Ministers pledge to target Opportunity Areas as £300m music funding is confirmed

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

The national network of 121 music education hubs are to continue to receive around £75 million a year in funding until 2020, ministers have confirmed.

The area-wide music hubs are local partnerships between schools, music providers and others aimed at helping young people aged from five to 18 to access music tuition and activities. They were set up after being proposed in the DfE’s 2011 National Plan for Music Education.

The Department for Education (DfE) revealed the funding continuation last week, announcing that £300 million was to be invested – although this figure includes £75 million in funding for this year that had already been announced by ministers.

The DfE said it would be working to ensure that the new funding “particularly benefits” children in the first six so-called Opportunity Areas – Somerset, Norwich, Blackpool, Scarborough, Derby and Oldham.

The Opportunity Areas, revealed by education secretary Justine Greening during her address to the Conservative Party Conference earlier this year, are areas identified by the government’s Social Mobility Commission as the most challenged when it comes to social mobility.

Funding for music education has fluctuated and declined in the past three years, from £75 million in 2012/13 to £63 million in 2013/14. Ministers reversed a decision to reduce it to £58 million in 2014/15 following pressure from campaigners. This meant that funding returned to the 2012 levels for 2015/16 with £75 million allocated by the DfE – a level of funding that is now set to continue for the next four years.

The DfE has also confirmed further investment of £29 million a year until 2018 in its Music and Dance Scheme, which offers grants to talented young artists who could not otherwise afford to attend world-class institutions such as the Royal Ballet School.

Other funding confirmed includes £500,000 a year until 2018 to In Harmony, an orchestral training programme for pupils in extremely disadvantaged areas, intended to develop positive character traits.

There is also £600,000 for other small music programmes across the country for each year until 2020 and £13.5 million a year until 2018 for the Dance and Drama Awards, which offer income-assessed support for tuition fees and living costs at private dance and drama schools for students aged 16 to 23.

However, while welcoming the funding, critics have said it is nowhere near enough to reverse the decline in arts and music provision in schools caused by the EBacc.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Since 2010, music and other creative subjects have been relentlessly driven out and the curriculum narrowed as schools give priority to the subjects that will affect their rankings in performance tables.

“As a result, thousands of children, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, have been denied the opportunity to develop their musical talents, specialist music teachers have lost their jobs and local authority music services have been decimated. Access to music lessons across the country is now largely based on parents’ ability to pay.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: “We have seen in recent years that a narrowing of the curriculum at secondary has meant music and other creative subjects are being squeezed. This is the result of the EBacc, which focuses too narrowly on a core of academic subjects. Given the pressures created by the EBacc, there will be precious little time left for subjects outside the core.”

School standards minister Nick Gibb said: “Music and the arts can transform lives and introduce young people to a huge range of opportunities – whether that is learning to play a musical instrument, understanding local heritage or attending a world-famous dance school. We’re investing more than £300 million over the next four years so that those opportunities are open to all.”


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