HC Deb 17 January 1978 vol 942 cc231-3
8. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if, following the publication of the Gulbenkian Foundation report, she will make a statement on the future of music colleges.

20. Mr. Channon

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the recent report made to her by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation on the training of professional musicians.

Mr. Oakes

The report is the result of an independent inquiry sponsored by the Gulbenkian Foundation and, while there is no commitment on my right hon. Friend to adopt any of its recommendations, it is being carefully studied by my Department, and my right hon. Friend has undertaken to write to the chairman of the inquiry about matters which are her direct concern.

Mr. Jessel

As Britain is one of the capitals of the music world, and as we ought to concentrate on the things that we do well, will the Government con tinue to give careful thought to this well-reasoned and well-argued report, which highlights the extraordinary situation of music colleges in this country? In particular, will they give urgent attention to the question of payments to professors of music, who are paid scandalously low salaries compared with other teachers in higher education, to the question whether music students should have mandatory grants, and to the main theme of the report, that there should be better and more intensive training for a smaller number of music students?

Mr. Oakes

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this is an excellent report, which merits careful consideration by my Department. I agree, too, that Britain is a music capital of the world. This has been a neglected area of education in this country for many years.

On the specific point about the pay of lecturers and professors at the colleges, I recognise that they are at a disadvantage compared with similar staff at other furher education establishments. That point can be examined in the light of the report.

I shall also consider the matter of mandatory grants, but I think that it would require legislation.

Mr. Channon

What view does the Minister take of the recommendations in the report about the future of the music colleges in London and the question whether they should become part of the colleges of London University? Secondly, can the Government take any action to help over the desperate lack of accommodation which faces some of the students of music at the London colleges?

Mr. Oakes

All I can say is that the proposal that the London music colleges should be funded in future through incorporation with London University or by a local education authority raises complex issues, which are being studied in my Department. The colleges are at present aided by direct grant from my Department, but are independent institutions.

Mr. Litterick

Does the Minister recognise that the vitality of our music colleges is fundamentally dependent upon the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of musical education in our schools, that at present, in all too many schools the teaching of music is, to say the least, perfunctory, and that the ability of the schools to offer music education is being throttled by the cuts imposed on education? Those cuts make it impossible for schools to employ an adequate number of professionally equipped music teachers.

Mr. Oakes

In my opinion, and in the opinion of many, there has been a considerable improvement in music education in our schools in recent years. It is vital that that improvement should continue. I admit that there has been a rather persistent shortage of music teachers, but the last survey of 1976 reveals that although there is still a shortage of graduate teachers there is a slight surplus of certificated teachers.

Mr. Anthony Grant

Is the Minister aware that the Purcell Music School, in my constituency, which provides a very useful service not only to Harrow but to the whole area around, has considerable financial difficulties and looks to the Gulbekian report with considerable hope? Will he indicate when his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science may come to some decision on what can be done to help schools such as the Purcell Music School?

Mr. Oakes

I cannot give any indication of time, but we are losing no time in looking at this report. The Purcell Music School, in Harrow, is, of course, an excellent school.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

What action do the Government propose to take to implement the central recommendation of the report, namely, that these music colleges should concentrate more on the training of performers and of instrumental teachers than on academics? Does the Minister of State agree that it is more important to be able to play an instrument—the harp, for example—than to write a thesis on it?

Mr. Oakes

I should not be as exclusive as the hon. Gentleman. It is important to advance academic knowledege of music and, in particular, teacher training in music subjects. However, I admit that, as the hon. Gentleman said, in a country that is a music capital of the world, we must look at the question of grants for students who are performers as distinct from teachers or academics.