Guest response: Hubs and Spokes

This is Jonathan Savage’s response to Ronan’s post yesterday on the Arts Council’s new Music Hubs. Jonathan is a Reader in Education at the Institute of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University and Managing Director of UCan.tv. He was involved in the devleopment of two music hubs in the North West. You can find his blog at http://jsavage.org.uk/.

The creation of music education hubs marks a significant point in the history of music education in the UK. But it is important to keep an eye on the overall picture of music education policy. Michael Gove has been cagey at best about the continuation of Music as a National Curriculum subject. The vast majority of schools have responded unfavourably to this position and numerous headteachers are axing music provision (in terms of curriculum time, staff and resources). Even more worrying, the imposition of the English Baccalaureate has skewed the choice of courses at Key Stage 4. Even if schools maintain a quality music provision at this level, many parents have already decided which subjects count or don’t on the basis of a few newspaper headlines!

Of course, all hubs (to my knowledge at least) are trying to do the best job possible with the increasingly limited resources they receive. This funding is diminishing by approximately 10% a year and there are no guarantees of continued funding beyond 2015 (despite the National Plan for Music Education) being set out to last until 2020. Part of the challenge will be to see if they are able to raise alternative sources of funding from a broader range of sources.

Given that the vast majority of hubs are reconfigured music services, I have my doubts that the significant changes across the sector that are required in this challenging time will occur. Whilst I share your vision for the integration of arts within the hubs, I’m not certain that this will happen in a systematic way in the current model either. Most hubs will be solely focussed on fulfilling their four key aims as determined by the NPME.

It is vital for everyone involved to remember that the music education hub does not discharge schools from their responsibilities to provide a coherent, systematic and developmental model of music education for all their students. There is no doubt that hubs will play a role in helping deliver this but they should not be viewed as a substitute for a qualified music teacher, in some shape or form, working in every school.

In Cheshire East, we have adopted a very different model. The creation of a new charitable trust – called The Love Music Charitable Trust – is being led by Sandbach School. This new trust will be governed by schools, led by schools and will deliver its services through schools (often by school staff). It is conceptually different from older models of delivery and will, I hope, show a different and more joined up approach to the delivery of a high quality curriculum music programme in partnership with an instrumental music programme.

Time will tell, of course, but we have worked hard here to ensure that schools across our region are 100% committed to this new approach. It is an exciting new venture!

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