School Music Service In 'Crisis'

Assembly Committee calls for 'radical new approach' to protect the sector

A new national body should be responsible for delivering music services across Wales according to a National Assembly committee.

The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee concluded that a radical new approach is needed to save the sector from a 'crisis' caused by continuing funding cuts and moves to simply paper over the cracks.

The Committee was told of the positive influences of children learning musical instruments in schools which extended beyond music itself to promote confidence and the benefits of perseverance, teamwork and practice.

But members were also told of substantial differences in the provision of music education in different parts of Wales, caused in part by funding cuts, but also through a lack of strategic leadership from the Welsh Government.

The Committee noted the Welsh Government’s National Endowment for Music and Musical Instrument Amnesty programme, and its award of £10,000 per local authority to buy musical instruments but agreed with evidence from other stakeholders who described it as ‘a drop in the ocean’.

The Committee recommends that more focus should be given to teaching children modern, popular music genres.

While the more traditional music genres such as classical and orchestral music remain vitally important, more focus on rock and pop music would provide a wider range of skills and offer a more inclusive and relevant path for many pupils.

“As a musician who came through the music education system I have seen first-hand the value and the opportunities it provides,” said Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee.

“As such, I am passionate about addressing the urgent need to sustain and develop music in Wales and believe we must now come up with radical solutions in the face of continuous cuts to these services.

“This report specifically focuses on addressing the shortfalls and achieving consistency across Wales, in order to ensure that every child, regardless of their location or financial backing, has an equal opportunity to progress to excellence.

“The time has come to not simply paper over the cracks but to give sufficient resource and clear direction to the sector.”

The Committee's Recommendations include:

-   National Body - The Welsh Government should transfer responsibility for the delivery of music services to an arms-length, national body with a distinct regional delivery mechanism and footprint

- Affordable Music - The national body should be core funded by the Welsh Government and should be made responsible for ensuring that both pupils and staff working within the music education sector, regardless of their location or social background, are afforded equitable opportunities

More Funding - More money needs to be made available to local authorities 'as a matter of urgency' for the purchasing of musical instruments and distributes it on a needs basis. The aim would be to help in the short term, before a national body is fully able to take responsibility for music services

More Direction - That the Welsh Government needs to make a National Action Plan for Music to provide strategic direction to local authorities and schools on ways to integrate and encourage the teaching of less traditional forms of music

- Rock & Pop - These genres should be encouraged as a priority and children should be entered into rock and pop based competitions

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