New National YouGov poll finds government failing to deliver on music education promise

Findings reveal government’s commitment to give all children in England the chance to learn a musical instrument is not being met in nearly 1/3 of primary schools surveyed

A new national survey of primary school teachers conducted by YouGov paints an alarming picture of music education in primary schools across Great Britain today. Data from the poll shows that:

  • Up to 30% of primary school children do not have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument during their time at school.
  • Up to 50% of children do not have the opportunity to learn an orchestral instrument.
  • Less than a fifth (19%) of primary schools give ALL pupils the chance to learn an orchestral instrument for a year free of charge... And that's just for a year.

These figures reflect a picture of music education that is patchy and inconsistent. This is in contrast to the government’s vision outlined in its 2011 report, ‘The Importance of Music: a National Plan for Music Education’2. In the section beginning: “What will our new National Plan for Music Education achieve?, the document states : “Children from all backgrounds and every part of England should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument; to make music with others; to learn to sing; and to have the opportunity to progress to the next level of excellence if they wish to.”

The YouGov poll was commissioned by Fresh One Productions - the company behind Jamie’s School Dinners and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution - on behalf of internationally-renowned concert pianist, James Rhodes, whose new two-part documentary series – Don’t Stop the Music – begins tomorrow,9 September at 9pm on Channel 4.

James is trying to tackle what he sees as the shocking state of music education in our primary schools. He is concerned that thousands of kids up and down the country are missing out on learning an instrument, which is not just one of life’s great pleasures, but an activity proven to improve behaviour, creativity, teamwork – even basic literacy and numeracy. James speaks from personal experience about the impact music can have on people’s lives. Following a troubled childhood, playing the piano turned his life around.

James says: “When the government introduced its National Plan for Music, I had high hopes that music education in this country would give every child, from every background, the opportunity to learn an instrument. But it remains a lottery; it is inconsistent and often poorly provided for. Young children have a hunger and thirst to learn music that is simply not being met. Music saved my life. It's that powerful. We must give every child the opportunity to learn a musical instrument.”

James Rhodes is embarking on a two-fold plan of action. First, he’s on a personal mission to persuade the government to fulfil the promise made in the National Plan. Second, he has launched Great Britain’s biggest-ever ‘instrument amnesty’ – asking the public to donate instruments lying unused in attics and cupboards, and ensuring that they get to primary schools so that kids who are keen to learn but don’t have the resources can do so.

When the National Plan was introduced in 2011 the annual core music budget was set at £82.5 million, but in just three years it has dropped to £58 million. Even though the government has recently announced an additional £18million, funding for music education has been significantly cut in the past two years (2012 and 2013) and is not guaranteed beyond 2016.

The principle of free instrumental tuition was abolished in 1987, and changes that followed meant that music in schools has been left to the mercy of pressurized budgets and shifting priorities

James says: “Something needs to change. If it doesn’t, many children will continue to miss out on an experience that could benefit and change their lives. But this is a complex problem and it's about more than just money. We need action: whether it’s providing teachers with proper music training or asking Ofsted to pay specific attention to music in their inspections or even a guarantee of funding until the end of the National Plan.”

The YouGov survey follows several studies critical about the state of current music education. Earlier this year the Paul Hamlyn Foundation commissioned a wide ranging review of the state of music in schools – both primary and secondary - surveying over 500 music educators. 3 It found that only just over half of music teachers - 54% -in primary schools said they had the resources needed for music education. A recent report for the Arts Council4 showed thatthere are already shortages of instruments in some music hubs - the main providers of instruments for Primary Schools. In November 2013 an Ofsted report, Music in schools: what hubs must do5, widely criticised music hubs and the service which they offer.

The series, Don’t Stop the Music, produced by Fresh One Productions sees James investigate the challenges faced by one primary school in Basildon, Essex as they make do with the bare minimum on a zero music budget. Here he tests whether his instrument amnesty can work with the pupils of year 5, persuading teachers and parents of its benefits before he attempts to launch it across Great Britain. He has now launched the amnesty nationwide, encouraging the public to donate their unused instruments, and getting them to children who need them.

