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Next steps for music education in England and implementing the new curriculum

Our Director, Philip Flood, was invited to speak at the Westminster Education Forum policy conference which was held online on 10 November. He was part of a panel of speakers looking at the topic of ‘Music in schools and the wider creative sector – supporting young musicians, creating a talent pipeline, and widening access to musical career pathways’.

The other speakers were Professor Colin Lawson (Director, Royal College of Music), Hannah Fouracre (Director, Music Education, Arts Council England) and Agnes Hamilton (Director of Pelican Music)

This is a transcript of the full speech:

“Thank you, Westminster Education Forum, for the opportunity to share some thoughts this afternoon.

I’m going to talk about what’s going on in the wider youth arts, cultural and creative sectors and how that links, connects, or disconnects with music in schools.

I want to flag some examples of organisations who I see providing excellent, ongoing support for young musicians, especially those who face significant barriers to accessing opportunities to develop their careers.

I also want to reflect on how ongoing support, signposting, financial assistance and industry career engagement should be a facet of the new National Plan for Music Education.

I will finish by suggesting that a more joined up approach, across schools, music hubs and partner organisations, is vital to ensure that any support and investment in young people has sufficient impact.

There are some brilliant organisations who offer long term musician development programmes that have been working over the last 10-15 years in England. I have seen them develop and thrive and these organisations all have similar approaches and are able to clearly demonstrate the impact of what they do. The ingredients of their success in supporting young people include:

  1. Engagement from an early age
  2. The ability to spot potential and nurture this
  3. An understanding of youth voice and agency
  4. The opportunity to access flexible progression opportunities (including those outside their own organisation)
  5. And the importance of mentoring and wider pastoral support

Whether it’s the London Music Fund, Awards for Young Musicians, Tomorrow’s Warriors or Kinteika Bloco, who have all been around for at least 10 years, we are now seeing the young people they worked with back then thrive in their professional music careers and even start to give back to the organisations that supported them at the beginnings of their journeys.

Young people’s musical journeys are something that we are very interested in at Sound Connections, and Wired4Music, our network of young Londoners age 16-25, specifically supports musicians on their individual journeys, be that as an event producer, in music production, education work or performance. This 10-year opportunity enables us to support young people at crucial stages of their lives as they navigate their final years of school, higher education and transition into the world of work and the music industry, a term which I am uncomfortable with and one which can create barriers in itself.

Supporting young people over an extended period of time requires significant investment, both financial and in terms of wider pastoral support. It also requires organisations to collaborate and be sensitive to the needs of the young people they work with. Putting the young person at the centre, enabling them to have agency and real power is central to this. I’m always impressed by Girls Rock London, who I would urge you to check out, as their approach of giving power and agency to the young people they work with is exemplary.

As well as organisations collaborating, it’s also vital for funders and policy makers to ensure a more joined up approached to supporting young people. Dialogue between Youth Music, Arts Council England, government and other bodies with a local and national reach must put young people at the centre.

It’s also good to see representation from the wider music sector on the advisory panel for the National Plan. There has always been a disconnect between music education and the wider industry that needs fixing so perhaps this is the time to do it. Progression was a focus of the original plan but this now needs to be broader and reflect the different pathways and journeys that young people want to explore.

And I want to finish by asking all of us to reflect on how better we can support the young people that we work with to ensure that their musical journeys are as joined up, as successful and as rewarding as they can be. Thank you.”


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