Q&A: Jamie Njoku-Goodwin

Hattie Fisk
Saturday, April 1, 2023

An experienced campaigner, communications specialist and former political advisor, UK Music’s chief executive started his career following a music degree at Nottingham. He sat on the expert advisory panel for the refreshed National Plan for Music Education in England, and here discusses the future of music education with MT’s Hattie Fisk.

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin

Joanna Dudderidge

HF: What changes would you like to see in the music education sector in the next five years?

JN: Music is not a subject that you can funnel money into and turn things around in two or three years. The outcome of things we do today are going to be seen in 10, 15 or 20 years from now. At UK Music, music education is a real priority for us as an organisation that is at the front-end of lobbying government. A crucial thing in this field is winning the argument for the music industry being a key national asset. The tremendous and proven benefits of the subject on mental and physical wellbeing of young people, for example, is something we want to continue bringing to the attention of policymakers.

HF: What do you think the government should be doing for the sector at this current time?

JN: I was on the advisory panel for the refreshed NPME that published last year. It was a really interesting process and a promising document. There are lots of things in there that I think are excellent and I hope are taken forward; but a lot of it can’t be done alone, and obviously a huge factor is government funding. The government committed to a £90 million arts premium at the 2019 election, and we still haven’t seen that. There is funding, and obviously we welcomed the £25 million for musical instruments that was in the NPME, as well as the guaranteed funding of £73 million a year for the next three years for hubs; but we need as much support as we can get and to know when it’s coming.

HF: Why do you think a strong music education is important?

JN: Maintaining music education is so important for holding the music industry together, but it is not just about ensuring we have a strong talent pipeline. It is interesting speaking to schools that do music education fantastically, which often comes when the senior leadership team believes in the importance of the subject. Compare these to schools down the road that don’t prioritise music, and you see how ripples extend positively across the school.

Of course, funding is a huge element here, but for some schools music ends up being the first thing to go when facing pressure. We need to change the narrative and make sure that music is not seen as an add-on, part of a lottery for provision. Darren Henley has always been a powerful voice in this area when he says there are three pillars to a great education: literacy, numeracy and creativity. When we are talking about a creative education, we are not saying we shouldn’t be doing maths or English; we are saying that the arts provide complementary skills that also need cultivating.

HF: As a member of Arts Council England’s National Council, what do you think of its recent funding decisions?

JN: I’m very fortunate to have grown up in north London where there were all sorts of creative and cultural opportunities – and this is partly because so much of our cultural sector is focused around London. It was fantastic for me, but someone living in the North, North East or South West of the country, for example, would not have had that experience. So, I think there has been an imbalance in cultural funding and that it is completely right and legitimate to address this.

Creating wider opportunities across the whole of the UK, while retaining what we have built in London, is one of the big challenges we face. The arts benefit everyone, and I think we should spread them as far and wide as possible, making sure that absolutely everyone has the access. I think we can also appreciate that diversifying funding across the whole of the country has come at a time when there have been economic challenges, inflation and a pandemic – so it has been a perfect storm of big structural change.