On Friday 10 March, Arts Council England (ACE) published a proposal for new Music Hub areas that seeks to merge the existing areas to make 43 Music Hubs instead of the current 116. This would also reduce the number of Hub Lead Organisations (HLOs) down to 43. ACE is now seeking responses to a new consultation on the proposed areas by 31 March.
The Department for Education first stated that it wanted to see fewer Music Hubs in the National Plan for Music Education, published in June last year. It later provided a short rationale for this, which it expanded in an updated version on 10 March.
Unclear how the previous consultation justifies the proposed reduction
The proposed reduction to 43 Hubs is the result of a consultation that ACE ran in January. The MU took issue with the premise of this consultation, which sought respondents’ views on reducing the number of Music Hubs to 10 (to match the number of ACE Bridge Organisations), 40 (to match Maths Hubs) or 87 (to match Teaching School Hubs).
Despite ACE suggesting that these comparisons were only intended as a starting point for thinking, the majority of the consultation consisted of specific questions about how these models, which bear little similarity to Music Hubs and are likely unfamiliar to most music education stakeholders, might transfer.
In our view, it is not clear how the results of this flawed consultation (published on the ACE website in summarised form) justify the proposed reduction of Music Hubs to 43, although ACE and the DfE have uploaded this video which seeks to offer an explanation. ACE has also published maps of the current and proposed Music Hub areas.
Once the new consultation is complete, ACE will confirm the final number of Music Hubs and announce next steps for organisations looking to bid to become HLOs by late spring. ACE has previously stated that HLOs will be confirmed in early 2024 ahead of a September 2024 start date.
A list of untested assertions
Chris Walters, MU National Organiser for Education, said:
“While we support the aims of the National Plan for Music Education, the Government’s rationale for wanting fewer hubs has never been clear, and its updated rationale remains a list of untested assertions.
“The reduction from 116 to 43 Music Hubs, if it goes ahead, is likely to cause a great deal of disruption with no guarantee that children will receive better music education.
“We are also concerned about the effect on teachers’ terms and conditions, with each of the new merged hubs likely to encompass several different previously existing contractual agreements.
“This throws up various issues that have so far been left completely unaddressed. It is therefore more important than ever that the Government looks at implementing a standardised pay and conditions framework for teachers engaged by Music Hubs.
“We urge any members involved with Music Hubs to complete the consultation and to contact us if they have any questions or concerns.”