Protecting Music Education

I’ve just replied to the DfE consultation on the use of the Educational Services Grant (ESG), which the DfE wish to cut substantially. This grant is used to help fund a range of education-related services including pupil welfare, sports and music services.  Local authorities don’t just use this grant to fund these services, they fund them from revenue budgets also.  For music, the really damaging statement is this:

Our expectation is that music services should now be funded through music education hubs (which can cover one or more local authority areas) and from school budgets, not from the ESG.

DfE funding to music hubs (via the Arts Council) has already reduced. So where then should music hubs (which primarily provide services to schools) be getting their funds from?  There’s no Big Society Donor out there that I can see, wanting to pay for millions of children to experience music-making. So this statement effectively legitimises local authorities from withdrawing all funds from music services, whether they are paid for through the ESG or any other funding stream.  the ISM are leading a campaign: Protect Music Education and have led the charge for responses to the DfE consultation and helpfully provided a template response.  Here’s what I sent:   Dear Ms Barbour, I am responding to the Department for Education’s (DfE) consultation titled Savings to the Education Services Grant 2015-16 recommending that local authorities stop funding music services. The consultation includes the expectation that local authorities stop funding music services, stating “Our expectation is that music services should now be funded through music education hubs (which can cover one or more local authority areas) and from school budgets, not from the ESG”. I am asking for the Department for Education (DfE) to withdraw this expectation and instead recommend that local authorities continue to fund their music services. My response is solely concerned with the recommendations for funding music education and addresses questions 4 a, b and c.


Consultation Question 4a Are there any reasons why local authority expenditure on central support services could not be significantly reduced, if not stopped altogether? Please give details below. Yes. National Plan The National Plan for Music Education sets out a vision for music education in England which depends on the combination of financial support of the Department for Education, schools and parents, and local authorities. In the foreword to this plan, this complex funding structure was recognised as was the interdependence between the different elements of the music education sector. The Department for Education has made public commitments to access to music specialists, saying ‘it is important that music education of high quality is available to as many [children] as possible: it must not become the preserve of those children whose families can afford to pay for music tuition. While music touches the lives of all young people, the disadvantaged can benefit most.’  This statement is particularly pertinent given recent reports from Ofsted that white working class children are achieving the lowest outcomes.  Without music hubs providing services such as First Access class instrumental lessons (as they do in my LA, Suffolk), these children are significantly less likely to encounter opportunities for making music and its associated benefits if music hubs are not resourced to work in schools. The LA is in a position to mandate music hubs to direct use of LA funds to support disadvantaged children in particular.  It should be encouraged to do so, not least because of the cognitive, emotional and social benefits that children derive from participating in music activities. (These benefits include developing skills which workplaces require, such as collaboration).  The DfE, in reviewing the use of the ESG, could use this as an opportunity to direct LAs about their responsibilities in this area instead of appearing to legitimise withdrawal of services.

The Henley report recognised that primary schools teacher training does not equip trainee and NQT teachers with the skills and confidence to deliver on the music curriculum. And the vast majority of state schools have neither the expertise nor the specialist resources to deliver programmes like First Access in-house. The key to ensuring the quality and sustainability of musical opportunities for children is to ensure the continuation of national, local, school and parental funding for music education hubs which not only provide direct services but also support the school teaching staff.Funding National funding for music education hubs distributed via the Arts Council is already reducing from a high of £82.5 million in 2010-11 to just £58 million in 2014-15. If local authority funding is also lost, access to musical tuition and a good music education will become the preserve of a few (the most well-off) Further, the successful delivery of the National Plan for Music Education will be jeopardised.

