concerts in schools across the country, it was a reminder that this time of the year offers a golden opportunity to engage young people in music making.

Thanks to research by English Heritage, I recently learnt that carols were originally defined by their structure rather than their subject matter, and were therefore sung all year round.

In much the same way, music education is not just for Christmas.

When the government published the national plan for music education in June last year, we wanted to emphasise the power of music to change lives.

Ultimately, music is a cornerstone of the broad and balanced education that every child should receive, no matter the season. 

‘Equity and quality’

Our vision for music education in this country can be summed up in two words: equity and quality.

From their first exposure to the joys of music at a young age, perhaps in the form of carols at their reception nativity play, through to inspiring the brightest and most talented young musicians, all children deserve to be given the chance to fulfil their musical potential.

The 2022 national plan is clear that schools must provide high-quality, timetabled music education for at least one hour each week in each term, from key stages 1 to 3, in addition to co-curricular learning and engagement in music events and experiences.

Many schools are already using our model music curriculum, published in 2021, to inform how music is taught in the classroom.

To embed music teaching within the school curriculum, we’ve also invited schools to build a music development plan (MDP), including music being represented on every school’s leadership team.

This is only the beginning.

‘Music valued in every school’

We want to see music valued and celebrated in every school and every trust. This will take time, but music hubs – networks of schools, education charities, music services and community groups – are there to help you achieve this in your own school.

We are providing funding to make sure that all young people, regardless of background, have equitable access to high-quality music education.

We have committed £79 million per year for music hubs until 2025, and from September 2024, we are investing £25 million in musical instruments which will go to music hubs, including instruments that have been specially adapted so that more children with SEND can participate in music too.

Meanwhile, our pilot music progression fund will support up to 1000 disadvantaged pupils with significant musical potential, enthusiasm and commitment to excel in music across the country.

‘We need teachers’

If you’re a school leader and want to boost the music provision at your school, or want more information on our national plan for music education, I urge you to get in touch with your local hub, and find out how they can help you.

But we know that for our ambition for music education to be realised, we need teachers to deliver it.

Today, there are over 7,000 music teachers in state-funded secondary schools in England, and I am grateful to every one of them.

I am pleased that we will be introducing a teaching bursary for music this year, so even more people can begin their journey into this most important profession. 

Watching the amazing music being made at Paddington Academy School was the perfect start to my own celebrations this year.

Merry Christmas to every teacher and thank you for all your brilliant and hard work.

I look forward to continuing to work with you in the new year – but before that, I hope you can enjoy some well-deserved rest, a mince pie and, of course, some Christmas carols.

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