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Hitting the right notes in funding Music Education

Posted by Sandra Wood on 28 January 2019

Things are all a bit excitable and a bit gloomy in politics at the moment. So it was nice to see something from the government that looked like good news. “Government backs young musicians with £1.3m funding boost” went the announcement.

This was a welcome message, as there have been a lot of negative stories about the role of music in education recently with headlines like “Music Education ‘thrown to the wolves’ in the UK”.

What was equally welcome was the recognition of the excellent work that those of us who are leading in music provision are doing. The School Standards Minister Nick Gibb referred to “our successful music hubs”. To cut through the arts education jargon – the hubs coordinate music activity for young people, bringing together education, arts organisations and other services like digital platforms.

More Music is proud to be a key player in a very successful hub in Lancashire. Recently, we’ve helped boost participation in singing through our ensembles, activity and helping to develop strategy. So it’s good to have some encouragement – and some more cash to match the boost in participation would be welcome too. It’s not sustainable to expect more and more with the same amount of support.

As ever, it’s one thing to have a shiny happy government announcement, another to see what it actually means in detail. Of course, £1.3m is a lot of money for pretty much all of us (except maybe the odd government minister). But in reality it doesn’t stretch very far. The ‘uplift’ will be absorbed in to new pension payments.

It’s right to be supporting the workforce. However, to be brutally frank, I think the public are entitled to feel misled. The impression that most people will have got is that more actual music would be taking place. Indeed Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the ISM said she hoped that the increase “will go some way in ensuring the delivery of (hubs’) music education offer”.

What is more worrying is that the accompanying ideas are all a bit staid and one note. Nick Gibb wants all children to leave primary school “understanding sharps and flats”. Equally, the government seems incapable of doing a press release about music without referencing Adele. Yes, music is an important part of our national economy. But what we do is about more than just making a ‘talent pipeline’ for an ‘industry’. It is just as importantly about educating musical citizens: the pub gig programmers, the charity karaoke session organisers community choir leaders of the future, people interested in the rich breadth of what humanity’s music is.

It’s about giving our young people skills we sorely need when politics is so gloomy and excitable. Giving them the tools to express themselves, give them a creative voice and to work together. Worth a bit of investment, I think.

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