The statistics: part 3
Despite some of the challenges they face, music teachers express great satisfaction with, enthusiasm for and commitment to their work. They are also highly qualified: almost 40% have an equivalent qualification at Masters or PGCE level, with a further third qualified up to Bachelor degree with honours.
A love of teaching, closely followed by a desire to pass on their skills and love of music itself, are the dominant factors that motivate members of the profession. On average, teachers rated their professional fulfillment level as 8 out of 10, with one in five scoring 10 out of 10. In addition, music teachers are more fulfilled the longer they remain in the profession (see Fig 34).
‘I thoroughly enjoy teaching. It is a varied and rewarding job. I enjoy nurturing all my pupils – with their different abilities and interests,’ said one teacher respondent (who rated professional fulfillment as 10).
However half of all teachers surveyed cited negative aspects to their work – from a lack of support from school management to a lack of student motivation.
Teachers’ experiences also vary depending on whether they work in the public or private sector. Teachers for Music Services and at music centres express slightly lower levels of professional satisfaction. Arguably the high political profile of (and expectation placed upon) Music Education Hubs, coupled with the downward pressure on local authority budgets and reduced central government funding5, is having a more negative impact on colleagues operating in these contexts than others.
‘... I am only paid for the hours I work and holidays become difficult times. I am only on a temporary cover/supply contract with the Music Service that I am with and there is no hope of being made permanent with them. Effectively it is a zero hours contract – my hours could be taken away at any time in order to keep a permanent member of staff employed. [A ranking of] 8 is quite high though as I love doing what I do now: a mixture of private students at home; some peripatetic and some classroom teaching in primary schools...,’ said one teacher respondent (who rated professional fulfillment at 8).
Those working in Music Education Hubs, together with classroom teachers and Music Service staff, teach the most hours at 23 per week, compared with an average of 16 for private teachers. Comments from private teachers indicate that they value the ability to choose their working hours as this allows them to fit their teaching around family life and other commitments.
One teacher respondent said: ‘Teaching music on a peripatetic basis offers a flexible working life and the opportunity to work in many different places with a wide age range.’
Almost half of the teachers surveyed (46%) undertake other paid work in the music profession, while one in five does other work unrelated to music. This reflects the portfolio nature of musicians’ and educators’ careers (see Fig 36). Less than a third (27%) undertake no other paid work than teaching, while over half of teachers working for Music Services and Music Education Hubs (56%) do other paid work in music.
37% of respondents are private teachers only, with another 10% exclusively teaching in schools. However, more than half are teaching in multiple environments, mainly privately and in school (43%).
With 85% doing some private teaching, this represents a significant way of working for many instrumental teachers. Those working in state primary schools (31%) teach the largest number of students on average (see Figs 38 and 39).
When we look at the total number of students, we find that 56% are taught in state schools, compared with 25% privately and 12% in independent schools.
While the vast majority of teachers surveyed teach students individually, those teaching in state schools and for Music Services and Music Education Hubs do significantly more group teaching (see Fig 41).
Just under 20% of those surveyed conduct whole-class ensembles where the most common instrument taught is recorder. Singing is also used extensively as a whole-class activity (see Fig 44). 60% stated that their class ensemble programmes last for a year and 19% stated they last only for a term.
When asked what proportion of students go on to take lessons after their whole-class ensemble experience, around one third of teachers did not know. Of those that did, only 18% of their students go on to take lessons on the same instrument. The proportion is smaller still (16%) when it comes to learners continuing lessons on a different instrument (see Figs 42 and 43). One interpretation of this is that the instruments available or offered to learners in the whole-class ensemble experience are not necessarily those which learners themselves would select if given a choice.
When asked to identify barriers that prevent children continuing to play or sing after participating in whole-class ensemble programmes, a majority of teachers (64%) cite the cost of instruments and lessons. An even greater percentage of those who teach in state schools (70%) believe cost is the primary reason why learners do not continue.
‘The satisfaction of playing well and other people enjoying it’
– A learner responding to what they enjoy most about making music.
Over the last five years, 31% of teachers say they’ve seen a decrease in student numbers. Many cite parents being unable to afford lessons and other activities competing for students’ attention.
These are significant issues for state primary and secondary school teachers. However, 39% have seen an increase in student numbers, mainly as a result of gaining students naturally by word of mouth or by increasing the number of hours they teach.
Instrumental and singing teachers are remarkably fulfilled professionally, reflecting the rewarding nature of their work and their enjoyment of teaching. Peripatetic teaching can offer great flexibility around family life or within a diverse portfolio career, with the opportunity to work in different teaching environments. However, almost half of the teachers surveyed identify negative aspects of their work, with a lack of support from schools and parents plus poor motivation from students being among the most common. A large majority of those teaching whole-class ensembles see the cost of lessons and instruments as the principal barrier to learners continuing to play.