Last year I was invited to join a panel of advisors to help the Government produce their new National Plan for Music Education (NPME). It was an excellent opportunity to raise standards in music education for all children, but especially those with special educational needs and disabilities. The work has become an integral part of my role as Disability and Access Ambassador for Arts and Culture and I am delighted that the plan has now been published.
The plan’s vision is to enable all children and young people to learn to sing, play an instrument and create music together, and have the opportunity to progress their musical interests and talents, including professionally. I was proud to represent the rights of children and young people with SEND on the advisory panel, volunteering 20+ years of experience leading The Music Man Project, working in Special Schools and as a Senior Leader in mainstream Secondary Education.
The National Plan for Music Education sends a powerful message about the importance of a high-quality inclusive music provision for all pupils, challenging schools and Music Hubs to realise the musical potential of children with SEND like never before. With its focus on high expectations and a clear distinction between music therapy and music education, the plan requires schools and Music Hubs to deliver a bespoke and sustainable strategy capable of reaching every child with SEND.
The ambitious plan also includes resources, case studies and examples of effective collaboration with external providers. Regional inclusion leaders and a new national Hub centre of excellence for Inclusion will provide further specialist support. Equipped with this new guidance, schools and Music Hubs are better placed to improve inclusivity and increase participation for all.
The National Plan will also help create future role models with SEND, attract more teachers of SEND music to the profession and encourage more ambitious SEND-led music performances. Providing visible and targeted platforms for children with SEND to learn music and showcase their talent marks a step-change in inclusive Arts Education. The upward cycle of progress will build momentum towards better employment prospects in the future and a more fundamental understanding of disability diversity in today’s society.
Crucially, the Government is announcing new investment of £25 million capital funding to enable the purchase of musical instruments and technology, including adaptive instruments where needed for pupils with SEND. The Department for Education will continue to invest £79 million per year for the Music Hubs programme over three years up to and including 2024-25. Additional funding will also be made available for a Music Progression Fund pilot and the new centres of excellence.
I hope this plan, and my contribution in particular, encourages a greater focus on children with SEND, who currently remain underserved by many schools and Music Hubs. There is no doubt that this community is more difficult to reach, but the impact of accessible music education and performance is unquestioned and they now have a new delivery model to follow.
I am delighted with the response to the new plan. This reaction from a parent of an individual with complex disabilities is typical of the feedback I've received:
"I am very pleased to read this! It's about time music was recognised for all of its benefits especially to mental health and wellbeing. I'm even more happy to know that SEND will benefit from the extra funding as this is often the first place to cut funding. My son's school had £25 per year budget for the music department!"
With high expectations, fresh guidance and resources, supported by investment from the Government, UK schools and Music Hubs can help children and young people with disabilities achieve more in music. Whether performing to friends in school assemblies or inspiring thousands at the Royal Albert Hall, they will finally be able access the musical opportunities they deserve.
Access the new National Plan for Music Education here: The power of music to change lives: a national plan for music education - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)