  •  LA funding to music hubs has already been cut by 1/3. Hubs received £14,344,043 from local authorities in 2012-13 despite pressure on local authority budgets (Source: Key data on Music education hubs 2013). In 2011-12 this figure was £21,288,142 (source R Hallam). The amount contributed by schools and parents has also declined. It is essential to note that much of the funding described as coming from schools actually comes from parents. For example I pay £80 per term for my son’s euphonium tuition. This is heavily subsidised by the school who pay roughly the same amount for each pupil learning an instrument with the music hub.
  • I understand that nationally, continuation following First Access opportunities has already dropped significantly.  It would be jeopardised in many authorities by removal of LA funding, which would impact on disadvantaged children the most.  These are the children who need additional funded support simply to receive the same opportunities as other children. Paying privately for lessons is simply not affordable for many parents.
Why music matters 
  • Music makes a dramatic difference to children, academically, intellectually, socially and emotionally, as Darren Henley observed in his report and as explored in Professor Sue Hallam’s article The Power of Music, which summarises the evidence in support of music.
  • The creative industries are worth £36.3 billion a year to the UK and the music industry is worth between £3.5 billion and £3.8 billion (depending on the measure used). [Research by UK Music and PRS for Music.]  There are 2million jobs in the Arts. Creative industries cannot be sustained only by retired people with disposable income; the sustainability of these industries rests on growing new audiences and new participants. To do this, children need to be inspired and engaged. In my local authority area for example, music and the arts are key to tourism as Suffolk is home to venues such as the internationally-renowned Snape Maltings (and Aldeburgh Festival), The Apex in Bury St Edmunds and DanceEast in Ipswich.
  • Two examples of what music hubs can do when appropriately funded and supported: currently all Suffolk state schools (regardless of whether they are involved in First Access or other programmes), are invited to perform in Snape Maltings every year in a week-long Schools Celebration of Music. Each year about 1600 primary and secondary school children from schools across the county (including special schools and alternative provision), participate.  This event, which always succeeds in being inclusive yet highly professional, has been led for over 25 years by a partnership between the county music service and Aldeburgh music. I have seen for myself the enrichment this provides (these photos give an idea) and that is simply not available without the input and dedication of the music hub.  Just this week I and other parents from my daughter’s class attended a concert put on by the music hub which brought together 300 children taking part in the First Access programme from local primary and special schools. The children spent the morning working together learning songs and instrumental pieces to perform together – being given the opportunity to collaborate, to listen, to experience the joy of performing. This is one of several such days the music hub puts on each year.  We cannot afford, culturally or economically, to lose such opportunities.
  • In a recent poll, of those expressing an opinion, 85% of British adults back Michael Gove’s statement, taken from the foreword of the National Plan for Music, that ‘music education must not become the preserve of those children whose families can afford to pay for music tuition.’
  • More than 110 organisations from across the music industry are already backing the Protect Music Education campaign and have expressed concern at the recommendation from the Department for Education that local authorities cut their support for music services.


Consultation Question 4b If you do not think this could be stopped altogether, how much of a saving could local authorities make to these services? If cost pressures on central support services have changed recently, please describe below.

Some music services have already suffered from a reduction in local authority funding with devastating results.  Funding by Local Authorities (and service provision) is already hugely variable across East Anglia alone. The statement that authorities should no longer need to be funding music hubs legitimises disinvestment in services, in complete contrast to the DfE’s own stated support for expertise in music to be available to schools.  Further reduction in spending on music services by those Local Authorities that still fund their music service will have a direct and disproportionate impact on the delivery of the National Plan for Music Education.  In many cases it is the most successful, flagship music services that will be hit worst if this expectation remains. Suffolk County Council currently contributes significantly to what is an excellent music service but I am fearful of reductions in quality and volume of provision that may result from withdrawal of LA funding.
It should also be noted that there are 123 music education hubs, and yet this consultation is based on a survey of just 18 local authorities, which is a tiny proportion of music services. A further snapshot survey of 55 music education hubs suggested a majority of music services and music education hubs received some sort of support from their local authority.  Given the unequal distribution of funding by LAs to music hubs it is not reasonable to make judgements about funding cuts on the basis of a survey of fewer than 15% of those who would be affected.
Consultation Question 4c Is further clarification or guidance from the Department needed in order to have a clear set of expectations? If so, why? Yes. The Department should undo the damage caused by the language in this consultation by issuing a statement in support of local authorities funding music education hubs and/or music services.  The consultation provides an opportunity for the DfE to guide Local Authorities as to what its support for music hubs could cover. There is an opportunity here to focus LA support on addressing inequalities.  Inequity of access leads to inequality of outcome. In regard to music this does not just affect someone’s chances of becoming a musician. It affects their emotional, cognitive, social and spiritual wellbeing.
Yours sincerely
Emma Bishton

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