It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh, and to have another opportunity to talk on a subject that is close to my heart.
I thank Conor McGinn for securing this debate and for his record of championing the interests of music and musicians in this place. I echo his tribute to the outgoing chief executive of UK Music, Michael Dugher, for all his fantastic work during his tenure. I know that wherever he goes in the future, he will continue to be a passionate and important advocate for music and the creative sector.
As we leave the European Union, and with the majority Government we have now, we find ourselves at a crossroads. The direction that we choose to take will have enormous ramifications across almost every aspect of Government policy. As UK Music pointed out in its post-election letter to the Prime Minister, that is particularly true in respect of the future of the music industry.
Before turning to policy specifics, it is worth talking about something more fundamental: music education. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on music and vice chair of the all-party parliamentary group on music education, and as a former—not very good—music teacher, I have spoken on this topic on a number of occasions; I apologise to anyone who has been unfortunate enough to hear me before. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister spoke about smoothing out regional disparities and levelling up the parts of the UK that have felt neglected under successive Governments. In the case of music education there is a similar disparity that needs levelling up.
Around 50% of students in independent schools receive music tuition, compared to just 15% in state schools. According to last year’s “State of the nation” report, there has been a fall of 6.4% of curriculum time dedicated to music between 2010 and 2017. Last year’s Department for Education workforce data showed a drop in the music teacher workforce at key stage 3 of an enormous 26%. This is not the place for a debate about the school curriculum, but I restate my keenness for the Government to re-examine the possibility of adding a sixth pillar to the EBacc. As I have said before, a core curriculum that excludes the arts is an oxymoron.