Conference hits all the right notes for the future of Music Education in the South West
21st October 2019

“Make no mistake, serious question marks remain over the future of music education in the UK,” says Bryanston’s Director of Music, Stephen Williams. 

“Only through unprecedented collaboration and a genuine commitment to share best practice will it be possible to continue to help aspiring young musicians to fulfil their true potential. Following widespread financial cutbacks and a downgrading of creative subjects like music, the onus is on all schools and all professional music organisations to collaborate, share resources, learn from each other’s experiences and to champion the cause for tomorrow’s musicians and performers.”

Mr Williams’ comments follow a special Music Education Conference attended by over 60 music teachers from both the maintained and independent sector as well as leaders of music hubs in the South West and national music organisations.

Prompted by growing concern about the serious underfunding in music education highlighted in the national media and by the Royal College of Music and Royal Academy of Music, the Conference promoted the value of partnerships and showcased initiatives to help arrest the decline. The event was held at Bryanston School in partnership with the Dorset Music Hub and the Music Teachers’ Association and culminated with a lively debate and open discussion involving delegates and many of the invited speakers.

Simon Toyne, President of the Music Teachers’ Association, spoke at the Conference about his work as Executive Director of Music in 34 academy schools of the David Ross Education Trust. “At a time when there is a very real and well-publicised threat to music education, with significant falls in the number of pupils taking GCSE and A level Music, this event is the first of its kind in the region and has provided a real boost for everyone as well as a wake-up call for parents and the teaching profession as a whole,” he says. 

 “The positive impact of music on the behaviour and achievement of pupils is without question. It is clear that music education has a very influential role to play in not only developing musicianship but also in the cognitive development of all young minds. It is extremely encouraging to witness the enthusiasm of teachers, local communities and professional music hubs to work together and add further impetus to the future development of music education in the South West – something that will be of very real benefit to the next and future generations.”

Among the other speakers were Cathy Lamb, Director of Music Outreach at Lichfield Cathedral School and leader of the school’s award-winning singing programme; Professor Robert Saxton, Professor of Music at Oxford University; and leading music educationalist, Paul Harris.  Jimmy Rotherham, a music teacher at Feversham Primary School located in an impoverished area of Bradford in Yorkshire, also outlined his unique and transformative approach to saturate the school curriculum with music. Such an inspirational and ambitious programme has played a central role in helping the school to secure ‘outstanding’ status following many years in special measures.

“We’re delighted with the feedback from this Conference and the enthusiasm and shared commitment to provide pupils with the best possible classroom and extra-curricular music experiences,” adds Stephen Williams.  “Musicians are creative and used to finding solutions. We’ve already committed to hosting a GCSE workshop with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for the Dorset Music Hub in January and there certainly seems to be an appetite for the Conference to become a regular annual event.  Soundstorm (the music hub for Bournemouth and Poole), Wave Music and Arts Education have all indicated a willingness to collaborate with the Dorset Music Hub, the MTA and ourselves to build on the success of this year’s event and report on our progress at a 2020 conference.”