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Last Chance Saloon

Between 1999 and 2012 a total of £870m has been put into music education by the Department for Education in addition to the funding received directly by schools. By 2015 this figure will have exceeded £1bn. And that doesn’t include funding from the DCMS or the lottery that also contribute to music education in all its forms. A sobering thought!

Unfortunately for us, the fresh shoots of a growing economy are still deep underground with little signs of them germinating.

And then there are the Olympics. We transform lives through music and the arts. But never has the impact of human endeavour been as evident as over the past few weeks: participation and the pursuit of excellence celebrated; future generations inspired.

But not all sports are featured in the Olympics or get funding. Some very talented people have to lose out because there is not enough to go round and still do the job properly. Those that don’t quite make the grade don’t make the cut. It’s a tough world.

Music education has £200m protected funding through to 2015. The sector earned this. The best have always been excellent. The vast majority have consistently improved. But, as Henley reported in 2011, provision was still too patchy. How funding is used, the outcomes achieved and the quality of our young musicians will determine future policies and funding. But it is what we do now, over the next 6 months that will play a major part in determining funding for the next 10 years. All of us have responsibilities and must be accountable. We have some hard choices to make.

The whole sector must be accountable to local decisions arrived at through proper processes. The exact nature of the local priorities and offers must be determined through consultation with local stakeholders. Leaders of the new Music Education Hubs must challenge and support all those involved in music education in their area to ensure every penny of public funding is being spent well and achieving best value. Quality and excellence must come through alongside wider participation. The attitude must not be how do we manage damage limitation with reducing funds – rather, what can we achieve well with £200m?

Future policy and funding decisions are beginning to be made now. If music education wants protected funding beyond 2015 it has to demonstrate that it still deserves it more than the alternatives.

Richard Hallam
ISM President-Elect and music education consultant