ISM Column: Calling all instrumental teachers!

Jodie Underhill
Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Independent Society of Musicians’ research associate, Dr Jodie Underhill, discusses the ISM's annual fees survey, why it is important and how you can help.

© Akhtiarzein / Adobe Stock

Each year, hundreds of instrumental teachers take part in the ISM's annual fees survey, which covers private teaching, work in schools (both employed and self-employed), examining and accompanying. The survey is the largest of its kind, open to all musicians (not just ISM members) who teach instrumental lessons, examine and accompany, and is conducted by an independent statistician. The results indicate what other music professionals charge for their services across the UK and are available to both members and non-members.

Respondents to the annual survey play a vital role in helping us to understand how external events are impacting the sector. They also inform best practice and lobbying of third-party organisations who have control over terms and conditions and rates of pay. Instrumental teachers are a vital part of the music education eco-system and it is important that their voice is heard. If you’re an instrumental teacher, please do consider completing the survey.

Previous results

Previous survey results show that the average rates of pay for self-employed instrumental music teachers working in schools remained the same between 2016 and 2019, increasing slightly in 2020 and then again in 2021. Employed instrumental teachers also saw a slight increase in their average rate of pay in 2021 compared to previous years. Although the majority of respondents between 2018 and 2021 had been teaching for more than 15 years, many felt that there was no recognition of either their qualifications or experience when it came to their rates of pay; and often there were no clear pay-progression routes, unlike those for classroom teachers.

Last year's survey revealed that around 35 percent of employed instrumental teachers said their holiday pay was pro-rated. The ISM has always maintained that the annual holiday entitlement of instrumental teachers should be calculated in the same way as for any other worker (by taking a week's pay and multiplying it by 5.6) and not pro-rated to term time only. In July 2022 the Supreme Court handed down their judgement in the case of the Harpur Trust v Brazel, which determined that holiday pay for part-year workers, such as instrumental teachers, should not be pro-rated and should be calculated as the ISM outlined. We are particularly interested this year to find out whether employers have changed the way they calculate holiday pay since this decision.

What the data means

The results of the annual survey also allow us to track and monitor trends across the country which are raised as areas of concern by members and non-members alike. These include room rental and admin fees. Our survey data shows that the number of self-employed instrumental teachers paying for room rental in schools has gradually increased by 5.5 percent since 2018, meaning around a fifth of teachers are now being charged for their teaching space. On the other hand, the numbers of self-employed instrumental teachers paying admin fees to their schools has fallen by 0.8 percent since 2019, to 2.7 percent in 2021.

Moving forward

This year, in addition to the annual data we collect on fees, we are also interested in understanding more about teachers’ employment status and the types of contracts teachers are engaged on, as well as about the impact of the cost of living and energy crises. The ISM's report The Case for Change: The Music Education Workforce in 2022 found that 15 percent of responding instrumental teachers were unsure of their employment status, meaning they could be missing out on important legal rights and entitlements. Of this same group, 72 percent were on a zero-hours contracts, which created a great deal of uncertainty in addition to financial insecurity, with huge implications for housing, childcare and being able to pay bills.

The survey is open to all private instrumental teachers and instrumental teachers working in schools across the UK (not just ISM members) and can be found below. The results will be published in spring 2023.

Disclaimer: it is important to note that the results of the survey are not recommendations, and that competition law prevents us – and other trade associations and organisations – from recommending rates for musicians’ freelance work.

Access the survey here