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Music excluded from teacher bursary scheme again

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced increased bursaries for teacher trainees in some subjects for the 2023 academic year. The move is to help the crisis in recruitment, particularly among secondary teachers. However, music still has no bursary despite the subject being forecast by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to recruit only 57% of the DfE’s target for teacher trainees in the 2022 academic year.

The bursary for music and other arts subjects was cut in 2020, but apart from a brief increase in applications after the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of music teacher trainees has been falling steadily in recent years and many teachers have been leaving the profession. The ISM’s recent music education reports, Music: a subject in peril? and The case for change, both highlight the perilous situation for music in English schools, with teachers reporting stretched budgets and difficult working conditions.

The refreshed National Plan for Music Education, published in June 2022, was a welcome boost for music in English schools, but the current teacher shortage threatens the delivery of this ambitious plan. Recent analysis by the NFER shows a strong correlation between cuts in bursaries and a fall in teacher trainees. The ISM believes that the DfE should reinstate the music bursary to help encourage more music students into the teaching profession.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the ISM, said, ‘It is an enormous disappointment that music has been excluded from the teaching bursary scheme for the third year in a row. We have brilliant music teachers doing an excellent job across the country, but their numbers are falling and without urgent action to recruit more teachers we will not be able to ensure that every child has access to a high-quality music education.

Earlier this year the government published the refreshed National Plan for Music Education, which stated that children in every school should have access to at least one hour of music education per week up until Key Stage 3. To achieve that target we will need more trained music teachers. We urge the government to reconsider their decision.’