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Music Mark Response to the Government’s Consultation on Savings to the Education Services Grant 2015-16

19th June 2014

Submission from Nigel M Taylor, Chair

19th June 2014

4 a) 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.

When the coalition government’s National Plan for Music Education (NPME) was launched in November 2011 it was welcomed for its demonstration of strong political support for the importance of music education and the continuing need for ring-fenced money to underpin key area provision and opportunities that schools alone could not deliver.

The development of music education hubs, to take forward the work of local authority music services, focused on partnership working being at their core – bringing together a range of organisations, including Local Authorities, to work together with schools to provide the best music education for children and young people.

The Department for Education’s Music Education Hub Grant (MEH) as a successor to the previous government’s Standards Fund Grant is distributed through the Arts Council to 123 new music education hubs, almost all of which are led by music services. As with previous government funding for music, the MEH was only ever intended to be an underpinning, a proportion, of the overall funding needed.

In 2013 the MEH (£60m) represented 34% of the £187m spent nationally by music education hubs.

The rest of the funding continued to come from other sources:

schools’ budgets (31%)

parents’ contributions (17%)

other grant aid or income streams (10%)

and in some cases grants from the Local Authority (8%).

The range of Local Authority financial support for music services varies widely from 0% to almost 52% of their budgets; an average of nearly 8% nationally. The total amount spent by those Local Authorities that do provide financial support is over £14m per year.

The MEH has been cut in four successive years: from over £80m in 2011-2012 down to £60m in 2014-2015 (although only £58m actually reaches the hubs themselves). Whilst the new music education hubs had known about most of these cuts since the plan and the indicative budgets were first published in 2012, it has not been easy to deal with them,

However it is not only the MEH that has been cut since 2012. Downward pressures on schools’ budgets and a significant decline in parents’ disposable incomes in the last four years have added to the financial strain for music education and, with the MEH cuts, they have together already precipitated a withering of the infrastructure in some schools and markedly so in some music services, a number of which have been forced to displace teaching staff and/or significantly reduce their terms and conditions of employment.

This £14m cut in LA support for some music services, on top of the £20m cut experienced by almost all music services in the last three years (whether or not they are the lead partners in music education hubs) and the continuing economic and financial gloom that schools and parents are grappling with, will significantly raise further the risk to many children and young people’s music education in the coming months and years.

All hubs have core roles prescribed in the NPME including the provision of high quality instrumental and vocal teaching in and out of schools and the huge range of bands, choirs and orchestras for children and young people.

In addition, and following Ofsted’s triennial music survey report “Music in Schools: What Hubs Must Do”, they are charged with developing and implementing School Music Education Plans and inaugurating “challenging conversations” with schools. Many hubs already report that they will have to divert front-line delivery expenditure to undertake this additional task.

This proposed £14m cut in LA support for some music services will further exacerbate an already difficult situation and the number of children and young people who are able to learn to play a musical instrument and sing will be reduced as a consequence.

4 b) 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.

Evidence gathered from our member music services suggests that a number of them still receive either cash support, in kind support, or both from their Local Authorities.

Too many music services have already suffered from a reduction in local authority funding with negative consequences locally. Further reduction in spending on music services by those Local Authorities that still fund their music service will have further deleterious impacts on the delivery of the National Plan for Music Education. Fewer children will be able to learn a musical instrument and/or sing.

The delicate balance of funding for music services and hubs from the five sources referred to in question 4a) (MEH, Schools, Parents, LAs, other) does not seem to have been understood nor appreciated in the consultation document.

4 c) Is further clarification or guidance from the Department needed in order to have a clear set of expectations? If so, why?

Yes. The wording of the consultation document regarding music services is unclear.

In particular the paragraph “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. More information on music education hubs can be found on the Arts Council website”is misleading and fails to recognise the complexity of funding and funding streams that music services rely upon and which the National Plan for Music Education is, to a very large extent, predicated upon.

Some readers may infer that the DfE considers the MEH grant is of a sufficient size and scope to fund the entire expenditure of music education hubs or at least make up for the £14m reduction in LA spend on music services that would be removed if this proposal goes ahead. The DfE well knows that the MEH grant has been cut itself year on year and this should be clarified.

Moreover some may infer that the DfE is actively encouraging LAs to remove any kind of support for music services. This is both dangerous and damaging to local decision making and civic responsibility as well as to the stability and effectiveness of those music services that rely upon LA support.

We call on upon the DfE to issue a strong statement in support of Local Authorities and their support for music services and music education hubs.