Don’t let music die in schools

Our young blogger Charlotte writes about cuts to music education in English and Scottish schools.

We all knew it was coming, but somehow reading it in black and white made it seem even more depressing: the news that music “could face extinction as a subject in secondary schools in England…because of pressure on pupils to take subjects included in the EBacc school league table measure.”

The EBacc (English Baccalaureate) was introduced in England in by the coalition government in 2010, and aimed to examine pupils in the subjects of English, maths, science, a language and geography or history. Conspicuously, there is a distinct lack of arts in this list, and, inevitably, the EBacc has resulted in a catastrophic decline in music and the arts in English secondary schools. According to a Government report monitoring the effects of the EBacc, 23% of teachers whose schools had to withdraw a subject said that they had withdrawn drama or similar performing arts subjects. Despite the scrapping of the EBacc in 2013, the idea of the EBacc has clearly had a destructive effect on the creative arts in England.

So what? you might be thinking. It’s a shame, but Scotland has a different education system. We weren’t affected by the EBacc.

Unfortunately, music in Scotland is facing a similar crisis. In May 2016, The Herald reported that music tuition in Scottish schools was “fighting for survival” due to cuts. This foretelling proved ominously accurate when, last November, Perth and Kinross Council approved a series of cuts which would starve free music tuition of thousands of pounds.

What is this madness? Of course, in times such as these, difficult decisions and sacrifices must be made. But I have seen and experienced for myself the life-changing effects that music and the arts can have on young people, and I find it disheartening to imagine a dismal future without music departments in schools.

Playing instruments gave me confidence that I could never have imagined. I started playing the clarsach in 2010 and the viola in 2013. Since I started secondary school, I have been in the school choir, the string band, and have performed in every school Christmas concert. Blessed as I am with a fantastic music department, it breaks my heart to think that the magic I have been so lucky to experience over the past few years could be slashed so brutally from the education system.

I’m not going to pretend that learning instruments is always a walk in the park. It is time-consuming, stressful, and often painful (for viola players, anyway; standing ramrod straight for half an hour trying to make your arm do things it wasn’t designed for kills your back and makes you ache in places you never knew you had). There is nothing, nothing worse than doing your homework for two hours, relishing the prospect of Sherlock when you’ve finished... and then realising that you haven’t practised all week. And that your lesson is tomorrow.

So why have I stuck with it for so many years?

Because when you get it, you get it. There is nothing quite like the feeling that courses through you when you triumphantly hit a high note which has been the bane of your life every time you’ve practised it up until now.

I realise that there is a need to save money. I understand that I know next to nothing about the decisions having to be made across governments and councils nationwide. All I know is that if music tuition is wiped out in schools, we will lose one of the most creative and expressive arts in existence simply due to a lack of funding, and this will let young people down.