Funding for and access to music education 'Hitting the right note'

Summer of 2016

During the summer of 2016 we, the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, asked the Welsh public for their ideas as to what they felt our priorities should be and what issues we should be investigating.

Facebook live

The chair of the Committee, Bethan Sayed AM sat down with James Williams from BBC Wales to talk about our newly formed committee on Facebook live, the first time the National Assembly had ever done so. Bethan encouraged people to get in touch, and make suggestions for priority areas.

We invited people to suggest ideas on Facebook, Twitter and by e-mail, and also held an event at the National Eisteddfod to continue the conversation.

The outcome of the summer consultation

We received lots of suggestions and ideas from the public, all of which were worth considering. So we came up with the idea that the public should decide what our next full inquiry should be. This is the first time an Assembly committee has asked the people of Wales to decide a future committee inquiry.

We all consult and engage as well as we can as AMs, but research carried out by Dr Andy Williamson shows that we really need to develop how people help make decisions, so they can shape the agenda, and potentially, feel more empowered through these democratic processes.


In total 2,660 people responded to the poll, over 900 of those responses came from paper surveys and the remaining 1,757 responses were received online.

One in five of you voted for 'funding for and access to music education'.

Out of the eleven potential inquiries ‘funding for and access to music education’ came out on top with 20% of the vote.

This inquiry represents the first time that an Assembly Committee has handed a decision directly to the people of Wales, asking them to decide what the Committee would look at.

This is a really important issue, and it’s one that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.

If Wales is truly the land of song, we need to look at how we support young people – irrespective of their background – to develop their musical talents as an important part of providing a rounded and fulfilling education system.

The inquiry

We have looked in detail at this issue.

We called witnesses, questioned the Welsh Government and set up an advisory panel of citizens to help come up with ideas to improve funding for and access to music education for all people in all areas of Wales.

The first oral evidence session was with Owain Arwel Hughes, founder of the Welsh Proms and a former conductor with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Mr Hughes had recently described the record low level of applications for the National Youth Orchestra of Wales as symptomatic of a broader crisis in Welsh music and related it to cuts to school music services.

Advisory group

To ensure that we continued to get expert advice on the matter, we set up an online advisory group, made up of people with an interest and expertise in this area, to help us.

The group looked at the issues we were considering and shared with us their ideas and suggestions for how music education in Wales could be protected and improved.

The Advisory Group proved extremely useful and we are grateful to everyone who took part.

Head teacher Survey

To ensure we gained a fuller understanding of the sector and its current situation, head teachers, from all secondary schools across Wales, were invited to take part in a survey for the inquiry. The survey considered music provision that is not offered as part of the National Curriculum.

80 survey responses were submitted, with 29 through the Welsh language survey; there are 200 schools in Wales.

We heard that:

• the cost of extra-curricular music tuition is met by parents (77%), the school (66%) and the local authority (35%).
• 34% considered their school to be in a rural location, with 39% of those stating that being in a rural location presents difficulties in accessing extra-curricular music tuition.

We were also told that the barriers and difficulties in accessing extra-curricular music tuition consisted of:

• Cost and financial implications. 51%;
• Lack of resource 22%;
• No difficulties and/or a positive experience. 19%.

What did we find out?

From Joseph Parry’s Aberystwyth to the protest songs of the 60s and 70s, Welsh music has long held a role that is paramount to not only the promotion of Welsh culture and heritage beyond our borders but the maintenance and revitalisation of such things as the Welsh language within. Through music Wales has fought oppression and cultural erosion and has become famous around the world as ‘the land of song’.

The importance of music to Wales is also evidenced by its role within the creative industries sector, a sector which generates nearly £1bn a year, a figure which has increased by almost a fifth in the last five years.

So when Owain Arwel Hughes, founder of the Welsh Proms, stated that cuts to school music services were causing a crisis in Welsh music education, it was a startling revelation. This concern was also borne out in the result of the Committee’s public poll, through which we asked the public to decide what we should look at next. Out of the eleven potential inquiries, ‘funding for and access to music education’ came top, with 20% off the vote.

