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MU Pushes Government to Support Teachers’ Pensions and Increase Music Hub Funding

We have written to the Department for Education for a second time, asking it to rethink its proposal to end essential top-up funding for teachers’ pensions in Music Hubs. Alongside this, we continue to highlight the significant overall funding shortfall facing music education.

Published: 02 February 2024 | 4:43 PM
Empty classroom with piano and chalk blackboard.
Our letter also referenced the fact that Music Hub funding has been flat for over a decade, failing to reflect either rampant inflation or growing pupil numbers. Image credit: Shutterstock.

The MU is engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the Government over the pensions of teachers working as part of Music Hubs, the latest instalment of which was a letter sent jointly by the MU, Music Mark and the Independent Society of Musicians on 30 January.

The same three organisations previously sent a letter on 5 December highlighting the impact of increased employers’ pension contributions on Music Hubs. The Government previously announced that it plans to end its support for employers’ contributions, which could have catastrophic effects on teachers’ pensions and potentially their jobs if Hubs’ finances cannot be balanced.

We received a response from Damien Hinds, the Schools Minister, on 19 December. In this letter the minister asserted that Hubs had had sufficient notice of the Government’s intention to end support for employers’ pensions contributions, and that Music Hubs received already received more funding than the DfE’s other hub programmes, which include Maths Hubs and Teaching School Hubs.

In fact, employers’ contributions have risen much more than could have been planned for, meaning that Music Hubs could not have put aside the amount they will need to contribute to pensions; and Music Hubs are unrelated to the DfE’s other hub programmes, making any comparison between their funding irrelevant.

Our letter also referenced the fact that Music Hub funding has been flat for over a decade, failing to reflect either rampant inflation or growing pupil numbers.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Mr Hinds,

Thank you for your letter dated 19 December 2023. We would like to respond to some specific points in your letter and request further clarity.

Firstly, you state that “both incumbent and potential new Hub Lead Organisations [have had] over 12 months’ notice” that ringfenced support for Music Hubs providing the Teachers’ Pension Scheme will end in September 2024 “so that this can be carefully planned for well in advance.” However, this was prior to the additional five percentage point increase to employers’ contributions, for which HLOs have had no way of planning. This further increase poses a serious threat to the financial viability of HLOs, jeopardising the delivery of the National Plan for Music Education. In light of this oversight, will you commit to a one-year extension of the current support for TPS employers’ contributions so that a 12-month notice period can be honoured?

A further discrepancy is that you have not yet provided clarity on whether additional support to meet the increased contributions will be offered between April, when the current support ends, and September, your stated cut-off point. Can you therefore commit to a date by which any additional support will be confirmed so that renewed planning can be carried out?

Music Education Hubs were created in 2012, and since then the Department for Education has developed other hub programmes. Any suggested similarity between these programmes has not, until your letter of 19 December, been part of the narrative when considering music education. The term “hub” is clearly useful when describing programmes that aim to bring together expertise in education across a geographic area, but music hubs fulfil a very different set of functions and purposes to the DfE’s other hub programmes, and they have far greater expectations placed on them. Examples of this include:

  • Music Hubs are expected to work with all schools in their area with a specific target of 95% engagement. This is not a requirement of other hub programmes, which do not aspire to provide universal coverage and have much lower actual engagement figures.
  • Uniquely among the DfE’s hub programmes, the work of Music Hubs extends far beyond the classroom. As the National Plan for Music Education states, the government wants “to see more children and young people supported to navigate the many exciting opportunities available to progress with music beyond their core school provision.” This requires significant investment to ensure that Music Hubs can deliver meaningful and consistent music education both in and beyond schools.

For the above reasons and others, we do not believe it is helpful to equate Music Hubs with the DfE’s other hub programmes as if each had the same remit, targets and delivery costs. Rather than making comparisons between very different programmes, will you commit to moving to a model where Music Hub funding is based on an assessment of the actual cost of delivering the National Plan for Music Education, where funding increases in line with inflation and pupil numbers?

Finally, we note your comments that continued funding for Music Hubs will be reliant on performance, although no official information has been provided. Given that the DfE has only committed to funding Music Hubs until April 2025, it is crucial that full details of any performance-related assessment process are published as soon as possible. Music Hubs will have been drastically reconfigured from 166 to 43, and the new structure will inevitably take time to establish itself. Will you therefore clarify your remarks on the performance of Music Hubs, and acknowledge that the intended new Music Hub structure from September 2024 will need longer than six months of operation to demonstrate the impact of investment?

Deborah Annetts, CEO, ISM

Chris Walters, National Organiser for Education, MU

Bridget Whyte, CEO, Music Mark

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