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Music services under threat from council cuts

5 November 2010

Music service funding from both Bedfordshire and Warwickshire councils is under threat as the impact of the coalition government’s comprehensive spending review starts to be felt across the country.

Tricia Turner, leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, said that ‘budget reductions were inevitable’ as she announced an intended £12m worth of cuts to council spending in 2011-2012. The authority has proposed that schools and parents should meet the cost of the county music service, Bedfordshire Music, with the council’s subsidy reduced to zero after April 2012.

Michael Rose, a former music advisor to Bedfordshire Council and conductor of the Bedfordshire Youth Orchestra, has set up a website urging supporters of Bedfordshire Music to campaign against the cuts. He told BBC Radio 3’s In Tune programme that he was ‘sure that Central Bedfordshire is no different from any other [local council]’ in planning to cut funding.

Meanwhile, a document released by Warwickshire County Council – entitled Facing the Challenge – listed ‘Removing the subsidy to the County Music Service’ as one of a range of options which the council ‘may have to consider in the future’.

Warwickshire county council’s contribution to its County Music Service is planned to be £803,000 in 2010/11. This figure represents 19% of the total service budget, with the balance made up by government money in the form of the Music Standards Fund (39%), and parental contributions (42%).

According to the Federation of Music Services, national averages for music service funding are as follows: 51.9% comes from paid fees and fund raising, 37.6% from the Music Standards Fund, and 10.5% from Local Authorities.

As has been highlighted recently in other national media, a reduction in any one of a music service’s three primary revenue streams is likely to lead to one of three situations: a rise in tuition fees; a reduction in services; or a combination of the two.

In an interview with Tom Service on BBC Radio 3’s Music Matters programme last month, culture minister Ed Vaizey signalled his desire to maintain the ring-fenced Music Standards Fund. ‘That’s what I believe should continue to happen, yes,’ said Vaizey, adding, ‘I think the Music Standards Fund has, from where I’m sitting, been very effective.’

Much now depends on the recommendations of Darren Henley’s review of the delivery and provision of music education, which is expected to report at the end of this year. 

  • If you have any news regarding your local music education provision, get in touch with MT by emailing music.teacher@rhinegold.co.uk.

BBC Radio 2 Young Choristers of the Year announced

2 November 2010

Ella Taylor in Lancing College Chapel
Ella Taylor in Lancing College Chapel

The winners of the Radio 2 Chorister of the Year 2010 have been named as 17-year-old Ella Taylor, a member of the choir of Lancing College in West Sussex; and 13-year-old Liam Jones, a member of Durham School’s chapel choir. The winners were announced at a final held at St Paul’s Cathedral last month and to be broadcast on Radio 2 at . The award is given to one girl and one boy between the ages of 11 and 17 ‘singing regularly with their choir for an act of worship’. This year saw the competition mark its 25th anniversary.

The decision was made by a panel of expert judges including composer John Rutter; singer and songwriter Nell Bryden; Lindsay Gray, Director of the Royal School of Church Music; and singer and actor Sharon D Clarke. The winners can look forward to appearances on various BBC programmes, including Radio 2's Good Morning Sunday and Sunday Half Hour, and Radio 4's Daily Service and Sunday Worship.


Nicola Benedetti busks for Youth Music - 28 October

21 October 2010

Youth Music has announced that violin virtuoso Nicola Benedetti will be appearing at Harvey Nichols on 28 October, busking in the aisles in support of Youth Music Week (27 October to 3 November). Also on the 28th, groups of young musicians will be appearing in venues across central London including at Covent Garden, Spitalfields market and the Southbank Centre.

Youth Music has also announced the support of various international artists, including the BRIT and Ivor Novello award-winning New York combo Scissor Sisters – who this week donated close to £13,000 to support Youth Music’s work with disadvantaged young people and talented young musicians. Other Youth Music ambassadors include Little Boots, Goldie, and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.

Taking place from 27 October to 3 November, Youth Music week includes a large number of events happening across the country, all providing opportunities for young people to get involved with live music. See the Events page for details here.


Comprehensive spending review: uncertainty over Music Grant

21 October 2010

Chancellor George Osborne presents the coalition's comprehensive spending review
Chancellor George Osborne presents the coalition's comprehensive spending reviewBBC News

Schools in England are to get a real-terms increase in funding as a result of the coalition government’s comprehensive spending review (CSR), but fears were raised over the status of the Music Grant (formerly the Music Standards Fund), a highly significant source of funds for all local music services.

Few in the music education sector are able to speak with certainty on future funding arrangements. Senior figures suggested that any decisions on funding would be premature before the outcomes of Darren Henley’s review were published and that this, not the CSR, was the more important process.

