General CPD

Let’s Be Honest

Music will survive in our schools. But we need to keep going. The reality is that currently that isn't easy. But the future will be dictated by the crazy ones who believe that what they do in their classroom tomorrow will make a difference.

I am sure it didn’t escape you this week, the tweet from Nick Gibb about Music Education. It was his response to Mr Lloyd Webber and he stated:

  • Music is compulsory in the curriculum from 5-14
  • Arts is 2nd highest funded behind PE
  • 600 Funded music bursaries at elite arts schools
  • 700k children studying instruments through music hubs in 2016/17

The tweet has been met with a great deal of response and I felt that it was about time we were honest.

The Reality for Music Education

I am sure in many ways, all of the above is true, or at least it can somehow be argued that way. But the reality in schools is that music is being cut, threatened and side-lined. GCSE & A-Level numbers are down, and there really is very little funding out there for the arts. Schools are having to choose between courses and are not always able to offer a particularly broad and balanced curriculum. Music education is under threat and Music Teachers are having to fight to keep it alive in their schools.

  • The reality is that being a music teacher is not easy.
  • The reality is that we have no money.
  • The reality is that students aren’t able to opt for music in light of the EBacc.
  • The reality is that music is not going to survive if we aren’t careful

My Reality

I have to say, because it is only right that I do, that I am in a school that supports music. It doesn’t mean that I am not facing similar challenges, but I am very fortunate to be somewhere that values music. I have had to work hard to make music a firm feature of school life, and I will continue to do that. I have leaders who see the values and support what I do. But I can’t take my eye off the ball or get complacent.

Whilst I am lucky, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been faced with the same issues and challenges. I fight to keep music alive and kicking in school and I will not stop doing that. My reality tomorrow is that I will walk into a department that is strong and alive, and I am hugely grateful for my job. I have amazing students, great parents and a staff body that loves seeing music making going on every day. My budgets, numbers and staff have been hit over the years. But something inside me has kept me going and I am grateful for that. I share this because it might be the encouragement that you need. I don’t share it to brag and say “look at me, I have it all sorted”. I am on a journey and have been for 14 years.

The Only Option We Have

So what can I offer this debate?
At times I have found it hard to know exactly what to say. When I am positive about my own position and situation I feel awful for those who are struggling. I find it hard to shout about what I am doing because so many colleagues are facing such awful circumstances.

But then I think about what I would like to read. What stories would I like to hear about? What do we need to be saying to our political leaders and educational leaders? What kind of encouragement do I seek?

I want to hear about where music is alive in schools and I want to know about the staff behind it. I want to retweet stories of success, and stories that can bring us all hope. I want to hear about schools that are seeing students take up music in light of the EBacc. I want to hear about how schools are raising money, finding solutions and seeing breakthroughs. I want to learn from amazing colleagues and I want to get better at what I do.

The only option we have is to keep going. The only option we have is to keep doing what we are doing. We will all face barriers and we will all have hard days. But we must keep fighting for the Music Education that our young people deserve.

Write your own story

So to all music educators out there, write your own story. The Heroes of the story will be your students, and you are their Guide. It won’t be easy for them and it won’t be easy for you. But there is a happy ending at the end of the story. There is hope if we look for it. We have no other choice but to lead them and to strive for their success. The road ahead might not be straight, smooth or easy. There will be bumps, hills and mountains. There are challenges ahead, but we must guide them.

And what will guide us as teachers? Well it is that belief and passion that Music Education is the most life changing and wonderful gift that we can give a young person. We must be guided by that passion deep down in our being that believes that every young person deserves a chance to experience music. We have to rely on that passion to keep us going, but it will be worth it.


And let’s not do it alone. Let’s do it together. Find colleagues locally, or even on facebook. Join organisations such as the MMA or ISM. Let’s encourage, empower and support each other on Facebook, and let’s retweet our success stories. For some teachers it is really rough and we need to help them to keep going and keep believing.

I love teaching, and I love being a music teacher. I don’t have my head in the sand and I know that it is tough climate. But Music Education will win, and we must help to keep it alive in our schools. We have no other option.

Music will survive in our schools. But we need to keep going. The reality is that currently that isn’t easy. But the future will be dictated by the crazy ones who believe that what they do in their classroom tomorrow will make a difference. It really will, so keep going, don’t do it along and rely on your own passion for music to lead you forward.

And Mr. Gibb. If you really want to know what is going on in Music Education then please come and visit me in Windsor and then I can point you in the direction of where music is working and where it needs your help and support. It isn’t exactly what you think it might be, but you could help to make the difference. I will leave it with you!


  1. This is so good to read James, and exactly what I’ve been thinking too! Let’s get together on this. There must be enough working musicEd models around to help a lot of people. I’m working on a blog at the moment to define how our dept is set up and how it’s funded – I’ll post it as soon as it’s ready. Would you do the same?

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