Response from Matt Griffiths, CEO, Youth Music
We all need to step up to ensure every young person has the opportunity to make, learn and earn in music
Now that the refreshed National Plan for Music Education has been published, we wanted to offer our initial reflections and observations.
Overall, it’s great to see a positive change of emphasis, particularly regarding inclusion. The refreshed plan rightly places children and young people’s lives in music front and centre, rather than a narrow focus on one aspect of music education. It is the multiplicity of music education that is one of its greatest assets, and it is a positive step forward to see this now embraced.
It's crucial, however, that we view this plan in the current cultural context of both young people and music. This next generation is more fluid in its beliefs, needs and ambitions than any other before. And living in a world of constant change. Technology is developing at speed, impacting opportunities to make, learn and earn in music.
All of this means that a static plan for the next decade will not be enough. So, we are calling for a commitment to constantly review its relevance and ongoing impact. Or risk robbing the transformative power of music education from a whole generation.
This requires constant dialogue with young people to truly understand their changing world and needs. That’s why, at Youth Music, we believe co-creation with young people is crucial to defining the future of their music education. Having their voices heard should be an integral part of every music experience for young people. Our latest campaign, Share the Mic, is already sparking a new way of thinking about youth voice and participation across the sector. And we will continue to use insights from young people – like our reports Exchanging Notes, Blueprint for the Future, Sounds of the Next Generation and Reshape Music to inform our direction.
The refreshed plan now recognises that inclusion should be embedded throughout music provision and not be a separate ‘project’. At Youth Music, we’ve always advocated for this approach so it’s reassuring to see this included.
We’re delighted to see early childhood included in the refreshed plan. Supporting early childhood music-making and the workforce has, and always will be, one of our priorities, based on the overwhelming evidence that the earlier a young person begins their life in music, the better it is for not only their musical development, but socially and personally too. We look forward to both the early childhood music and wider music education organisations embracing the opportunity now presented to them to collaborate and innovate.
We’re pleased to see a call for greater collaboration between music educators and the music industries, better supporting young people to transition between the two. This has been a priority for us over the last three years, which saw us launch the Youth Music Incubator Fund and Youth Music NextGen Fund, to provide financial support, advice and guidance directly to young people starting creative careers.
Our call to music education and music industry organisations is not to reinvent the wheel with a new, short-term initiatives which can often be more about organisational profile than the impact it makes for young people. Instead, think strategically, work with and for young people, reimagine the music curriculum in schools and be ambitious. We should view music as an imperative in children and young people’s education, breaking the taboo around what has culturally been deemed a ‘soft subject’. Music industry organisations, particularly the major labels, are in a financial position to make change.
At Youth Music, we use our scale to influence nationwide change. But we can only invest in so many organisations. Powerful players in the music industries have the means to accelerate tangible change at a significant scale.
It is good to see that the plan acknowledges the importance of having a suitably skilled and wide ranging workforce in place. This is the backbone of an effective music education infrastructure. However, we believe this needs to go further by diversifying the workforce to better reflect the lived experiences of children and young people and their existing lives in music. For example, what should teacher training of the future look like? How are we equipping the next generation of teachers to inspire children and young people with a wide range of experiences, backgrounds and passions? We would have liked to have seen more specific recommendations in the plan to address this.
In these challenging times of economic uncertainty, it is good to see that there is some new investment from government. The government’s commitment to music education continues with funding allocated via the DfE and DCMS through ACE. Whilst it will be argued it’s not enough, what is available needs to be used creatively. We believe that through more effective collaboration and partnership working, funds can be clubbed together and targeted at areas of most need with clear intended outcomes to maximise impact.
It’s encouraging to see many of the changes we’ve been recommending at Youth Music incorporated into the refreshed plan. Implementing it will require us all in music education to think and act differently and our collective response must be constructive and action orientated. We shouldn’t view this plan as being done to us, we should view it as being part of us. It’s ours, it’s of the sector to now make happen. All playing our part to collectively catalyse a powerful movement, improving children and young people’s access to the full making, learning and earning lifecycle in music.
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