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DfE ‘Prescribed Geographies’ to be tested with further consultation

10th March 2023

Music Mark has learned today that its recommendation for additional consultation to test the ‘prescribed geographies’ will take place. The term ‘prescribed geographies’ refers to the map the Department for Education (DfE) will draw to determine the area each Music Hub partnership will cover from September 2024. Over the past 6 months, Music Mark has consulted with its membership and held discussions with both the Department for Education (DfE) and Arts Council England (ACE), the administrator of the English Music Hub Investment Programme.

ACE have launched a survey which opens today (10 March) and closes at 17:00 on 31 March encouraging the sector to consider the proposed music hub network map and provide evidence as to where changes might be appropriate to ensure that the new Music Hubs can meet the ambitions of the English National Plan for Music Education locally from September 2024 onwards.

A refreshed National Plan for Music Education for England was published in June 2022. It outlined a new set of strategic priorities for Music Hubs and stated that it was expected that there would be fewer Hub Lead Organisations across the country providing strategic leadership across wider geographic areas. The map published today has suggested that there will be 43 Music Hubs in total.

Subsequent communications from the DfE, via ACE, expanded on this and in September, Music Mark called on them to share a draft map to help the sector to understand what the new Music Hub network might look like. Music Mark’s membership, which includes all the current Hub Lead Organisations and many of their partners, were keen to begin discussions on potential partnership working which will be central to the success of the new Music Hubs. However, a survey and a set of focus groups in January did not consider a map but simply explored three models for the total number of Music Hubs (10, 40 and 87) and how each of these might meet the five strategic priorities Hubs would be required to fulfil. Transcripts of the focus groups and results of the survey have been published today.

Music Mark is calling on its membership and the wider sector to read the documents published today, including updated FAQs from ACE. Members are encouraged to consider how the prescribed geography where they are based will impact the provision of music education locally and respond to the survey using their regional and local knowledge, perspectives, and evidence.

As an opportunity for its members to discuss this new communication, Music Mark is running a Big Meet on Thursday 16 March at 13:30. This meeting is open to the full membership of Music Mark and will include the opportunity to talk in smaller groups as well as there being time to have an open group discussion. The session will not be recorded to allow for colleagues to speak freely but Music Mark will take notes and share a summary of the discussion. Booking for this Big Meet is now open.

Music Mark will need further time to digest all the new documents published today in order to respond more fully and consider whether it will complete the survey in its role supporting the current hub network. However, in reading the headlines of the announcement, Bridget Whyte, Music Mark CEO, stated:

Whilst recognising that geography is only one part of what needs to be considered as the DfE, through ACE, move towards running the ‘open and transparent’ tendering process for new Hub Lead Organisations that will be in place from September 2024, I am pleased that the DfE are listening to the sector and appear keen to ensure that their ‘prescribed geographies’ reflect the nuanced political, educational, cultural and social contexts around the country. I hope that through this final consultation phase an agreed map will emerge which puts children and young people at the heart of the process and allows existing and new partnerships to develop to provide an equitable, diverse and inclusive musical learning offer across the country.