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Music education campaigning continues amid funding uncertainty

- 6 June 2014

Musicians continue to come out in support of music education as the Protect Music Education campaign, led by the Incorporated Society of Musicians, attempts to rally support before a consultation deadline later this month.

As previously reported, the consultation is being run by the Department for Education and applies to local authority education funding in England. It is consulting on how best to make savings of around £200m to the Education Services Grant, through which local authorities and academy schools receive funding for certain services. ESG funds have in the past been spent on music provision, but the document states that the DfE’s ‘expectation’ is that ‘music services should now be funded through music education hubs and from school budgets’, not through local authorities.

The ISM is urging supporters of music education ‘to respond to the Government’s proposal and ask that they withdraw the recommendation and commit fully to supporting music education … The more people respond, the more likely it is that the Government will change its mind.

‘Please take action now by responding to the consultation.’

The campaigning comes at a time when funding for England’s network of music education hubs is in limbo, the government having committed to fund hubs after April 2015, but still not having published a budgetary figure.

The overall amount of funding allocated for music education has decreased from £75m in 2012/13 to £63m in 2013/14 and £58m in 2014/15. Worries over funding through the ESG have therefore further contributed to uncertainty across the English music education sector.

Music education campaigner Julian Lloyd Webber has called the plan to scrap ESG music funding ‘crazy’, saying: ‘Music should be the birthright of all children. There has been too much talking and not enough action. We really need to rise above this kind of “Will we get funding this year, will it come next year?” It should be taken as read that our children learn music.’

Violinist Nicola Benedetti said she was confused and saddened ‘that we are having to fight so hard to save [music education].’

‘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.’

Writing for the Guardian, Tom Service launched ‘a twofold plea: to get behind the ISM’s Protect Music Education campaign, and to hold the Department of Education and Michael Gove to account’.

The loss of local authority funding for music education was ‘a looming disaster’, said Service. ‘Potentially, the government is turning back to the scorched earth policy for music education in the 1980s that resulted from Margaret Thatcher’s decision that local authorities didn’t have to ringfence the money they gave to their music services.

‘That meant that the majority of Local Authorities simply didn’t bother spending money on music, and free music education for hundreds of thousands of pupils &#8210 one of the signature achievements of post-war British schools ‒ disappeared almost overnight.

‘What the Department of Education is suggesting is a complete contradiction of Michael Gove’s stated aim that music education “must not become the preserve of those children whose families can afford to pay for music tuition”.’

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