Welcome back everyone – ’ave at ’em, as they say. First things ﬁrst: the government has published a consultation on the content for the reformed GCSE and A Level in music. Please let us know what you think on Twitter. We have until 19 September to respond.
Now, do you want the good news or the good news? Over the summer the Department for Education (DfE) announced an £18m funding boost for hubs for 2015/16, and, in what the Protect Music Education campaign announced as the second half of a ‘double victory’ for its efforts, the government retracted its earlier advice to local authorities to stop funding music services from the Education Services Grant.
It’s fantastic news any way you look at it, and it vindicates the hard work of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and the solidarity of everyone who supported its Protect Music Education campaign. The DfE, when sitting round a table and looking for some positive coverage in the ﬁrst lap of the 2015 general election race, had all its work done for it – a watertight case, signed by practically everyone in the business, with plenty of celebrities on board who could spread the word.
The announcements look for all the world like a cynical move by a government that thinks it has pulled off a PR masterstroke in having them implemented by a ‘new broom’. On the other hand, I might genuinely be underestimating the new education secretary, Nick Morgan. Someone once said to me, ‘don’t see conspiracy, see incompetence’. I wonder if in this case we should try our best to see competence, not conspiracy.
In any case, Morgan would hardly be alone in succumbing to opportunism. The shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt recently said that if Labour comes into power next year, he will reverse the coalition’s unpopular downgrading of AS Levels and delay all other A Level reforms until 2017. This means that right up to the election, A Level teachers need to prepare to teach the qualiﬁ cation as a linear subject at the same time as preparing for this to be ‘swiftly reversed’. This isn’t so much an issue for music teachers, as the proposed new A Level in our subject isn’t set for ﬁ rst teaching until 2016 – but it does give us one of the best ‘you couldn’t make it up’ face-palms of 2014: in an interview for totalpolitics.com a couple of years ago, Hunt described AS levels as ‘a waste of time’, adding: ‘You don’t need the relentless examination system; when kids leave at the age of 18, they’re “exam trauma victims”.’
What are we to do in the face of such politicking? It’s time to push our luck. Let’s make it clear that a one-year funding boost, matched to the level it was at when the National Plan for Music was announced three years ago, just doesn’t cut it. Let’s all get behind the Protect Music campaign with fresh force, asits work is by no means over.