Lack of funding for the arts, right? That was your answer. Lack of funding hurts any subject eventually but music’s more resilient and I’ve already lived through one catastrophic withdrawal of funds. Music tuition survives (sadly only for the wealthy – more of that in a future post).
What’s strangling music tuition is the insane level of regard for for maths and english to the exclusion of all other subjects. M&E are regarded as the benchmark both for pupil’s intelligence and a school’s effectiveness. No scratch that. Ability to pass exams in those subjects are …. blah blah.
In practice that means less time to teach other subjects and less timetable flexibility. 9 -10 am is the sacred hour in many schools. Nothing is allowed to disturb Maths.
This kind of message from parents is common and so is the error it contains. The pupil was actually missing half of one of their five, hour-long, weekly lessons. So they weren’t missing ‘half of maths’, they were missing 1/10th of maths (I guess that means the parents don’t know how to be making the maths so good). ‘Five hours a week’ doesn’t include extra mock tests and booster sessions as SATS, GCSEs or A levels approach.
It’s a similar story with English, though not as zealously protected (which is odd when you consider english literacy is the gateway for learning in almost every other subject and a significant proportion of children enter the UK education system with English as a second language).
But ‘hey ho’ – it’s only two subjects right? Surely we can work round it? Hang on. Once the exams kick in pretty much everything grinds to a halt. I recently encountered a student unable to attended their GCSE music lessons because they were being ‘offered’ (as in Don Corleone ‘offered’) an opportunity to attend booster groups for ‘more important subjects’ dooming them to a ‘C’ grade in music at best.
Post exams students (especially the younger ones) are rewarded with fun activities – cinema trips, bring your bike in, watch a DVD – which also is hard to miss.
So apart from exam time things are OK right? Yes. Apart from compulsory swimming lessons.
And DARE (drug awareness).
Road safety quizzes.
And so on. You fill in the blanks.
So what’s REALLY killing music tuition in UK schools is a government who explicitly deems a whole list of things as MORE IMPORTANT THAN MUSIC and has created a system that punish schools who dare to act like a well-rounded education is a thing to be pursued. Most heads and teachers (many of them musicians themselves) can see the folly of this but don’t have much room to challenge it.