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Future of Music Education Hubs Clarified by Arts Council England

Long awaited details have been provided of the timeline for a bidding process for new hubs, with funding for the current hubs now safe until August 2024.

Published: 24 November 2022 | 12:27 PM
A music teacher holds up a tambourine, we can see the blurred figures of a class in the background.
Current music education hubs will now receive funding until August 2024. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Arts Council England (ACE) has published a timeline for a bidding process for music education hubs in England, setting a date of September 2024 for when new hubs will be in place. This means that current music education hubs will now receive funding until August 2024.

The MU was extremely concerned that hubs were facing a financial cliff edge, with funding previously due to end in April 2023. We have been working hard behind the scenes to address this, and we are pleased that a more realistic end date for the current funding has now been set.

A shake-up for music education hubs

Music education hubs currently receive £79m per year from the Department for Education via ACE. There are 120 hubs, mostly led by local authority or former local authority music services. Their role is explained in the Government's National Plan for Music Education, a new version of which was published in June following the first one in 2011.

The most recent National Plan for Music Education stated that hubs would be put out to a process of open tendering, the first time this has been undertaken since they were launched in 2012. ACE has stated that “The Investment Programme’s guidance for applicants will be published in spring 2023 ahead of the application window opening in early summer 2023.”

An animated information video published by ACE states that the outcomes of the bidding process will be announced in early 2024, giving current hub lead organisations a six-month period to plan for the end of their funding if their bids are unsuccessful.

The Government has stated that it wishes to see fewer hubs covering larger geographical areas. This is one of the expected outcomes of the bidding process, although further details are yet to be provided.

Implications for MU members

Many MU members are engaged by hubs to provide instrumental, vocal and curriculum music lessons in schools and other settings. We are therefore relieved that hubs should now be more stable under the published timeline, with sufficient time for teachers to be transferred between organisations should the lead organisations or structure of individual music hubs change.

There is likely to be some disruption for some teachers, while other teachers may not notice any significant difference. The MU is ready to support members through any changes that may arise.

Funding for music education hubs is guaranteed until April 2025, and we expect it to be renewed after that. This means that there should be no overall change to the funding of music hubs.

A sensible decision – but some concerns remain

Chris Walters, MU National Organiser for Education, said:

“The bidding process for music hubs was announced in the National Plan in June 2022, since when there has been a dearth of information about the future of hubs. We have heard reports of redundancies ahead of the expected end of funding in April 2023, which we have been extremely concerned by.

“We are therefore pleased that a sensible timeline for the bidding process has now been set, which should allow for a safe transition from the current hub landscape to the next one, ensuring the continuity of music education for schools and young learners.

“Despite the good news, many of our concerns around hubs remain – particularly that there is no stated intention to review pay and conditions for the teachers engaged by hubs. We also note that annual funding for hubs has not increased since 2012, despite rising costs. We remain committed to pushing the Government for change on these issues and others.”

For more information

The Department for Education has produced a new blog summarising the new timeline and funding arrangements.

ACE has its own information hub detailing the forthcoming process along with other supplementary resources.

Members may wish to read A National Music Service: How to Ensure Every Child Can Access a Good Music Education – a report written by the Fabian Society with MU input, describing a different vision for music education and a workforce guarantee for teachers.

Education is a devolved policy area, and music education hubs operate in England only. The MU works with Government officials in all four UK nations to represent our members’ views in the formation of music education policy.

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