Oxfam, with its great reputation for supporting music projects and local communities, has offered to help James by providing their network of nearly 700 shops across Great Britain as drop-off points, making it easy for people to donate their instruments to the amnesty. Instruments will then be given a new lease of life, thanks to support from Universal Music, carefully matched with requests, and delivered to selected primary schools from Surrey and Scotland to Newport to Newcastle using the YodelDirect service from Yodel, the official parcel carrier for the project. The ‘Don't Stop the Music Instrument Amnesty’ runs from 8 September – 17 October 2014. To find out more, visit the amnesty’s dedicated website:


Oxfam, YodelDirect and Universal Music are proud to help support the ‘Don't Stop the Music Instrument Amnesty’. The campaign and related petition to improve music education in schools is independently run by James Rhodes.

About the YouGov survey

The full statistics from the YouGov report are available: see attached document. Please note embargoed till Tuesday, 8 September 2014 00:01

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 350 primary school teachers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th – 24th July 2014. The survey was carried out online. Both the questions and the presentation of the results have been approved by YouGov prior to publication. YouGov Plc make every effort to provide representative information. All results are based on a sample and are therefore subject to statistical errors normally associated with sample-based information.

Four questions were asked:

1. For the following question, by "musical instrument", we mean pianos and instruments from the woodwind, brass and strings families (including recorders, ukuleles and guitars).

Do ALL the children in your school have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument during their time at the school?

2. For the following question, by "orchestral instrument", we mean pianos and instruments from the woodwind, brass and strings families (BUT NOT INCLUDING recorders, ukuleles and guitars).

Do ALL the children in your school have the opportunity to learn an orchestral instrument during their time at the school?

3. Just to remind you, by "orchestral instrument", we mean pianos and instruments from the woodwind, brass and strings families (BUT NOT INCLUDING recorders, ukuleles and guitars).

Do ALL the children in your school have the opportunity to learn an orchestral instrument during their time at the school for at least a whole school year?

4. You mentioned that ALL the children in your school have the opportunity to learn orchestral instruments during their time in the school…

Which ONE of the following BEST applies?

  • It is free of charge to ALL pupils for at least a year
  • It is free of charge to SOME pupils for at least a year (e.g. those who receive free school meals)
  • It is NOT free of charge to any pupils for at least a year
  • Don't know

Core funding is the money from the Government going to music education hubs throughout England, to support curriculum music in schools and associated youth music. This is separate to funds going to support specific charities or schemes, such as the Music and Dance Scheme (for exceptionally gifted young people to attend specialist music and dance schools.)

About Fresh One

Fresh One, founded in 2000 and wholly owned by Jamie Oliver, has created campaigning factual entertainment in recent years including: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Ministry of Food, School Dinners and Saving Jamie’s Bacon. Jamie's vision for the company was to create a brand that stands for the highest of production values and makes entertaining programmes that can change lives for the better. Fresh One works with some of the best talent – in front of and behind the camera – and will continue to promote originality and the ability to have a positive impact on the world.

About James Rhodes

Maverick concert pianist, James Rhodes, taught himself to play the piano at seven, only learning formally from the age of 14. He stopped playing at 18, and went on to work in the City. Ten years later, he returned to his first love: music. It paid off. In 2009, his first album reached number one in the iTunes classical chart. He has since reached number one with four more albums, performed sold-out concerts around the world and written regularly for The Guardian and The Telegraph. This year he released his fifth studio album and his live DVD, entitled Love in London, cementing his international reputation as a unique and groundbreaking concert pianist.

1 The YouGov survey covers primary schools in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland).

* The National Plan for Music covers primary and secondary schools in England only.

2 The Importance of Music: A National Plan for Music Education, Department for Education and Department for Culture, Media and Sport, November 2011

3 Inspiring Music for All, Paul Hamlyn Foundation Review of Music in Schools, by Katherine Zeserson, with Professor Graham Welch et al, 2014

Key Data on Music Education Hubs 2013
, National Foundation for Educational Research, March 2014

A music education hub is the central organisation in each area, supporting schools locally with instruments, instrumental teachers, etc, plus supporting other music opportunities. There are 123 music hubs around England. The DfE gives funding - the Music Education Hub Grant – to the Arts Council, who distribute it to the hubs.

5 Music in Schools: What hubs must do, Ofsted, November 2013

Additional information

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