Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and Dua Lipa are among the music industry leaders who have called for public funding for music in disadvantaged schools.
In a letter to Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer on Thursday, Lord Lloyd-Webber called for funding to scale up the work of his music education charity, the Music in Secondary Schools Trust (MiSST), which has provided free musical instruments and weekly music lessons for 20,000 children in disadvantaged schools for the past 10 years.
The letter was co-signed by industry figures including Liam Gallagher, Katherine Jenkins, Nicola Benedetti, Julian Lloyd Webber, the Kanneh-Mason family and Jonathan Vaughan, the principal of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
The MiSST provides instruments, lessons as part of the curriculum and a developed programme for children in years 7, 8 and 9 in schools in England, including in London, Barnsley, Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and Cumbria.
According to the trust, across all subjects taught in its partner schools – not just music – children are getting half a grade more than predicted, and some are going on to study at the likes of Oxford, Cambridge and the Royal College of Music. It says there is also a 10% increase in pupils’ self-confidence and resilience, and many students report that music helps to improve their happiness, and sometimes turn their life around.
The cost of the programme is initially £200 a year for each student, which drops to £132 once a school has been running the programme for three years.
Lloyd Webber’s letter said: “From improved cognitive development, communication skills and problem solving to greater confidence, self-esteem and social development, music has a profound impact on young people’s lives.
“Most pertinently, in a world that feels more divided than at any point in my lifetime, and with conflict raging around the world with incalculable consequences, music has a unique ability to unite. It is a universal language that can transcend borders, cultures and differences and bring people together.”
It continued: “For many years, music education in schools has been scaled back – at a time when we have never needed it more. Every child deserves to be empowered through music, no matter their background, race or religion.”
The letter urged the government, and all future governments, to help scale up the work of the trust, targeting the most disadvantaged schools in the most disadvantaged areas, starting with the 80 schools on the trust’s waiting list.
“Now, more than ever, we must reverse the tide on musical education and recognise the transformational impact it can have for our children, schools, communities and society at large,” it said.
Rachel Landon, MiSST chief executive, said: “If governments are serious about creating equal opportunity in education, programmes like MiSST are exactly where they should be focused.”