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Music charity welcomes pledge to help every child learn instrument

PUBLISHED: 11:38 26 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:45 26 November 2019

The Sistema orchestra in Norwich performing with The Vagaband. Picture: Sistema Norwich

The Sistema orchestra in Norwich performing with The Vagaband. Picture: Sistema Norwich

Sistema Norwich

The boss of a Norfolk music charity has welcomed Labour's manifesto pledge to help every child learn a musical instrument - but cautioned the party not to repeat past mistakes.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives for the launch of his party's manifesto  in Birmingham. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA WireLabour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives for the launch of his party's manifesto in Birmingham. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Jeremy Corbyn unveiled the party's plans for a £1bn arts fund at an event in London at the weekend.

The policy includes a pupil arts premium to ensure every child gets a chance to learn a musical instrument in school "irrespective of parental income" and will also include funds to develop local arts facilities including libraries and theatres.

Norwich-based music charity NORCA and Sistema, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, runs school music lessons and after-school ensembles for children who may not otherwise have the chance to learn an instrument.

Its executive director Marcus Patteson broadly welcomed Labour's announcement, but said its implementation would have to be carefully considered to avoid the limitations of existing whole class instrumental teaching.

Young members of the Sistema orchestra in Norwich. Picture: Sistema NorwichYoung members of the Sistema orchestra in Norwich. Picture: Sistema Norwich

The initiative, designed to give each child the chance to learn an instrument and develop musical skills, was introduced in primary schools as a requirement of the coalition government's national plan for music education.

But it has been met with scepticism by some teachers who question the value of learning in such large groups.

Mr Patteson said: "A commitment to give every child the chance to learn to play a musical instrument is great, but we would need to see what it means in practice.

"We don't believe that whole class instrumental teaching is the whole answer, but hopefully with schools having funds, and in partnership with the music hubs, we will be able to discuss the best models for enabling children to be able to learn to play an instrument, take part in an orchestra or ensemble, and have continued engagement and progression over a number of years."

He added: "What we want to see is a rounded, imaginative and relevant approach to music education for all."

In their general election manifestos, the Conservatives have pledged to offer an arts premium to secondary schools to fund "enriching activities", while the Liberal Democrats say they will protect the availability of arts and creative subjects and "remove barriers" to pupils studying creative subjects, including abolishing the English Baccalaureate.

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