Doubt over ringfenced funding

Doubt surrounded the Music Grant’s future because of the announcement as part of the CSR’s ‘Local Government Settlement’ that ‘the number of separate core grants will be radically reduced from over 90 to fewer than ten.’

Industry figures are currently unsure as to whether the Music Grant would be included in this ‘fewer than ten’.

‘We would strike a serious note of caution at the suggestion of the end of ring-fenced funding,’ said Virginia Haworth-Galt, chief executive of the Federation of Music Services.

She continued: ‘We hope that there will be no arbitrary decisions made on music budgets before the Department for Education’s own review of the funding and delivery of music education has been completed.’

Deborah Annetts, chair of the Music Education Council, told MT: ‘At the moment it’s difficult to say exactly what it does mean for music education. There is a possibility that ring-fenced funding will no longer be going into music education. We don’t know, but that has always been a risk.

‘It does make the Henley review even more significant. Arguing passionately for music education, being the very best advocates and speaking with one voice becomes even more important.’

Specialist schools: axed

Meanwhile, direct funding for specialist secondary schools in England is to be scrapped. Around £325m is currently given to specialist schools, many of which champion music. The money will now be added to a central fund for all state secondary schools.

Specialist schools were introduced under Labour and were designed to combat the notion of the ‘bog standard’ comprehensive. Most English secondary schools have now signed up, with more than 3,000 out of a total of 3,120 carrying specialist status.

The news was heralded by some as an end to ring-fenced budgets for specific projects and a move towards giving individual schools more spending power. But critics have claimed that the money will be used support the coalition’s free schools policy, in which community groups are given state funding to open their own schools.


The full CSR document is available here.

Review of 'delivery and provision of music education' to be led by Classic FM's Darren Henley

21 October 2010

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education
Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education

A review of the delivery and provision of music education across England has been announced by the Department for Education with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and a final report is due by the end of the year. The review is being led by Darren Henley, managing director of Classic FM. A consultation process is currently taking place.

The secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, announced the review on 24 September with a letter to Mr Henley. In this letter Mr Gove outlined a remit for the review, on the basis that ‘every child should receive a strong, knowledge based cultural education and should have the opportunity to play a musical instrument and to sing.’

Gove continued: ‘I recognise that children and young people are involved in a vast array of excellent music making opportunities and are experiencing an excellent music education in many parts of the country – but I also believe that there is much that can be done better to provide that level of excellence for every child.’

A number of guiding assumptions were outlined, including:

  • That music is ‘an enriching and valuable academic subject’
  • Its secondary benefits include ‘improved behaviour and social skills; and improved academic attainment in areas such as numeracy, literacy and language’
  • ‘Public funding should be used primarily to meet the government priorities of every child having the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and to sing’
  • ‘There should be a clearly defined journey of musical progression, including the opportunities afforded by the Music and Dance Scheme and the publicly funded national youth music ensembles’
Mr Henley told MT: ‘My remit covers both in-school and out-of-school music, in both formal and informal settings. This is a chance for music educators to feed their views directly into central government and I would encourage everyone to have their say.’


Deborah Annetts, chair of the Music Education Council and chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, responded positively to the review. ‘We must recognise that music education in this country is world class, and a very small amount of money coming directly from central government does an incredible job. The Music Grant is absolutely key.’

According to Virginia Haworth-Galt, chief executive of the Federation of Music Services, ‘the FMS believes that the coalition government’s attitude will help to fine tune the quality of music education teaching, recognise attainment more fully and encourage performance.

‘The longstanding collaborations between music service heads, schools and pupils uniquely places music services within local communities, enabling them to organise the involvement of other music and cultural partners.’

However, some sectors of the music education community have offered guarded responses. Jonathan Savage, Reader at the Institute of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University, told MT: ‘People ought to be asking “Why is music under review?”. I think that Michael Gove is imagining that music education is best done by giving kids the sort of thing that is in a Wider Opportunities programme – but at Key Stage 3.

‘Music education in this country has developed on the principle that actively involving children in the processes of performing, composing, evaluating music and viewing each other’s work. Just picking out one of those is a completely one-dimensional music education.’

Richard Hallam, the National Music Participation Director, is involved in the administration of the review. ‘I believe this review is genuinely open and not constrained by any pre-conceived ideas,’ he told MT.

Lincoln Abbotts, Chief Executive of Music for Youth, said the main aim should be ‘consistency, so that young people across the country get the same opportunities.’

‘I feel very positively about this review. I feel very confident about the future health of music education. But like everybody else we’re playing a waiting game that begins with the Spending Review and continues through to Darren’s report being published.’

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