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This is a guest post from Matt Griffiths, CEO of UK charity Youth Music, where he responds to the government’s recently-refreshed National Plan for Music Education, in which the Department for Education and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport sets out their vision for music education, and the partnerships with schools, music hubs, the music and creative sector, that they think are needed. Griffiths writes about the impact of the plan, the wider effects on the music industry, and the need to use this momentum to make lasting transformational changes.

My overall view of the plan is that it’s great to see a positive change of emphasis, particularly regarding inclusion. The refreshed plan rightly places young people’s lives in music front and centre. It is the multiplicity of music education that is one of its greatest assets, and it is a positive step forward to see this now embraced.

It’s crucial, however, that we view this plan in the current cultural context of both young people and music, one that goes beyond just education. This means that a static plan for the next decade will not be enough. So, we are calling for a commitment to constantly review its relevance and ongoing impact. This requires constant dialogue with young people to truly understand their changing world and needs.

Matt Griffiths, CEO, Youth Music

That’s why, at Youth Music, we believe co-creation with young people is crucial to defining the future of their music education. Our latest campaign, Share the Mic, is already sparking a new way of thinking about youth voice and participation across the sector. And we will continue to use insights from young people – like our reports Exchanging NotesBlueprint for the FutureSounds of the Next Generation and Reshape Music, to inform our thinking.

It is good to see that the plan also acknowledges the importance of having a suitably skilled and wide-ranging workforce in place.  However, we believe this needs to go further by diversifying the workforce to better reflect the lived experiences of children and young people and their existing lives in music. Currently, young people across the world continue to face multiple barriers, financial and social, to accessing careers within the music industry (we’ve seen a 33% increase in applications over the past year).

The plan calls for greater collaboration between music educators and music industries, better supporting young people to transition between the two.

Our call to music education and music industry organisations is not to reinvent the wheel with new short-term initiatives though. Instead, think strategically, work with and for young people, and be ambitious. We need to understand what barriers young creatives face that stop them from transitioning from music education to the music industry because now, the music ecosystem is not representative of any society, no matter where they are in the world.

This plan provides an opportunity for the music industry to step up; to look at internships, pay, and pathways into creative roles. We would have liked to have seen more specific recommendations in the plan to address this, and the need for an infrastructure that reflects the demand for funding, by harnessing the collective power of the music industry for good.

Youth Music is already helping break down these barriers by building insights, investment and infrastructure to support diverse, grassroots music projects. For example, the Youth Music Incubator Fund has so far provided over 800 paid work opportunities created at the Real Living Wage, for young people across England, Scotland and Wales, with £1.3M going directly to 18–25-year-olds via salaries, commission fees and micro-grants.  But we can only make so much change without wider industry action. Powerful players in the music industries that benefit financially from music culture can accelerate tangible change at a significant scale. And they’ll continue benefiting from a diverse pipeline of employable talent.

It’s promising to see many of the changes we’ve been recommending at Youth Music incorporated into the refreshed plan. We shouldn’t view this plan as being done to us, we should view it as being part of us. It’s ours, and we need to all play our part to collectively catalyse a powerful global movement, equalising access for young people to make, learn and earn in music.

Find out more about Youth Music’s projects here.

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