'Not enough music': a critique of music education in schools in England




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De Montfort University



Peer reviewed


This paper presents a critical overview of music education in schools in England, both generally and historically up to the end of 2019. It was decided early on that justice could not be done to all the nations of the UK - Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales - with their respective rich and important music cultures; neither could there be an international comparative analysis: while these two perspectives are important, it would have required a book rather than a monograph to fully explore these dimensions.
This monograph was researched and written by me from late 2016 to late 2019. It started as a short article, maybe 3000 to 5000 words, for a journal, but as I read more, visited places and researched more deeply and widely, I realized that a short journal article would not do justice to the subject. I was also persuaded that the finished work should be written in accessible English and should reach a much wider readership than a narrowly academic journal article would allow. So it is now a research monograph, 29,000 words long and with over 100 references.
I consider the current state of teaching and learning in music education by drawing on national and local research projects including online web research, observations, and visits to institutions, as well as on my own insights and experience. The visits included a variety of schools and colleges, interviews, and attendance at key conferences, along with phone conversations and personal discussions with people in music and music education, and extensive reading of major texts and reports. The monograph includes historical perspectives as well as considering the social, political and economic aspects of music education, including issues related to the substantial inequality in access to instrument learning and the variable quality of the reach and provision of music education in schools. It attempts to offer a balanced view, exploring the negative aspects but also featuring positive coverage of the many successful initiatives at local and national level, often promoted by schools, government policy, concert halls, universities and music colleges, music professional bodies, charities and other third sector organizations.
It also seeks to explore and celebrate the many important manifestations of music in the public domain in England, as a background to questioning, along with music reports and professional organizations attached to the cultural and creative industries, why music education in schools has increasingly suffered underfunding, decreased provision and lowered status in the school curriculum, when England has such a world-renowned, diverse and rich music culture.
Relevant developments and research on music and arts education at De Montfort University are also discussed and Dr Austin Griffiths, my colleague and member of the Education Studies staff, was invited to write a special analysis of elite music education based on his ongoing research.




Dufour, B. (2019) 'Not enough music': a critique of music education in schools in England. De Montfort University: Leicester


Research Institute