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The power of music to change lives

Sound Connections’ Director, Philip Flood, reflects on the opportunities and implications of the new National Plan for Music Education and what it means for organisations, music leaders and young people across London.

Well, it’s been a long time coming but the new and refreshed National Plan for Music Education (the power of music to change lives) was released by the Department for Education on 25 June 2022. Since the first National Plan was published in 2011 much has changed and it is good to see that lessons have been learnt, and given the responses in the press and on social media, this refreshed version has been received much more positively.

The Plan sets out three goals, which are much more clearly defined than the previous core and extension role. These are:

  • All children and young people receive a high-quality music education in the early years and in schools.
  • All music educators work in partnership, with children and young people’s needs and interests at their heart.
  • All children and young people with musical interests and talents have the opportunity to progress, including professionally.

These have already been distilled down by a number of commentators to: participation, partnerships and progression.

It’s good to see early years music included in the Plan, although there is not much detail on this or additional funding or resources available. Schools are much more front and central than previous and there are, similar to the recently published Welsh Plan for music education, direct links with the school curriculum. The concept of partnerships is much more clearly articulated and there is an acknowledgement that Music Services are not expected to provide everything for young people’s musical journeys. There is also, in the final chapter, an emphasis on the wider music industry and a more fluid definition of progression.

Other points to note include:

  • Every school to have a named music lead and a Music Development Plan
  • A Music Progression Fund to support disadvantaged pupils with ‘significant musical potential, enthusiasm and commitment’
  • The establishment of four national Music Hub centres of excellence for inclusion, CPD, music technology and pathways to industry
  • All Music Hubs to develop and publish an inclusion strategy, and all Music Hub lead organisations to have an inclusion lead by 2024

The process of becoming a Music Hub, note the word Education has been dropped, will be open to competition and DfE are encouraging consortium bids in a move to reduce the number of Hubs from 120. There are already groups of Hubs working successfully together, such as those in Greater Manchester, and in East and South West London, so this makes sense. There is no timeframe of the application process but will keep a keen eye on this. CPD and networks, both which Sound Connections have run for years, work more effectively on a larger scale so we look forward to supporting Hubs with their plans.

CPD and supporting music teachers and leaders runs through the Plan but it is disappointing to see no mention of the Certificate for Music Educators. Also lacking is any real strategic acknowledgement of youth voice and agency, although there are a number of case studies in which we hear the voice, and musical journeys, of young people.

I would urge anyone who is involved in music education and works with young people to read the Plan and reflect on how it relates to their own work and practice. There are also a number of helpful resources and commentaries from music education organisations and colleagues which are worth looking at including; ISM, Music Mark and Youth Music.

Overall, I am hopeful and positive about what the Plan sets out, and most especially with its commitment to inclusion, front and centre. However for this to be successful, it is most definitely up to all of us who work across the music education sector, and I look forward to how Sound Connections can play its part.

You can download the full Plan and supporting information here >


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