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Arts Council, England’s ‘Shaping the next 10 years’ report – An overview

From October 2018 to January 2019, Arts Council, England (ACE) held an open consultation across the country designed to listen to perspectives from across the sector and beyond. The aim of the study was to understand the challenges and opportunities, generate new ideas, and problem-solve together. The results of this report will inform the development of ACE strategy for the next ten years.

The consultation sought the views of a wide range of stakeholders. Arts organisations, museums and libraries of all scales as well as funders and policy makers, local authorities and children, young people and their parents and carers, were all involved in voicing their ambitions and concerns.

To engage with as wide a range of participants as possible, ACE ran an online platform. It also held a series of 37 workshops: 20 external sessions with 1,248 participants and 17 sessions for 197 Arts Council staff. Additional sessions focused on the views of children and young people up to the age of 25.

The consultation explored “the case for change”.

Six key areas were identified across the arts and culture sector:

Image taken from Arts Council Document

Image taken from Arts Council Document

The Findings 

The online research findings demonstrated that over 70% of participants agreed that 5 out of the 6 areas listed in the image above are key issues. 95% of respondents agreed with the statements, “There are still widespread socio-economic and geographic variances in levels of engagement with publicly funded culture,” and, “Across the population there are significant differences in how ‘arts and culture’ are defined, understood and valued.”

53% of participants also felt that, “Many cultural organisations are retreating from innovation, risk-taking and sustained talent development.”

The report comments:

Some respondents felt that artists and cultural organisations are committed to both innovation and talent development but, in the face of financial pressure and high levels of accountability, they need support in taking the sorts of risks that are essential to innovation. Conversely, some responses centred on the sector being bolder than many other industries and that historically the most significant and innovative art has happened during times of flux and uncertainty.

ACE ‘Shaping the Next 10 Years’ Report

In undertaking the study, ACE aimed to hear feedback on its proposed priorities.

The top three priorities that emerged, as identified by participants, are:

  • The creative and cultural lives of all children and young people are recognised and nurtured (3rd)
  • A nation that  supports and celebrates culture and creativity of every kind (2nd)
  • People from every background benefit from public investment in culture (1st)
Image taken from Arts Council Document

Image taken from Arts Council Document

What is culture? What is creativity?

As is often the case when there is discussion about art, culture and creativity, the consultation threw up questions about what is meant by these terms. 

The report states:

There was some support for as broad a definition as possible, encompassing activities that are, or will be, relevant and accessible to everyone. It was recognised that continued flexibility will be necessary to meet the requirements of a population with changing and evolving interests.

One workshop participant commented:

The Arts Council should broaden its definition of what arts and culture are – it should be fluid rather than fixed, and we should listen [to]  what people think… rather than telling them.

Priority – People from every background benefit from public investment in culture

In discussion of the priority, “People from every background benefit from public investment in culture,” many participants agreed the importance of cultural organisations working together and with local communities to create and develop cultural experiences that involve a far wider range of people.

A key theme in discussion about this priority was equality of opportunity relating to provision of equal access for all the population to arts and culture. This included the importance of children having equal opportunities to experience art and culture, particularly through schools.

Other points identified here include:

  • Local, community or place-based activity
  • Levels of funding and investment
  • How culture is defined
  • The role of diversity or diverse perspectives in ensuring this outcome is met
  • The impact that arts and culture can have in areas such as health and wellbeing
  • How communications can be maximised to engage with the public and create a greater sense of relevance/ownership
  • The importance of data and research in helping to understand the issues within the sector, and in monitoring progress

Priority – A nation that supports and celebrates culture and creativity of every kind

In discussion of the priority, “A nation that supports and celebrates culture and creativity of every kind,” the workshops raised the concept of ‘everyday culture’ and covered discussion of both professional and amateur culture encompassing all communities, lifestyles, ages and levels of experience and quality. Key challenges were the equality of opportunity and advocacy.

There should be national pride in the existence of great art, funded by public money, reaching those for whom it makes a difference. We all have hundreds of stories of great art inspiring children to speak for the first time, reconnecting elderly people with their communities, bringing happiness to newly arrived migrant families who feel isolated, creating a place for care leavers to develop a talent – publicly funded art shouldn’t always require a social outcome, but its value is not being properly advocated and I think the public are more sympathetic to this than politicians might think…

Quote from online participant

Other challenges identified included:

  • The role that specific investment programmes could have within this outcome
  • How data and evidence can be used to demonstrate the impact of the arts and culture
  • The importance of embedding cultural creative education within schools
  • That the ambition for high-quality work and excellence in the arts and culture should not be lost

Some respondents also noted the importance of creating new partnerships and collaborating with communities and existing local organisations.

Priority – The creative and cultural lives of all children and young people are recognised and nurtured

Perhaps, most importantly for those involved in arts education, the priority, “The creative and cultural lives of all children and young people are recognised and nurtured,” discussed the challenges of school curriculum including the impact of the EBacc and the focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) rather than STEAM.

The report states that the sessions with children and young people showed that respondents feel “strongly that there should be more opportunities and space for children and young people to realise their creative potential through better access to expertise, resources and inspirational activities for all.”

Creative education is the future – what role can ACE play in this? [The] curriculum [is] not fit for purpose to equip creative thinkers for the future.

