The National Plan for Music Education (NPME), for example, was considered the start of an exciting new era when it was unveiled in 2011. The NPME established 123 new Music Education Hubs, which, it was said, would provide opportunities for individual tuition and ensemble singing and playing of all kinds. But, when push came to shove, the scheme did not receive sufficient funding. The hubs relied significantly on parental contributions, and this, in turn, meant provision became very patchy, with more prosperous areas doing well and less advantaged areas turning into virtual deserts.
Meanwhile, in the past decade, there has been a calamitous decline in pupils taking GCSE and A-level music, down by 19 per cent and 44 per cent respectively. Now, following the hammer blow of the pandemic, it is time for those erstwhile friends of music and the arts to insist on their vital place in school life. Rather than cutting music in schools, there should be a concerted push for special one-off musical projects. These could involve existing musical ensembles alongside new ones. We have a small army of gifted music animateurs, who can be deployed to create such projects – now is the time to mobilise them.
Meanwhile, the new National Plan for Music is also expected this year, based on a remarkably cogent model music curriculum drawn up by high-profile leaders in music education, including Julian Lloyd Webber, which called for every child to be taught to read and write musical notation before leaving primary school.
We have heard many fine words from ministers and the panjandrums of the education world on the value of music over the years. Now is surely the time for them to put their money where their mouth is.