Disadvantaged children in Wales to receive free access to musical instruments

17 May 2022, 12:39 | Updated: 17 May 2022, 13:04

A girl in a Welsh primary school learns the violin
A girl in a Welsh primary school learns the violin. Picture: Alamy

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Wales’ new plan for music education is triple the amount previously provided for the art form by the Welsh government.

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A new music education plan announced today promises to make music accessible for all children and young people in Wales.

The National Music Service is a £13.5 million programme funded by the Welsh government for the next three years. This total of £4.5 million a year is triple the amount previously given annually to music education by the government.

In the 32-page report on the new service, Wales is referred to as the ‘Land of Song’, and it’s easy to see why. The country is home to many incredible classical musicians ranging from bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, to classical crossover mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins, and harpist Catrin Finch.

Wales’ education minister, Jeremy Miles said: “Whether we were born here or live in Wales, music has been a strong influence in all of our lives.

“Music has been, and continues to be, one of the most inclusive ways to communicate and celebrate our culture and language.”

Read more: The amazing story of the Welsh village choir that inspired Pavarotti to take up singing

At the heart of the National Music Service sits the National Plan for Music Education.

Miles continues: “Our vision for [Wales’] National Plan for Music Education is for all children and young people across Wales, regardless of background, to have the chance to learn to play an instrument.”

As cost of living increases across the United Kingdom, children’s music lessons perhaps won’t be top of everyone’s list of priorities. However, the Welsh government ensures their plan will “break down barriers and make sure that a lack of money in particular does not prevent any child or young person being able to play an instrument, sing, take part in or create music using traditional and digital ways.”

Over the last year, the Welsh government has made an investment of £5.5 million to support the purchase of musical instruments, adaptive musical instruments for those with additional learning needs, and digital recording equipment. This has created a new national instrument and equipment library which will be shared across the country.

Read more: The game-changing instruments disabled musicians can play using just their eyes

As part of the new plan, which will be rolled out from September 2022, secondary school pupils will be able to gain industry experience through the ‘Making Music with Others’ initiative, where they will have the opportunity to work alongside musicians across the creative industries.

Meanwhile, primary school pupils will get a minimum of half a term of musical instrument taster sessions, in a programme called ‘First Experiences’.

The National Music Service will also ensure opportunities for music-making continue outside of school time.

Read more: Spain’s teenagers to receive 400-euro culture pass to spend on concerts

First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford visited St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School in Swansea to watch a musical performance by primary school children and launch the National Music Service, along with Miles.

Drakeford learned how to play both the clarinet and ukulele as a child, and he admitted that “learning an instrument was a formative part of my upbringing.”

Miles, who played the baritone horn as a child, reiterated Drakeford’s sentiment and told cameras: “Anybody who’s had the opportunity in school to learn to play an instrument, of whatever sort, will know just how many opportunities it opens up for you in life and the kind of confidence it gives you.

“And that’s the kind of experience we want our young people in all parts of Wales to have, whatever their background”.