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“We’re losing both schools and parents”: The Cost of Music Education

18th October 2023

Our recent survey has revealed the difficult future facing Music Hubs and Music Services in England, and in turn, the impact it is having on children and young people benefitting from their work. 76% of all Music Hubs and Services in England participated in the survey to help share the impact of these rising costs. 

The survey has revealed that Music Hubs and Services are facing a gap in funding for cost-of-living salary rises and additional pension costs of an estimated £9 – £12 million for the financial year 2023-24. This shortfall will continue in future years. 

Many children and young people are losing access to Music Education, as Music Services and Hubs are forced to increase fees to fill the funding gap. Prices across Music Services are rising by an average of 6.9%, with parents facing lesson prices increasing by 6.6% – which in many cases still doesn’t cover the additional costs Hubs and Services are facing. By far the biggest consequence of rising costs is the number of children and young people missing out on Music Education. One respondent explained “It is heart-breaking to speak to families about their inability to pay for lessons, and their subsequent withdrawal of their children from lessons.” 

Understanding the rising costs of delivering Music Education 

There is a complex picture of other rising costs in addition to staffing costs. 83% of Hubs and Services are also facing rising costs for building and venue hire, energy bills, travel, fuel, and other expenses such as instrument prices and repair costs. The cost-of-living crisis is impacting how many parents need to access reduced lesson costs and bursaries. As lesson prices rise, parents need to use these already stretched resources even more. A survey respondent said, The number of pupils eligible and accessing fee remission has increased meaning that fewer pupils are full fee-paying students now, this means that we are not always covering our operating costs.” 

Paying the bills 

Increasing music lesson prices is now a necessary step for Hubs and Services to meet their own rising costs. As well as the increase in lesson prices, Hubs and Services are also seeing price increases of 8.4% for ensembles, 6.4% for schools and 6.3% for instrument hire. Many parents and schools cannot absorb these price rises, one service told us “We’re losing both schools and parents.”  

Looking forward 

We are working hard to support colleagues in the Music Education sector through this difficult time with resources, training, and access to 1-2-1 support from specialist consultants. Much of this work is subsidised through its appointment as an Investment Principles Support Organisation of the Arts Council England, providing an opportunity to support the sector more widely. We’ll also continue our work influencing on the Music Education sector’s behalf at a national level. Music Mark’s CEO, Bridget Whyte, says 

“The value of musical learning is widely understood, and sustained government support for Music Education Hubs has had significant impact in enabling more and more children to benefit. But this report clearly shows how standstill funding together with increased staff and operational costs is creating a perfect storm which could mean the ambitions of the new National Plan for Music Education in England, which began to be implemented this term, will not be fully realised.”   

You can read the full report here.