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Following a final round of consultation in March, ACE has confirmed that there will be 43 Music Hubs from September 2024, replacing the existing 116 Music Hubs. There will now be a bidding process to identify 43 new Hub Lead Organisations (HLOs).

Ahead of its March consultation, ACE published a map of 43 proposed Music Hubs. The final map shows the same total with only a small number of changes: Shropshire will be integrated into the Music Hub that includes Staffordshire, Stoke and Telford & Wrekin, rather than Herefordshire and Worcestershire; and some existing geographic operating structures will now no longer be distributed across multiple Hub areas (affecting Blackburn, Durham, Darlington, Warrington, Halton and Wirral).

ACE has also published a spreadsheet of the new Hubs with further information, together with findings from its March consultation.

For those wishing to bid to become HLOs under the new structure, ACE will publish guidance for applicants in the week of 12 June. This will cover eligibility, the application process, and ACE’s assessing criteria. Applications will open on 17 July and close on 12 October, with the new HLOs announced in April 2024 ahead of commencement in September 2024.

ACE will provide further information via a webinar at 10am on Wednesday 28 June, which we advise any members with an interest in the application process to attend.

Why the reduction in Music Hubs?

The Government Department for Education (DfE)’s rationale for fewer Music Hubs asserts that:

  • More and better strategic collaboration across larger areas will improve the quality, breadth, and consistency of music education
  • The structural change reflects the approach which other similar initiatives have taken, including Teaching School Hubs, Multi Academy Trusts, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Sport England’s Active Partnerships, and some existing Music Education Hubs

The DfE also asserts that fewer Music Hubs will be able to:

  • Attract excellent leaders, board members and operational teams
  • Galvanise partners to collaborate and connect more effectively
  • Foster connected approaches to supporting access, inclusion and progression
  • Identify new and effective ways of generating income and support
  • Embed broader support, collaboration, learning and career development for the music education workforce
  • Create more opportunities for research, innovation and exploration
  • Enhance our collective understanding of the quality and impact of music education on the lives of children and young people
  • Raise the profile of music education through more effective communication and better alignment with place infrastructure including Combined Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships

The DfE has clarified that “Fewer HLOs does not mean fewer organisations being involved with Music Hub partnerships”, which we take to mean that music services and organisations currently delivering music education will not be required to merge under the new Hubs. Rather, most new Hubs will probably comprise several delivery organisations.

While it is possible that some organisations may choose to merge, a majority are likely to continue to operate independently under the governance of the larger Hubs.

The MU remains concerned about the reduction of Hubs

Prior to ACE’s March consultation, the MU stated our concerns about the proposed reduction. Our primary reservation was that the DfE’s rationale for it seemed based on untested assertions, rather than any compelling evidence. We still have concerns in this area. While the opportunities presented in the rationale sound positive, the backdrop is long-term under-funding and a demoralised workforce often on low pay and precarious contracts.

Many practical issues remain unaddressed. There is nothing to suggest that teachers’ terms and the cost of music education delivery to schools will be harmonised within the new Hubs, which in our view undermines the DfE’s desire to see consistency across larger areas.

Additionally, it is not clear whether ACE will seek to ensure that the new HLOs distribute funding fairly to other delivery organisations in their Hubs. We look forward to clarity on these points and others.

What does this mean for MU members?

Assuming that the number of delivery organisations stays more or less the same, we should not see large numbers of teachers being transferred between organisations in the short term. However, we cannot rule out the possibility of some organisational changes and mergers, which may have contractual implications for teachers.

In addition, some delivery organisations might find themselves with different funding settlements from September 2024, which could affect their ability to provide work for teachers.

Funding for Hubs is secure at current levels until the end of the 2024-25 academic year, and we hope that funding will be extended beyond this period as has been common practice in the past. We believe that the Government should urgently consider an increase to the funding of Hubs, which has been flat since 2012.

Members should hear more about the future of Music Hubs, including whether their roles will be affected, after April 2024. We advise members to contact the MU with any questions about their work with Hubs.


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Thanks to

Chris Walters

Chris Walters is National Organiser for Education and Health & Wellbeing at the Musicians' Union. He leads on the Union's music education advocacy and policy work in the four UK nations and oversees services for music teachers. He previously developed the Certificate for Music Educators qualification at Trinity College London and was editor of Music Teacher magazine for Rhinegold Publishing, where he helped launch the Music Education Expo. He has taught music in the UK and Kenya and began his career as a professional clarinet player.

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