The Music Hub Investment Programme Jump to main content

The Music Hub Investment Programme

As part of the refreshed National Plan, the Department for Education (DfE) stated that they ‘want Hub lead organisations to become more strategic, building a wider range of strong partnerships with schools, academy trusts, local authorities and others, so that children and young people receive higher quality support in every local area and to ensure there are no local "cold spots" where access to provision is limited.’ They plan to do this with a ‘reduced number of Hub lead organisations establishing partnerships across wider geographic areas.’

In November 2022, the DfE shared their rationale for the future of Music Hubs. This was updated in January 2023, following the consultation which was held the same month. However, no supporting evidence has been provided which suggests that reducing the number of hubs will better support children and young people’s music education and the rationale alone does not constitute such evidence.

The ’positive outcomes’ of larger geographies outlined by the DfE focus instead on more strategic aspects of running a hub such as attracting ‘high calibre’ board members, generating income and more opportunities for research. There is also no mention in the DfE’s six ‘guiding principles’ as to the benefits or improved outcomes of fewer hubs. These guiding principles are that:

  • Music Hubs will be more consistent in terms of size, coverage, and good quality provision and will mostly work across multiple Local authority areas
  • The geographic areas will be prescribed (or agreed) prior to the application process but will not be determined by current arrangements. However, they will take into account where existing partnerships are successfully working or starting to emerge
  • One organisation will be appointed to lead the Music Hub as the Hub Lead Organisation in each prescribed geographic area but fewer Hubs does not mean fewer organisations being involved with partnerships, or a reduction in provision

Focus groups and an online survey were held in January 2023. The survey was open for 10 days and the questions were the same as those asked in the focus groups. Participants were asked to consider three existing models of partnership working in relation to the guiding principles. These were the 10 Arts Council Bridge organisations (considered a ‘regional’ model); 40 maths hubs (a sub-regional model); and 87 teaching school hubs (a ‘national’ model).

The results were published on 10 March and showed that the majority of respondents felt that the national model would be most effective and the most preferred scenario (43% - Option 2 39%). Despite this, the DfE and Arts Council England’s (ACE) proposed geographic areas would see the number of hubs reduced by over 50% - from 117 to 43. A second survey open until the end of March was designed to collect feedback on the proposals. Although there may be some redrawing of the geographies, it is not expected that the overall final number will change significantly as a result of this survey.

The results of the second survey are likely to published alongside the final map which is expected in late Spring. The eligibility criteria and guidance for applicants will also be published at this time, with the application portal open in the Summer, probably for around 2 months. Applicants will be informed of the decision to either appoint or not appoint them as a Hub Lead Organisation in early 2024 with the new Hub programme beginning in September 2024.

There are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to the investment programme. For example, there is a possibility that it will pit existing Lead Organisations against each other within the new geographies, unless one organisation steps forward to lead the hub and the others step away. ACE hopes that existing hubs will work collaboratively on an approach which will work for the new geography, rather than lots of competing submissions.

There will inevitably be redundancies and the need for TUPE arrangements. ACE is already aware of this and requested data from all Music Education Hubs in September last year in preparation. It is not yet clear who will fund the costs of any transfer of staff, but there is a possibility that hubs will have to cover this out of their existing budgets unless additional funding for this purpose is provided. The process itself is already causing a lot of stress and uncertainty for hubs.