Where is our creative revolution for music in schools? | Christopher H

Choddinott photoChristopher H is a Music Teacher from Hull in the UK, who has a passion for creativity. He has worked in education for the last eight years and has a love for music and drinking tea.

In February 2006, Sir Ken Robinson asked the question at his TED talk, “Do schools kill creativity?” His speech was charming, funny, engaging and gave a convincing argument that we should be doing more to engage in creativity in schools. The talk is the most viewed TED talk of its history seen over forty million times in the talk’s ten-year history. It has made Sir Ken Robinson a well-known name in education and often referred to in professional development.

However, since his inspiring and famous speech, has much changed to inspire creativity and promote the creative arts in schools? In my opinion, the standards to support the arts in school have been minimal. The importance of standards and emphasis on the subjects such as English, Science, and Mathematics has continued to be the measure by governments of education as a whole. How well a school is doing is assessed by the criteria set in those main subjects. As Sir Ken Robinson says “it places less value on practical disciplines, art, drama, dance, music, design and physical education.” Creativity is stifled by the emphasis on the “core” subjects.

Schools have to realise the beneficial effect that music and the arts in the school as a whole. Not only does it teach creative skills, such as how to innovate, evaluate, reflect, problem solves and communicate ideas, it improves the learning environment for the whole school. It is proved that music and the arts improve academic standards as a whole. For example research by Nina Kraus showed “children who learned how to play a musical instrument showed stronger language skills than children who took music appreciation courses.” It is not only true for language learning but true for a whole range of subjects, the fact that students who play a musical instrument perform well academically overall.

With the evidence and research that is available, it would be thought that music and the arts are actively encouraged in schools. However, that is not the case, not just in the UK but across the world as Anita Collins, an academic in neuroscience and music education, says:

“Music education is often one of the first programs to be cut or scaled back when the purse strings are tightened in a school. Again when considering the research that now exists, this also seems flawed.”

With this statement, it has meant the numbers of students opting to take GCSE music are low and continuing to drop. Around 8% of all students choose to take GCSE music which compares to 20% taking Physical Education. So what is the cause of a decline in music? There is a lack of purposeful investment in music, as it is expensive to run and many schools cutting back on their music programs and are not offering GCSE music as an option. Ofsted has failed to hold to account schools for neglected art programs. Many students also find the KS3 material stagnant and uninspiring, where more focus should be on helping students play an instrument in school, or developing skills in music technology and music production. Students are also put off having careers in music by a lack of support from peers, teachers, parents and society.

In short, we should be doing more to pressure the powers that be to agree that creative subjects such as music hold an important part in the school community. We should encourage each child to play one instrument and give them the opportunities to practice, perform and develop. They should be encouraged that many creative industries are looking for talented musicians and a career can be made from music.


Collins, A. (2015) Music education key to raising literacy and numeracy standards. (Accessed: 14 September 2016).

Dovey, D. (2014) The link between music and academic success. (Accessed: 14 September 2016).

Maton, K. (2016) ‘Choosing music: Exploratory studies into the low uptake of music GCSE.   (Accessed: 14 September 2016).

Robinson, K. and Aronica, L. (2015) Creative schools: Revolutionizing education from the ground up. London, United Kingdom: Allen Lane.

TED (2007) Do schools kill creativity? | sir Ken Robinson | TED talks


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