A consultation document on local education funding shows that central government expects local government to cease funding music in English schools from 2016. It has led music education campaigners to step up their activities over the last week, with little certainty existing over levels of music education funding after the current financial year.
The ISM has launched a new website, Protect Music Education, which calls on government to ‘unequivocally support music education’. It claims that the National Plan for Music Education, which led to the establishment of the network of 123 music education hubs across England in August 2012, ‘is at risk’.
Music Mark (The UK Association for Music Education ‒ Music Mark) said the policy was ‘ill-judged, very damaging to music education provided by some music services’ and said it was consulting with its members before making ‘a robust and vigorous response to government on behalf of its members and also the countless children and young people whose music education could be seriously and irrevocably harmed’.
The consultation document is part of a process to make savings of around £200m to the Education Services Grant, through which local authorities and academy schools receive funding for certain education services. It states the government’s expectation ‘that schools should take greater responsibility for their own improvement, leaving local authorities to focus on their statutory functions’. These statutory functions are broadly administrative, including providing a director of Children’s Services, planning for the education service as a whole, health and safety, pensions and other services.
‘Our expectation is that music services should now be funded through music education hubs and from school budgets, not from the ESG,’ states the document. Where current ESG spending by local authorities includes activities including music services, field studies, visual and performing arts, and clothing grants, for example, the document suggests that councils should be providing these services only in a ‘limited role’ in which schools pay for them. Best practice, it suggests through case studies, would be for councils to make a profit from offering such services, which could then be used to subsidise other costs.
Recently announced figures showed that music hubs overall received 7.7% of their income in 2012/13 from local authorities (around £13m of the £187m total income of all hubs in that year). Music Mark puts the figure at risk from the consultation at £14m, with the ISM stating that funding which amounted to £21.3m in 2011/12 ‘could be lost completely’.
The Department for Education is yet to confirm levels of funding for music education hubs after the current financial year. Funding through the DfE’s Music Education Hub grant amounted to nearly £63m in 2012/13, while school contributions amounted to nearly £59m.
Violinist Nicola Benedetti has spoken in support of the campaign, saying: ‘I can’t quite describe how strongly I feel about the provision of music in schools and I wholeheartedly back the ISM’s campaign to protect music education. It is widely acknowledged that music education can improve numeracy, literacy and social interaction and it deeply confuses and saddens me that we are having to fight so hard to save it. This isn’t an investment into the lives of musicians and artists, but in that of our entire society. This fundamental misunderstanding could cost the soul of this nation dearly.’