Quote from online participant

Other areas discussed in relation to this priority include:

  • Listening to children and young people
  • The importance of highlighting to young people the viability of a career in the arts and cultural sector
  • The question of where young adults come under this outcome
  • The need to demonstrate the benefits of the arts and culture (whether to children and young people or parents)
  • The importance of partnerships in supporting a strong cultural offer
  • The development work that could be required to equip educators to teach creatively
  • The role of local authorities and Government within any work in this area

Schools need to be engaged more with local cultural providers, for example: museums should host regular sessions with schools so that cultural institutions are embedded within the children’s minds from a young age.

Quote from online respondent

To read the report in full visit Arts Council, England’s website.

Featured image attributed to Tiffany Bailey (source wikicommons images)


The Music Workshop Company is run by a dedicated team who are passionate about music education and like to keep abreast of issues current in the music industry. If you want to share a project with us as part of our monthly guest blog, get in touch today.

Alternately, if you would like to know more about engaging your students in our accessible, inclusive workshops, email or call us for a chat on 0844 583 8131!

Music Workshop Company, https://www.music-workshop.co.uk


Survey Returns Bleak Picture of Music Education in Schools

A recent University of Sussex survey of 500 schools in England shows a worrying picture for music in schools. The findings, released at the beginning of October, show that staffing levels in music departments have fallen in nearly 36% of schools, with 70% of surviving music specialists required to teach outside their subject to fill gaps.

The report, by Senior Teaching Fellow in Education (Education), Duncan Mackrill, also highlighted a 10% fall in the number of students taking a GCSE music course since 2016, fewer schools providing GCSE music as an option, and only some schools offering the subject out of school hours. Of the schools surveyed, 18% do not offer GCSE music at all.

[Image: Tiffany Bailey via Wikimedia Commons]

The picture is worse for A-level music. The report reveals that the number of schools offering A-level music has fallen by more than 15% in the past two years, while the number of schools teaching music technology has dropped by 32%.

Younger students are also being impacted. Only 47.5% of schools say music is compulsory for 13 to 14-year-olds and many schools only teaching music as part of an “enrichment day” once a year.

[Image: Wordbuilder via Wikimedia Commons]

Nearly 60% of the schools that completed the survey say the promotion of the EBacc and focus on academic subjects by the government was having a negative impact on music provision in their establishment.

In an interview in The Guardian, the report’s author, Duncan Mackrill, says:

Music’s place in the secondary curriculum continues to be precariously balanced or disappearing in a significant number of schools. Without a change to require a balanced curriculum in all schools, we are in danger of music education becoming, in many cases, the preserve of those who can pay.

And music provision is potentially under further threat in the coming months as the Government announced earlier this year that it will not fund the pay rise for centrally employed teachers, the majority of whom are music specialists. This means that any pay rise offered to teachers employed directly by the council, such as instrumental teachers, will need to be funded by local authorities.

The (Local Government Association) LGA estimates that this would cost councils £5.5m, an extremely large amount for local authorities that are already struggling financially. In its report on the LGA website it states:

If councils, which face a £3.9 billion funding black hole in 2019/20, are left to pick up the cost then some would have little choice but to reduce CET services such as music tuition.

There are around 5,000 centrally employed teachers who provide a range of services including those who teach children and those who play key roles in supporting education professionals. It is believed that at least half of these are teaching music. It’s also pertinent that many of the local authority music teaching schemes often waive or lower fees so children of low-income families can take part.

In an interview in the Independent Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, says:

The UK has a proud history of musical excellence and many of the most well-known artists in the world over time would have benefited from music lessons. For many young people, it is a vital part of their education and future life opportunities, but this could be at risk unless the government commits to fully funding the pay increase for all classroom teachers, including music teachers.

Ever since the introduction of the EBacc, high profile musicians have spoken out against the threat to music in schools. Also talking to the Independent, singer Ed Sheeran says,

If you keep cutting the funding for arts you’re going to be damaging one of Britain’s best and most lucrative exports.

Sheeran’s comments underline the fact that as well as being of significant value for individual children on a personal and educational level, music is a thriving industry in the UK. His remarks are backed up by a ukmusic.org report which shows continual growth in the UK music industry. Between 2016 and 2017 the industry generated £2.5bn in export revenue and saw a 6% increase in total gross value.

There are concerns about class privilege too, and the widening of the opportunities gap between rich and poor. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the Independent:

The last thing that we need is any more pressure on the provision of music in schools … Local authorities clearly cannot afford additional costs on strained budgets and this will inevitably mean cuts. We are in danger of music becoming the preserve of only those families who can afford private tuition.

The Independent also spoke to the General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union, Horace Trubridge, who attributes his own career to the free music provision he enjoyed as a child.

It seems to me that we are now entering into an era in our profession when only a very narrow social stream of young people will make up the musicians of tomorrow. How will the tradition of fantastic bands and artists rising up from the housing estates and low-to-no income families continue?

Bands like Madness, Pulp, Manic Street Preachers and so many others with great stories and real, honest social messages to sing about. How will the UK’s wonderful orchestras fulfil the demands of the funding bodies to increase diversity within their ranks, when the very people that they want to attract are denied access to music education.

With the Government seemingly turning a blind eye to the destruction of music education in the UK, what is the future for aspiring young musicians and for the music industry? In a political climate where there is already a threatened skills gap forming, isn’t it time for those in power to face the music?


The Music Workshop Company would love to hear from you. If you’re interested in asking us about any aspect of music education, would like to feature in our guest blog or to book one of our interactive workshops, contact us today!

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