Throughout the evidence the two main themes to emerge were based around equality of provision and equality of access. The Committee heard many times how the different areas of Wales offered a vastly different picture to one another with regard to music services.

The positive impact music education has on a child’s development was another theme that permeated the evidence. We consistently heard from those giving evidence how, by being taught music in their formative years, they learned the value of commitment and were taught the importance of patience and hard work.

As a musician myself, who has been through the music service system, I have been given amazing opportunities - be it playing some of the World’s most renowned orchestral music, working as a team, or travelling to different countries with the National Youth Orchestra of Wales to showcase Welsh talent. As such, I am passionate about addressing the urgent need to sustain and develop music in Wales, and believe we must now come up with radical solutions in the face of continuous cuts to these services.

This report specifically focuses on addressing the shortfalls consistently across Wales, in order to ensure that every child, regardless of their location or financial backing, has an equal opportunity to progress to excellence. The time has come to not simply paper over the cracks but to give sufficient resource and clear direction to the sector.

What have we recommended?

We have made 16 recommendations in our report, including:

- The Welsh Government should transfer responsibility for the delivery of music services to an arms-length, national body with a distinct regional delivery mechanism and footprint. The national body should be core funded by the Welsh Government and should be made responsible for ensuring that both pupils and staff working within the music education sector, regardless of their location or social background, are afforded equitable opportunities;

- That the Welsh Government significantly increases the funding made available to local authorities for the purchasing of musical instruments and distributes it on a needs basis. This should be done as a matter of urgency and should be aimed at improving the situation in the short term, to cover the period before a national body is fully able to take responsibility for music services; and,

- That the Welsh Government, via a National Action Plan for Music: - Provides strategic direction to local authorities and schools on ways to integrate and encourage the teaching of less traditional forms of music; and encourages the establishment of rock and pop ensembles and national, rock and pop based, competitions.

You can read our full report and also an interview with Bethan talking about the report.

The launch event

On 14 June 2018 we were proud to launch our report with many of the people who contributed to the inquiry.

The event provided an opportunity to discuss the report and its findings with us, as well as celebrate the talent we have in Wales with performances from The Glam and Owain Felstead and Maya Morris, musicians from Lewis School Pengam.

We were also pleased to welcome our guest speakers, Tim Rhys Evans from the charity Only Boys Aloud and Bethan Jenkins Head of Music at Lewis School Pengam.

Tim spoke about his positive experiences within the industry and expressed regret that Wales was now facing a crisis in music education Tim conveyed the wide range of benefits resulting from the studying of, and participation in, music education. This included its positive impact on broader educational attainment levels as well as mental wellbeing.

Bethan explained that by being a pioneering school Lewis School Pengam promotes the learning of music education and allows pupils to learn the skills necessary for many forms of music creation.

What next?

Following the publication of our report the Welsh Government has six weeks to respond. This means that they must respond by 26 July 2018, and it will be published here, and on the inquiry’s homepage.

Welsh Government will respond to our recommendations by accepting, rejecting or accepting them in principle.

Finally, the report and Welsh Government’s response will be debated by the whole Assembly in Plenary.

Plenary is the meeting of the whole Assembly which takes place in the Siambr, the Senedd’s debating chamber.

You can book a seat at the Senedd to watch in person, watch on Senedd TV or follow the Siambr on Twitter @SeneddChamber.

You can also keep up to date with the Committee and our work by following us on Twitter @SeneddCWLC or by visiting our webpage.

Thank you

The committee would like to thank the people of Wales who have taken part in this inquiry, whether that be through commenting on the Facebook Live broadcast, taking part in the Eisteddfod panel debate, voting in the public poll, deliberating in the advisory panel or taking part in the survey. You have all played an important part in this inquiry.


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