Category Archives: Policy

Many LA’s are slashing their budgets for music services from April 2015

The Classical Music magazine are reporting huge cuts to the budgets of music services across the UK, including in Wiltshire (£140k cut) and Bromley (a planned cut of £305k over two years). In Redbridge, councillors planned to cut £166k from the music service budget but this was overturned following a public protest. Today, via Twitter, I have received further news that last night Kirklees councillors have voted through large cuts of £300k to Kirklees Music School in Huddersfield. Through other work that I’m doing, I am also aware that there are large cuts to the LA budget for music services in many other parts of the country that have not been announced yet.

Regular readers of this blog will know that this is something that I alerted you all to some time ago, in posts such as this and this. Continue reading

A lower threshold for exclusion requires firm leadership from Governors

The Government have lowered the threshold for the exclusion of students from schools. New statutory guidance has come under fire from lawyers and others.  They argue that the new definition, which allows a headteacher to remove a child from class if their conduct is deemed detrimental to the education or welfare of others in the class, will result in more permanent exclusions. The previous threshold required schools to establish that serious harm was being caused to others.

Rachel Knowles, a solicitor at Just for Kids Law who has been reported in The Guardian today, said: “The previous guidance had a page of advice that emphasised that exclusion was a matter of last resort. That phrase has been removed from the new guidance. The Department for Education says it’s just a few clarifications but it’s totally and radically altering the test. I would expect that it will result in many more permanent exclusions.”

One of my roles as a school governor was to manage the pupil exclusion committee. Speaking from experience, I can state categorically that headteachers can and do try and remove students from their schools with, on occasions, scanty evidence and without due consideration to the needs of the individual child first and foremost. School governors have always had a role to play in challenging the evidence collated by the headteacher and presented to these committees. Too often, I’m sad to say, governors merely rubber-stamp decisions made elsewhere within these hearings. Like others, I am also worried that the reduction in the barrier for permanent exclusion will allow for headteachers to use permanent exclusion too readily and not consider the needs of the individual child as their first priority.

Children excluded from school face all kinds of difficulties. Passing these children around the educational system does no one any favours. Schools need to be encouraged to commit to these children and their associated needs and not be given a half-open door to pass them and their educational needs onto others.

Labour will return schools to a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’

I was pleasantly surprised by Tristam Hunt’s recent article in The Observer. In particular, I was pleased to see the phrase ‘broad and balanced curriculum’ making a return. Here’s the relevant paragraph:

Ofsted has to move beyond box-ticking and data-dependence. Too much teacher workload is the product of preparing for an inspection. Yes, Ofsted must confront mediocrity, but it must also start to allow heads the space to innovate and develop a richer criterion of school achievement. So it’s time for greater stability in the inspection framework, more consistency between inspectors and an end to any prescribed system of teaching. And, under a Labour government, Ofsted would inspect on a “broad and balanced curriculum”, so you cannot be Outstanding if you have stripped out the drama, music and sport from the school day.

There has been a lot of stripping going on recently (in curriculum matters, that is) and the notion of a broad and balanced curriculum is in severe danger of being lost in many schools. Regular readers of this blog will remember how I charted the decline of music, for example, in many schools over recent years since the Tories came to power. For me, this notion is central to the construction of a full and meaningful curriculum experience for students (whether in primary or secondary school). Drama, music and sport are too important to become ‘extra-curricular’. They have to be part of every child’s educational experience within the curriculum (the ‘broad’ bit) and developed in a way that is harmoniously conducive with other subject areas (the ‘balanced’ bit).

Whilst I’ve got mixed feelings about any political party using OFSTED as a threat to facilitate change, such a clear statement about what constitutes ‘outstanding’ in respect of the curriculum itself is to be welcomed in my opinion.

Funding for music education hubs for 2015/16 announced

Following on from the announcement yesterday that Darren Henley is to take control of Arts Council England, funding for music education hubs was announced today for the period from 2015 – 16. This will follow the existing formula, together with a distribution of an additional £17m (the precise way in which this will be distributed is to be confirmed at a later date, although I have heard rumours that a significant percentage of this will support new or innovative approaches to music education – whatever that means).

I’m not sure if Henley’s new post and this announcement are linked in any way, but it is good news nonetheless. Here’s the full ACE announcement made today:

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Darren Henley takes over as Chief Executive of Arts Council England

henleyDarren Henley has been appointed as chief executive of Arts Council England, replacing Alan Davey who recently took over a new position as controller of Radio 3.

Darren Henley is well known to those of us working in music education having led the Government’s review into music education which resulted in the establishment of the National Plan for Music Education. He also conducted a similar review into the provision of arts education.

Darren takes over control of Arts Council England at a difficult time. Many commentators are predicting further significant cuts in their budget whoever comes to power in next year’s general election. Arts Council England has already lost around a third of its total Government funding and has had to implement a 50% reduction in administration costs over the last few years.

The position of music education hubs is also precarious. There is no news of precise funding levels for the period from April 2015 onwards despite there being a commitment to additional funding. Arts Council England are demanding new budgets from every music education hub in early January despite hubs not knowing what their allocated funding is. This is clearly ridiculous.

However, it is important to remember that the funding for music education hubs does not come from the Arts Council directly. It is funding that is paid by the DfE to the Arts Council. My understanding is that the Arts Council has still to receive notification from the DfE about the funding being made available for hubs despite their constant requests for clarification and further information.

Looking further forwards, there is no additional information for any funding for music education hubs from April 2016 despite the National Plan for Music Education covering the period to 2020.

