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£21.3 million of music service funding under threat

17 April 2014

The Department for Education (DfE) has published a consultation report recommending that local authorities cut their funding for music services.

Music Services are the lead partners in many of the 123 music hubs. The document, titled ‘Savings to the Education Services Grant for 2015/16’, was compiled after case studies were made of 18 local authorities and 13 academies across the country. The preface sets up the overarching approach: ‘our expectation [is] that schools should take greater responsibility for their own improvement, leaving local authorities to focus on their statutory functions‘. Later, it concludes: ‘Our expectation is that music services should now be funded through music education hubs (which can cover one or more local authority areas) and from school budgets, not from the Education Services Grant [i.e. not from local authority budgets].’

Leading the backlash is the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), which has said, in a statement: ‘These local authorities were putting £21.3 million into music education in 2011/12 but now this funding could be lost completely.’ 

The ISM’s quoted figure is nearly 40% of the total amount allocated to hubs through Arts Council England for 2013/14. 

ISM chief executive Deborah Annetts, taking the stage at the organisation’s annual conference, said: ‘Following the confusion caused by the EBacc and other mixed messages around the value the government places on music education, we now need an unequivocal commitment from the Department for Education that it supports music education and is fully behind the National Plan for Music Education.

‘Last week we celebrated as music was included in the Government’s GCSE reforms, but this week, we find that the Government is backing additional cuts to the music education budget worth millions. In the foreword to the National Plan for Music Education in England, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, said:  “We would not have scaled the heights of artistic greatness in the first place without our pre-eminence in music education”. He was right. We therefore call on the government to halt this consultation and turn back before it is too late.’

For more information on the ISM’s ongoing campaign, visit

Overhauled music GCSEs and A Levels to be taught from 2016

9 April 2014

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced today that the ‘reformed’ GCSE and A Level qualifications in music, as well as overhauled syllabuses in religious studies, design & technology, drama, dance and PE, will be taught in schools from September 2016.

It marks the first time that Michael Gove has put arts subjects into the same timeframe for reform as subjects such as English, maths and science. Revised syllabuses for the majority of subjects taken at GCSE and A Level are now set to be taught from either 2015 or 2016, with subjects such as maths, English, science, computer science and history remaining at the vanguard of Gove’s reform project.

In his preface to the statement, the Education Secretary said: ‘Our changes will make these qualifications more ambitious, with greater stretch for the most able; will prepare young people better for the demands of employment and further study; will address the pernicious damage caused by grade inflation and dumbing down, which have undermined students’ achievements for far too long; and will give pupils, parents, teachers, universities and employers greater confidence in the integrity and reliability of our qualifications system.

The full announcement can be found here

New GCSEs to be benchmarked internationally

6 April 2014

England's GCSE pupils will be benchmarked against high-performing international counterparts from 2017. Ofqual has unveiled a plan to link GCSE grades to levels achieved by pupils in China, Singapore and other countries deemed to be high-performing, but the idea of an international educational currency has prompted concern from teaching unions, who said some countries excluded certain types of children to boost their scores in international tests.   

The performance of students in England has recently lagged behind cities and countries such as Shanghai in China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, as measured by the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) education survey from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.   In the most recent Pisa survey, published last year, English students achieved marks of 500 in reading and 495 in maths. By contrast, Shanghai students scored 570 in reading and 613 in maths, and Hong Kong 545 and 561 respectively.   

Brian Lightman, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said Pisa – which surveys a small sample of 15-year-olds in each country taking part – was not an appropriate benchmark to use for a reform of GCSEs. ‘While we understand the government's wish to raise the bar by aligning some grades to Pisa, this raises all kinds of issues. Pisa is a completely different kind of exam than the new GCSEs,’ he said. 

James Rhodes tackles music education in new Channel 4 series

6 April 2014

Channel 4 has commissioned Fresh One to make a three-part series in which pianist James Rhodes aims to get Britain playing again by launching this country’s biggest ever ‘instrument amnesty’. 

The programmes see Rhodes launch his ambitious experiment in Basildon, working in partnership with the people of one town to prove that his approach can work nationwide. It will be accompanied by a major campaign to build on this case study, spreading the amnesty across the country and getting instruments currently languishing in cupboards and attics to the musicians and potential musicians who need them. 

Rhodes said: ‘Within the space of a generation, music education in this country has been decimated. Where once it was inclusive, widespread and available, it is now, sadly, seen as a luxury rather than a basic right. I am so thrilled to be working with Channel 4 to address this. Music has an undeniable, proven positive impact on self-esteem, discipline, teamwork, numeracy, behavioural problems and confidence. The fact that it has all but disappeared from the majority of our state schools is as shocking as it is appalling. This is potentially the most exciting and rewarding project I could ever hope to work on and, with the right support, it's something that I hope will create lasting change.’ 

John Hay, Commissioning Editor for Arts, said: ‘James is a genuinely inspirational figure and with this series, he has found his cause. The instrument amnesty is one of those ideas that – once described – seems so obvious and so right that you wonder why it isn’t already happening, so we’re delighted to be able to throw the channel’s weight behind it to try and bring about real and permanent change.’ 

Chethams to build 420-seat concert hall

30 March 2014

Chetham’s School of Music has received a major pledge of funding to create a new concert hall. The 420 capacity £7.5 million Concert Hall, due for completion in Spring 2017, will be located within Chetham’s new building, next to Victoria Station in the city centre. 

This latest project continues the expansion of the school and will create a rehearsal and performance venue for Chetham’s students, visiting artists and ensembles across all genres, and a vibrant national resource – especially for young people - for music-making, recording and broadcasting. For Chetham’s students it will offer long-awaited and unrivalled resources and will enable the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra to perform in front of an audience in their own home.   

The shells of the Concert Hall, Box Office and Bar have stayed empty since Chetham’s moved into its new building in September 2012. Work to transform these spaces will soon be underway thanks to significant initial support from The Garfield Weston Foundation and the generosity of The Stoller Charitable Trust, allowing the school to realise its vision to create a symphonic-sized performance space with high-quality acoustics for the first time in its 45-year history.   

The new Concert Hall is a major step forward in a £50m programme of capital developments at Chetham’s, which began with a state-of-the-art new school building. Following the Concert Hall, the next phase will be a Heritage Visitor Attraction sharing history and architecture with visitors.   

The Stoller Charitable Trust commented: 'Chetham's School of Music has established itself over the centuries as a jewel in the crown of Manchester's educational and cultural centre, and its exceptional new building cries out for the completion of a world-class Concert Hall. The Stoller Charitable Trust is proud to assist in completing this important venue to enable the very best music-making and performance facilities to become available.'

Stephen Threlfall, Director of Music said: 'We are committed to developing and expanding our role in music education and performance, increasing the contribution we make to the musical life of the nation. This is our home, but it’s not just for us. We want to share it with the people of Manchester, musicians from across the country and visitors from around the world.'

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