Lloyd Webber calls for more music tuition funding in schools

Exclusive: Composer says ministers seem unwilling to recognise benefits music can have in disadvantaged communities

Andrew Lloyd Webber is calling for the government to recognise the transformative effect that classical music tuition can have on the lives of children in disadvantaged communities.

The award-winning composer of hits including Evita, Cats and Jesus Christ Superstar spoke of his despair over the lack of adequate public funding for music, despite its life-changing benefits.

He said: “We do know music empowers children. The evidence is that it absolutely improves academic standards [and] all aspects of behaviour because they’re having to take part in something … with other people and think of other people … It doesn’t have to be classical music … As Duke Ellington said, there’s two kinds of music, good and bad.

“Drugs are greatly reduced in the schools where a music programme exists. Consider what the saving to the community is, having children much more engaged. It’s not about necessarily turning them into musicians, but the fact that music is something that liberates kids.”

Lord Lloyd Webber said ministers did not seem willing to consider “the actual statistics”.

Andrew Lloyd Webber with some of the children on Music in Secondary Schools Trust programmes.
Andrew Lloyd Webber with some of the children on Music in Secondary Schools Trust programmes. Photograph: Misst

“It is proven, but I’ve found, in dealing with this government, one’s been banging one’s head against a brick wall on so many issues – and this one is a no-brainer,” he added.

He pointed to the work of the Music in Secondary Schools Trust (Misst), which partners with schools in disadvantaged areas to provide regular classical music tuition. Its latest report, which will be published on Thursday, presents compelling statistics on the impact of such programmes on 11- to 18-year-olds, such as improving self-confidence and resilience.

Its research shows Misst students are “bucking the national trend”, with self-confidence, for example, increasing by more than 10% in schools that have the programme compared with those that do not.

Lloyd Webber said: “At a time when schools are so under pressure that music teaching is at serious risk, programmes like Misst are needed more than ever before.”

The trust provides 8,030 students with regular tuition and instruments through programmes.
The trust provides 8,030 students with regular tuition and instruments through programmes. Photograph: Misst

Misst was founded in 2013, after years of development at Highbury Grove school in Islington, north London, with the belief that young people’s lives could be transformed through high-quality music education.

It provides 8,030 students with regular tuition and instruments through programmes that would otherwise not be available to them.

However, the trust is crying out for funds, with a waiting list of more than 30,000 children. The trust wants to develop the programmes beyond London, having so far reached Warwickshire, Oldham and Middlesbrough. Its education programme costs about £200 a year for each child.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has donated £3.4m to the main Misst programme and a further £100,000 to other activities.

Lloyd Webber said: “We calculated that … it would only cost £300m to implement this scheme across all schools. This one is actually oven-ready. It’s ready to go, but we can’t do it all. It’s got to the point where many thousands of children in schools want to join this. But we haven’t got the resource to do it.”

Young musicians in an orchestra
The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has so far donated £3.4m to the main Misst programme and a further £100,000 to other activities. Photograph: Misst

Rachel Landon, the chief executive of Misst, said: “We’ve done this completely through philanthropy.” Having been turned down recently for government funds, the trust has submitted another proposal.

At the moment, music training varies from one school to another, Landon said, adding: “We went to a school last year and they had no music whatsoever and now we’ve introduced the programme and it’s a really … amazing music department.”

Lloyd Webber described the first concert he attended at Highbury Grove school as “one of the most extraordinary things that I’ve ever seen”.

“There was [a] choir – where you’ve got [60] or more different languages spoken in the school – singing Mozart’s Ave Verum. Just on one level, you were seeing Muslims, Jews, Christians … singing and enjoying it … I felt we had to get ourselves involved,” he said.

The Department for Education said: “We are committed to ensuring all children can enjoy the benefits of music and arts. We have invested over £620m between 2016 and 2021 on a diverse range of music and arts education programmes.”


Dalya Alberge

The GuardianTramp

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