The Problem of Government Cuts to Primary School Music Education


Nothing riles music-lovers quite like a government that insists that arts just aren’t worth our children’s class time.

And when the powers that be announces cuts to the school system, the first place they often ‘trim the fat’ is music education.

Despite the academic and personal benefits that go hand in hand with learning to read music and learn an instrument, lessons have long been viewed as an optional, luxury bonus to complement those truly important subjects: English, maths, science.

Since the UK announced unprecedented cuts to music education in 2014, councils and school boards have continued to chip away at the remains of their arts’ departments offerings. The initial reductions in schools’ music education funding, saw resources slashed from 82.5 million pounds in the 2010/11 academic year to 58 million for 2014/15.

Despite outcries of disdain in the press, from parents, and amongst academics in the area, the problem persists.

Still in 2019, continuing cuts remain a hot topic of controversy, especially in light of ever-growing research to evidence the academic and individual benefits of music literacy.

This academic year saw a further 36 per cent drop in funding, which is having a knock-on effect on the number of children choosing to take music at GCSE and pursuing related career paths. From the 8 per cent drop in music GCSE candidates in 2017, a further 7.4 per cent of students chose not to select the subject in 2018.

Consistently reducing music budgets across UK schools will have an alarming adverse impact on the lives of young children. Inevitably, cuts mean countless students – the ones who need it most – will never have access to musical instruments, lessons, or to the opportunities that come along with them.

It’s time to take some inspiration from people oversees.

While the UK continues hack away at funding for children’s music education, others around the world are learning from our mistakes.

Myriad music programmes around the world are proving to be the way out of poverty for underprivileged children, the most notable being Venezuela’s Social Action for Music charity. Since 1975 this organisation has helped to provide free musical education for over 300,000 children, many of them homeless and desperately poor. This has been used as a model around the world with excellent results. Yet sadly, we seem to be headed in the opposite direction.

As trickles of wellbeing concerns turn to flows of worries for children in UK schools, in 2019 onwards, music education should be granted a prominent place of priority in the curriculum. Therapeutically and academically, there’s never been an era in history that’s cried out with such necessity for music education and interventions.

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