The Musicians’ Union (MU) has issued a report calling on the Government to work with Ofsted to ensure that schools recognise the importance of music education.
The report was published yesterday in response to the November Ofsted report on the progress of Music Education Hubs in England, and following extensive research with MU members working in Hubs.
Diane Widdison, MU National Organiser for Education and Training commented that:
Ofsted’s criticism of the progress made in music education demonstrates that the Government needs to do more to implement the National Music Plan. The completely unrealistic timeframe which was imposed on music services to recreate themselves as music education hubs last year, compounded by cuts within local authorities alongside the statutory grant, has made it impossible for hubs to fulfil the aspirations of the Plan. Although many music hubs are making great efforts to make the new system work, until the Government ensures that all schools engage with them, musical opportunities for young people will continue to be a postcode lottery.
Our report concentrates on the workforce, who we represent, and how they have been negatively impacted by the changes resulting in many job losses or an erosion of terms and conditions.
We also raise concerns about the opportunities and access for pupils to music education and what effect this will have on the musicians of the future.
I completely agree with the MU on this. Contrary to all the back-slapping and positive political rhetoric that has been spouted from the stage at the Music Expo today, there is a dark reality to the increasing de-professionalisation of music educators within this sector that is difficult to stomach. In the recent months, this has seen the compulsory redundancies of instrumental music teachers in many parts of the country as music services are being axed. Sadly, many of these things were predicted on this blog. The key to a comprehensive, systematic and high quality music education for our children is a well qualified workforce. This is being demolished by this Government’s constant cuts to funding, political in-fighting between the DfE and Arts Council England, the mediocre and uncritical approval given by some music education consultants who should know better, and the squeeze on Local Authority funding.
The insensitive, uninformed and untimely Ofsted report has not helped matters at all. My understanding is that the HMI responsible has been running around the country trying to smooth over key messages from that report. Despite that, rumours about the impending funding application for music education hubs abound. We still do not know when this will open, the amount of funding available, the key criteria, the timescale for assessing applications or the approval of bids. This does not help any music service or music education hub work productively in planning for their future provision. Having spoken to numerous hub leaders across the UK, the advice given by ACE relationship managers is contradictory at best. It is hard to imagine a more chaotic approach to music education and funding. Key policy makers at the DfE and ACE, and their coterie of advisors, should be apologising to the sector for the complete shambles they have created, and the human cost of this mess that the MU report has identified. Our children deserve so much better.
The full MU report can be downloaded from here. I would urge you all to read it and make your responses known to policy-makers.