Many music education hubs are in a fragile state. My understanding is that many are facing yearly deficits and having to access funding from their reserves as Local Authority and other sources of funding are diminishing. The political and financial uncertainty caused by all of this is worrying. It really is a shoddy way to run music education in this country. Let’s hope that Darren’s appointment to this new role will sharpen up the relationship between ACE and the DfE and lead to a period of more stability where hubs can plan confidently and effectively for the future of music education in their local areas.

Nicky Morgan will propose and fund a new ‘College of Teaching’ today

morganNicky Morgan will unveil plans today to create a new ‘College of Teaching’, similar to medical bodies such as the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons. The College, once established, will provide training programmes, conduct educational research and set professional standards for teachers.

Morgan will announce that taxpayers’ money will be used to help fund the start up costs of the new organisation although it is still unclear whether membership of it will be voluntary or compulsory, and whether or not it will adopt a subscription model to help fund its own existence.

Those of us with longer memories, will recall that one of the first things that Michael Gove did was to abolish the General Teaching Council for England (which adopted a subscription based approach on a compulsory basis for all teachers in England) and subsume its powers directly within an Executive Agency at the Department for Education. It seems unlikely that any such powers will flow back to this new College of Teaching leaving its exact status somewhat ambiguous at the present time.  However, if reports in today’s Telegraph are to be believed, it does seem clear that the college will be independent of Government yet an important new component of Morgan’s drive to ‘raise the standards of teaching’.

One interesting area might be around the professional standards for teachers. If the new College of Teaching sets those standards, will it be empowered to enforce them (like the previous GTCE)? Will it also be responsible for the transition arrangements for students who have undertaken initial teacher education as they progress into their NQT year (something that has completely neglected by central Government over the last four years).

It seems that Morgan is keen to establish the college at some point during 2015.

Jenny Smith, head teacher featured in Educating the East End, sums up Michael Gove and Tory education policy in a sentence or two …

smithPutting it politely, Michael Gove didn’t have a fanbase in the teaching profession. Just as we’ve seen with the NHS, this government has gone further than any other towards dismantling the pillars of education and it’s going to be hard to repair the damage caused by crazy proposals, lack of consultation and low morale. I just hope shows like this help dispel myths about schools today and start informed conversations about the future – not based on someone’s experience 30 years ago.

Says it all, doesn’t it? For more from her interview with the Observer, click here.

60% of Andrew Carter’s ITT review panel have no experience in ITT at all. Does it matter?

As you may remember, in May 2014 Michael Gove (remember him?) appointed Andrew Carter, Headteacher of South Farnham School, leader of a school-centred initial teacher training (ITT) provider and ITT lead on the Teaching Schools Council, to chair a so called ‘independent’ review of the quality and effectiveness of ITT courses.

He asked Carter to look across the full range of ITT courses and will seek views from those involved across the sector to:

  • Define effective ITT practice;
  • Assess the extent to which the current system delivers effective ITT;
  • Recommend where and how improvements could be made;
  • Recommend ways to improve choice in the system by improving the transparency of course content and methods. Continue reading

Further good news regarding the funding of music education

In a separate Ministerial Statement given by David Laws, there is some good news for the future funding of music education through the Educational Services Grant. This is a direct quote from the statement that can be found in full here:

The Department received a large volume of responses to the consultation relating to the provision of music services. Many were concerned that any reduced local authority support for music services would impact on the overall quality of music provision and in particular on the opportunities for disadvantaged children.

We strongly believe that all children should benefit from a good music education and have given £171million to music hubs since 2012. We have also announced today that central government funding for music education programmes will increase by £18m in 2015-16, and funding for music education hubs will rise to around £75m in total. Local authorities will continue to have total discretion about whether to spend any of the ESG they receive on providing music services

This final sentence is key and should be welcomed. In reality, though, the number of Local Authorities that will continue to support music education through the allocation of ESG funding remains to be seen. Most Local Authorities that I am aware of are withdrawing their funding at a significant rate as they prioritise other things. As I wrote before, the Government will claim a victory whilst the reality is they have cut funding to music education massively over 4 years whilst blaming Local Authorities for the mess that results.

Is this really an additional £18m to support music education?

The Government have announced an additional £18m of funding to support music education during 2015/16. This funding will go direct to music education hubs to help them fulfil their core roles. As Alan Davey says in the press release, this will help them plan with more confidence for the next year or so.

I welcome this additional funding. However, there are a couple of provisos. Firstly, this ‘additional’ money comes after significant cuts of around 10% every year to music education funding over the last few years. This additional money still means that music education funding is woefully short of where it was when this Government came to office.

Secondly, the spectre of significant reductions in Local Authority funding for music education still remains given the ongoing consultation into the Educational Services Grant. I wrote about this back in April yet the Government have still given no assurances that music education services will remain a core part of this grant. The potential loses to music education as Local Authorities withdraw their support will make this ‘additional’ £17m pale into insignificance. As many of us know, across the breadth of our country, music services are shutting or restructuring as their core funding from Local Authorities diminishes year by year.

UPDATE: See my recent post about another announcement today (22/7/14) through a ministerial statement by David Laws. Local Authorities will retain the right to use ESG funding for music education should they so wish. 

You might call me naive, but I think the crux of the argument is this. During the forthcoming election campaign, the Government can now say they have increased funding for music education (whilst in reality, over the whole term, they have decreased it).

The Government can now also blame Local Authorities for cutting music education funding and still maintain that they have supported it fully through this ‘increase’ in funding for music education hubs.

As usual, Tories cut and cut, privatise and then blame others when things go wrong. It’s pretty cynical but there you go.

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