Further funding cuts for music education: Fight now!

The Department for Education have released a new consultation regarding the Education Services Grant (ESG). Whilst this might not immediately sound like it has anything to do with music education, it most certainly does! The ESG is a grant paid to Local Authorities and academies for the provision of various education services. It is calculated on a per-pupil basis. The services it covers includes music education. In 2012/13, this figure was £14,344,043, the year before it was £17,337,019 and it had been as high as £25m under the previous Government.

The current Government’s proposal is to remove this funding completely from the ESG. You have to go into the fine print of the consultation to find the relevant paragraphs, but here they are from section 4.5 headed Central Support Services:

What does this cover?

This category of expenditure typically funds pupil support and extra-curricular activities. This includes: providing clothing grants; board and lodging grants; outdoor education, including field studies; music services; and visual and performing arts services.

As schools have greater autonomy over how they spend their money and in delivering the curriculum, we believe there is a limited role for local authorities in providing these services. This does not necessarily mean that local authorities should step back completely. They could commission services for schools and charge where appropriate (as exemplified in Section 3.2). Our fieldwork found that authorities were increasingly transferring responsibility for funding these services to schools, particularly on visual and performing arts and outdoor education.

Cumbria’s reported spend on this service is -£10 per pupil because the authority sells some of its central support services (such as its Music Service, two outdoor activity centres and its Learning Support Service) and forecast that, in 2013-14, it will have gained around £10 per pupil (or around £540,000) overall by doing this. The revenue is then reinvested to pay for council overheads, HR and business support services.

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.

Let’s get a few things straight:

  1. Music education hub funding is already diminishing. It is reducing by 10% per year and has done since the formation of the hubs. In 2010/11 this funding was £82,562,467; it is currently £58,000,000 (for 2014-15);
  2. There has been no funding announced for music education hubs from the 1st April 2015. Arts Council England staff are still unable to give any assurances about funding. My best guess is that it will either be maintained at current levels or continue to fall by 10% per year;
  3. Remember that music education hubs and music services are not the same. For many of the newer hubs such as the Love Music Trust here in Cheshire East, the ACE hub funding is the only source of public money they receive They receive no support from the ESG (although the Local Authority still gets the grant and use it for other things) and have to raise other income through fees and subscriptions, charitable activities and other fund raising;
  4. In those areas where the ESG funds are paid to support music education, it is normally paid to traditional music services (who may or may not be the music education hub). The percentage of these organisations income that this grant represents varies considerably. I have specific figures for this which I can’t share here, but for now it fair to say that this grant is already shrinking in the vast majority of music services that I work with. However, it is still significant and should it be removed would be catastrophic for those music services that currently receive it;
  5. As of today, many traditional music services are already struggling and many have already had to close or at least reconfigure into a private, traded service. Recent examples include Milton Keynes and Gloucestershire. These services were forced to dismantle when the central LA funding (the ESG) was removed. They provide a useful insight into what might happen on a much larger scale should these proposals be carried forward.

There are at least three main consequences and these vary depending on the structure of music education provision in a given area.

If the Government proceeds with its stated desire to remove music education services from the provision of the ESG, there will be a disastrous impact on the work of traditional music services across the country (note, this does not equate to music education hubs which are often different but co-related; second note, it is also unbelievable that Music Mark have, as of today, made no comment or response to this on their website). As we have seen already, when this grant is removed music services have to either close, or reconfigure and cut back on their services significantly. There is normally a massive de-professionalisation of the workforce involved as these changes occur (i.e. put simply, music education is not delivered by qualified teachers any more).

Music education hub funding is diminishing already. For those music education hubs that are closely integrated with their Local Authority and/or music service, the proportion of their income derived from the ESG is probably diminishing already. But to remove it completely would be equally catastrophic to the above and result in redundancies and cuts in provision.

For those music education hubs that are already divorced from their Local Authority, then the reduction in this funding will not have any immediate effect. However, it will weaken their discussions with their respective Local Authority about the provision of services within their area. The DfE document above talked about the ‘selling’ of services that were previously delivered by the Local Authority. This is what some music education hubs are doing. But, despite the high quality offer that they provide, many schools are just not prepared to buy at commercial rates. If we want to provide a high quality music education to our pupils, delivered by appropriately qualified and trained teachers, then music education needs some form of public subsidy through the ESG and music education hub funding.

In any of the above scenarios, the loss of the ESG grant is bad news. I would urge you all to support the ISM campaign to protect music education. Music education should be a core part of every child’s state education. It needs to be taught in a comprehensive, systematic and developmental way by skilful and qualified educators. Sadly, as we have seen in this post and as I’ve reported over the years on this blog, music education provision of this type has been dismantled by this Coalition Government. It is vital that we support the ISM and other organisations and campaign for music education as an integral part of every child’s compulsory schooling. The current situation is a postcode lottery of provision delivered by providers of varying quality. The only way of ensuring that every child has a quality music education is by ensuring that it is supported and funded properly within every primary and secondary school. The staffing, curriculum, assessment, quality assurance, accountability and examination processes that schools work with must ensure that music is not marginalised or disadvantaged in any way (as is currently the case in every area). Funding streams must also be protected (all are currently either reducing – as in the music education hub funding – or under threat completely – as in the Local Authority Education Services Grant).

Whatever Michael Gove has said in the past about music education and its value, he has overseen a dismantling of music education within our schools. He has reduced state funding to a point where music education for many children is completely absence from their state schooling and an expensive optional ‘enrichment’ that their parents can choose (or not) for them to participate in. The National Curriculum has been watered down and is now a meaningless document with no exemplification or support. Many primary school head teachers have chosen to ignore music completely within their curriculum and buy in programmes or support on an occasional basis. He has made no effort to support the training of teachers in an effective way, with primary school trainee teachers still only receiving a few hours of training in their initial teacher education courses. He has crushed the networks of music education based within our universities and their subject communities within local schools. His policies have almost entirely been delivered in a cack-handed and incompetent way.

Out of all the music organisations in this country, the ISM has been the most proactive in campaigning for music education and have enjoyed considerable success. The rest have been next to useless. I would urge you all to support the ISM’s campaign.

Jon Savage

NB: This was reposted from Jon’s blog ‘supporting innovation in education.’ Read it here.


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