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On 25 May 2021, Freelancers Make Theatre Work attended the All Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education, chaired by Lord Guy Black.

The main themes of the meeting were:

  • the ISM’s survey on the impact of the pandemic on music education (Click here to read);
  • the Model Music Curriculum (Click here to read);
  • Music Technology;
  • De-colonising the curriculum.

Jodie Underhill of the ISM emphasised that there is a genuine cause of alarm, with 65% of primary and 36% of secondary teachers reporting a reduction in music education as a direct result of the pandemic. Reasons for this include the re-purposing of classrooms, a focus on STEM subjects, music teachers being re-deployed to other departments, and the stringent rules around singing and wind playing in schools. Beyond the intrinsic value of studying music, it builds cultural knowledge, creative skills and children’s health, well-being and attainment. It should be central to the recovery curriculum but instead has been completely stopped in almost 10% of schools.

The Model Music Curriculum was presented by Music Educator Kevin Rogers, who identified that although the document has some failings, it should also be seen as opportunity to revive the conversation around fundamental policy issues which affect music in schools, for example the EBACC and the de-professionalisation of the music education workforce. He made a plea for the Curriculum to be shared with and debated by music teachers with a youth voice input before it is re-published, aiming for stronger principles and effective, quality content.

Professor Nathan Holder lead a session on de-colonising the curriculum, posing a number of important questions to all present:

  • How has music been affected by colonialism? 
  • What are we teaching, and what are we learning? 
  • Who are we learning about?

There was a positive linking up of organisations at the end of the meeting about decolonising their curriculums and programming. Professor Holder was asked to name his top three actions and said:

  1. Make steps to change the make up of the workforce;
  2. For the government to think about language around de-colonisation;
  3. Do the work for yourself, listen and learn.

The Higher Education funding cuts were briefly touched on in relation to the ongoing battle between STEM and STEAM. The main takeaway from this APPG for freelancers was that the return to in-person teaching has not been a positive experience for the majority of peripatetic teachers and that urgent mental health support is needed for the workforce.