Stephen Brown discusses music education with Jeremy Corbyn
Stephen Brown discusses music education with Jeremy Corbyn

Wyre Forest Labour’s Stephen Brown spent some time on Saturday 3rd November with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, talking about their mutual passion – music education and giving every child a chance to learn a musical instrument. Labour plan to make it happen when in Government by having a pupil arts premium as part of Labour’s National Education Service.

Currently, only 19% of children from poorer families (below the average wage of £28k pa) are likely to be learning how to play a musical instrument. In wealthier families, that figure goes up to 40%. The stark difference between state and private schools on this issue is also deeply worrying. Figures suggest that nationally, 50% of private school pupils have individual music tuition, compared to half that in state schools. In the Midlands, it’s even worse, with 79% of state school pupils not learning a musical instrument at school because their parents can’t afford it.

The current system means that state schools concentrate on the more ‘academic’ subjects and so discourage the arts altogether. This problem is being exacerbated by the Academisation policy of the current Tory Govt as Academy Schools opt out of all things with any semblance of a national plan, like music education. Music Education has also suffered from huge Tory cuts meaning the term “national plan for music education” is anything but national. Music teachers are being made redundant or forced on to self employed contracts to save Schools and Music Services money. It’s not becoming a great career choice for musicians, 70% of whom will teach at some point in their career. A figure that is dropping dramatically as they move on to other jobs. To become a music teacher has usually required years of training, study, and sacrifice. All for a job that statistically these days means half of them earn less than £20k per year.

The risk is that music making and the profession itself could end up being the sole preserve of the wealthy and we’ll all be the poorer for that. Music education is vital for many reasons for our future as a country, and many of the current ‘pop’ stars benefitted from free musical instrument tuition in a state school.

Labour’s Stephen Brown said “As a child raised on a council estate, I benefited from free musical instrument tuition at state school, and well understand its importance. It helped shape the person I am now and lead me on to things I could never have otherwise dreamed of doing like touring Europe and Canada. Sadly, for many of today’s kids this is not an option as the Tories slash and burn music education. Tory Govt policy on music education means working class kids are now getting left behind. Music tuition is becoming the preserve of the wealthy and this could have catastrophic effects, be it socially or educationally, and especially economically in the future. Children benefit greatly as part of a balanced education system if they learn a musical instrument. It gives them understanding and confidence in other subjects, as well as helping to develop young people as rounded individuals. Music education is a vital cog in the economy too, as U.K. music contributes £4.4bn to GDP, and generates £2.5bn worth of exports. Jeremy Corbyn and I understand this and it’s why under a future Labour Govt we’ll make sure music education regains its rightful place in the curriculum.”

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