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Mixed response to DfE’s announcement of incremental hub funding and new music curriculum committee

UK School Standards Minister, Nick Gibb, has announced that schools are to receive a new model music curriculum created by an independent panel of experts.

The announcement on 11 January 2019 by UK School Standards Minister, Nick Gibb, of an additional £1.3m for England’s music hubs and the appointment of a committee to oversee a new ‘model music curriculum’ has met with lukewarm enthusiasm from the music education sector.

Commentators on social media have drawn attention to the relatively low amount of additional funding – which amounts to only 15p per pupil – and the constitution of the curriculum committee, which is seen as not being representative of the music education sector.

The next generation of Adeles, Nigel Kennedys and Alex Turners

Nick Gibb commented:

‘Having the opportunity to study and explore music isn’t a privilege, it’s a vital part of a broad and balanced curriculum – and that’s why I’m determined that all pupils should have access to a world class music education.

‘This new model curriculum and the new money for our successful music hubs will make sure the next generation of Adeles, Nigel Kennedys and Alex Turners have all the support they need in school.’

A welcome start

Responding to the announcement of new funding, the Musicians’ Union’s General Secretary, Horace Trubridge, said:

‘We are pleased to see that the government has reacted positively to our call for more investment in music education in the UK… As our research we released last year showed, students from low-income families are significantly less likely to have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument than their more affluent peers. It is important that this lack of equality of access is addressed so children from all backgrounds are able to engage in music making as a statutory part of their education. More needs to be done, but this is a welcome start.’

The new funding is on top of £300 million allocated to hubs between 2016 and 2020 and comes following meetings between the DfE and the national membership association for music hubs, Music Mark, which has lobbied on behalf of its members to secure the support.

Music Mark has confirmed that of the £1.33 million, £490,000 is to be added to allocations for the current (2018/19) financial year and the remaining £840,000 will be added to allocations confirmed for 2019/20.

James Dickinson, Head of Hull Music Service and Music Mark Chair, said:

‘Music services and their partners are working hard to bring music to the lives of 8.2 million children aged between 5 and 18 across the country. This is no mean feat and budgets are indeed facing incremental pressure. I think anyone working in the arts and education sector would agree.

‘But there is also some great work happening and we are seeing some real tangible results, not only in terms of facilitating access to music education and helping develop musical excellence but also wider benefits with a broader social impact with inclusion and diversity at their core.’

Curriculum panel – broad and balanced?

The new curriculum will be developed by a group of teachers, education leaders and musicians and will be published in Summer 2019. According to the DfE, the curriculum will provide schools with ‘a sequenced and structured template curriculum for Key Stages 1, 2 and 3’ and ensure that ‘pupils benefit from knowledge-rich and diverse lessons’.

Both the concept of a ‘model curriculum’ and the diversity of the group developing it have come in for criticism. Matt Griffiths, Chief Executive of national charity Youth Music, tweeted:

‘The ‘model curriculum’ idea for a subject as personal and diverse as music instinctively feels odd. Implies young people, teachers and schools all look, sound and want the same. They don’t. Core components yes but content can be locally specific through innovative partnership.’

Jonathan Savage, Reader in Education at the Faculty of Education, Manchester Metropolitan University, commented:

The model music curriculum statement makes no recognition of the fact that Music is already a core subject in the National Curriculum. As such, it should already form part of every pupil’s state schooling. The fact that it doesn’t is down to the weakening of the National Curriculum in academies and free schools, poor decisions made by headteachers in Primary and Secondary schools regarding curriculum design and implementation (with priority being given to what are seen as ‘important’ subjects), and ill-informed Government-led accountability mechanisms such as the EBacc and Progress 8.’

Header photo: School Standards Minister, Nick Gibb