Financing the National Plan for Music Education

I’ve been surprised that many reflections on the National Plan for Music Education have failed to mention the significant cuts in funding for music education. Remembering that the current year’s £88m was a significant cut from the previous year’s settlement (a real term cut of 10%), the new figures of £77m for 2012/13, £65m for 2013/14 and £60m for 2014/15 are broadly the same year on year. So, in total, a 40% cut over four years is not good news. ‘Doing more with less’ is the Tory mantra.

On re-reading the Plan, I was also perturbed by the obvious statements that hubs can not be solely funded by Government money. There is an expectation that they will raise money in other ways. How? Maybe some Local Authorities will continue to fund their newly revamped ‘music service hubs’; but I’m guessing that parents will be bearing the brunt of the cost in terms of instrumental lesson fees.

My worry is that there will an significantly unequal playing field here. In Manchester, for example, I would be expecting the Halle orchestra to be bidding for Government funding to run a ‘hub’ in several LA regions of the city. Their potential as a fund raising organisation dwarfs that of the other potential leaders of music education hubs across the city. I hope that future fund-raising potential is not high up the list of criteria for the selection of hub leaders, but I suspect it will be.

Within the new figures though, I was curious about the split of monies between the new hubs and other activities (e.g. Arts Council England management costs, future Sistema projects, National Youth music organisations, etc). After a bit of digging around, it appears that the funding for hubs is £75m, £63m and £58m) for the next 3 years. Allocations are determined on the number of pupils in each LA area (90%) with the remaining 10% calculated on the number of pupils receiving free school meals. There will be a little bit of variability on the precise numbers as these will be drawn from a census of pupil numbers held in January of each year.

So, that leaves £2m each year for everything else (including the management of the whole kerfuffle by ACE (how much will they charge?), maintaining and developing current Sistema projects (in Liverpool, Norwich and Lambeth), the funding of National Youth organisations, etc). Given these expenses, I wondering how much will be left to fund new ‘Sistema’ type projects of the type Julian Lloyd Webber was talking about on BBC Breakfast this morning? Given the costs of the current pathfinders, I can’t see much brand new activity here unless other sources of funding can be found.

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