“We’re famous for music with The Beatles... and the government is just putting importance on maths and banking": Ed Sheeran bemoans the lack of arts funding in UK schools and says he's trying to do something about it

Ed Sheeran performs onstage at the 2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at Fair Grounds Race Course on April 29, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana
(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

Ed Sheeran has criticised successive Conservative UK governments for their cuts to music and the arts in schools in an interview on Theo Von’s podcast.

Ed Sheeran | This Past Weekend w/ Theo Von #512 - YouTube Ed Sheeran | This Past Weekend w/ Theo Von #512 - YouTube
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In it, he reveals that he has had to essentially fund music provision not only in the state school he attended, but in the whole county of Suffolk where he was brought up.

“So basically in 2017/ 2018, my old music teacher came to me and he was like, ‘look, the government that is currently in charge do not value art at all... arts, drama, music.’ And they cut all the funding for comprehensive high schools," he says.

“I think they had to share between art, music and drama, like £700 per year for all three subjects. So I started funding that at my local high school. And then you see a massive uptick in kids doing production, kids doing songwriting, kids doing this.

“I built a recording studio there. There’s loads of proper instruments that aren’t broken and you just see the school getting better at music. So then I started doing that in the county that I’m from. And we’ve just now changed it to do it nationwide. And I’m now visiting more high schools and places that really need music funding. And you see what a difference it makes, too.”

He went on to accuse the government of being obsessed with funding maths at the expense of the arts. “We’re famous for music with The Beatles. We’re famous for painting. Damien Hurst. We’re famous for movies. You’ve got Danny Boyle coming out of here, Christopher Nolan.

“And the government is just putting importance on maths and banking and we make arms, but no one is proud that we make arms and no one is proud that our banking’s really good, but they are proud of our art. And so for a government to be like 'the art doesn’t matter', where do you think the art is going to come from? So the next part of my career is getting proper, proper funding and art, music, drama back into schools and actually Ireland do a very good job of it.”

Sheeran has criticised government underfunding of the arts before but this is his most direct political intervention yet. He also added that if Labour wins in the UK General Election on Thursday, he hopes “they will be better at it.”

Will Simpson
News and features writer

Will Simpson is a freelance music expert whose work has appeared in Classic Rock, Classic Pop, Guitarist and Total Guitar magazine. He is the author of 'Freedom Through Football: Inside Britain's Most Intrepid Sports Club' and his second book 'An American Cricket Odyssey' is due out in 2025