The UK Music report ‘Securing our Talent Pipeline’ describes the current state of the music industry within the United Kingdom. They report that it grew by 6% last year and that is now worth around £4.4 billion to the economy. Of this total, the live music industry contributes around £1 billion. Whilst these headline numbers might give some readers some reassurance, the report goes on to present growing evidence that there is an emerging ‘crisis’ in the pipeline of talent that this industry depends upon. In relation to music education, they report that:

17% of music creators were educated at fee paying schools, compared with 7% across the population as a whole. This matters because 50% of children at independent schools receive sustained music tuition, while the figure for state schools is a mere 15 per cent.

Schools, music services and music education hubs play an important part in this pipeline for new talent. As this review has explored, the decline in music as a curriculum subject within the school curriculum could be seen as having a negative influence on this talent development. This decline has also seen a significant drop in the numbers of applications being made to the various postgraduate music teacher education courses offered by universities and school consortia. John Howson, a visiting Professor at Oxford Brookes University, has followed the trends in teacher recruitment over many years in the United Kingdom. In a recent post, he highlighted a significant decline in respect of applicant music teacher numbers.

His figures are based on a vacancy site that he set up to help schools find new staff called TeachVac. This has run for a number of years and offers a free advertising site for schools. His figures show that Music, as a classroom taught subject, is more of a shortage subject than mathematics. Specifically,

Despite cuts to the curriculum in state funded schools, there have been more than 600 vacancies for main scale classroom teachers recorded so far in 2018 by TeachVac. This is slightly down on the 632 vacancies recorded by this point in 2017, but not significantly so. The previous two years, 2015 and 2016 recorded around the 550 vacancies mark by this point in September.

Howson does report some significant regional differences in the figures related to TeachVac vacancies. These might be related to the schools that are aware of, or have chosen to use, the TeachVac service, but they seem noteworthy nonetheless:

Around half of the vacancies recorded in 2018 were from secondary schools in either London or the South East, the regions with the largest concentration of independent schools and the best funded state schools. Relatively few vacancies have been recorded from schools in the North East so far in 2018. 

As he goes on to point out in his article, the real cause for the shortage of music teachers in schools is down to the failure of the DfE to attract enough graduates into teaching in shortage subjects such as Music. This has been a problem for several years and has been reported in various places including in our MD’s personal blog. Howson reports that last September (2017):

… the DfE estimate in the Teacher Supply Model was for 409 music teachers; 295 were recruited according to their census of trainees. This year, by the middle of August, potential trainee numbers were slightly below the same period in 2017 and on target for around 280 trainees overall.

Given that not everyone who starts a postgraduate course of initial teacher education completes it, it seems like a fair estimate for the number of new music teachers coming into the marketplace for jobs could be as low as 250 in 2019. Does music education in our schools need qualified teachers of music? If so, this decline is a significant concern.