Updated: Government announces multi-million pound investment in music education

​Updated 11:30: Clarity sought from Department for Education

Following welcome news today that the Department for Education is investing £300m to continue music education hub funding, we are now seeking clarity from the Department for Education on the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) after comments on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. 

Speaking earlier this morning, the Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP said that 'the proportion of students taking at least one arts subject has risen from 44% to 46% this year' and that the EBacc has been 'deliberately kept small so there is space in curriculum for pupils to study music and arts at GCSE'. 

Deborah Annetts, founder of the Bacc for the Future campaign and Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) said

"The most recent figures published by the Department show a decline in the percentage of pupils taking one or more arts subject at GCSE and - since 2010 - creative, artistic and technical subject uptake at GCSE has declined by 22%. These figures are taken from the Department for Education. 

"To secure the EBacc must study a minimum of seven subjects at GCSE and as many as nine. The continuation of funding for music hubs is great news but if we are to truly promote access to a fully rounded education and support our growing creative and technical economies then we must drop the EBacc."

Government announces multi-million pound investment in music education

A multi-million pound investment in music and arts education will help hundreds of thousands of young people from all backgrounds enjoy ‘potentially life changing cultural activities’, Schools Minister Nick Gibb announced today.

Over the next four years the Government will provide £300million to a network of 121 music education hubs to work with schools, local authorities and community organisations to get more young people taking part in music and arts.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said:

‘The Government’s announcement of a £300m investment in music education hubs, which comes nearly five years after the launch of the National Plan for Music Education, is good news for music education, children and young people across the whole of England. A continuation of funding, secured for the next four years, will help enable music education hubs to plan their future and continue their life-changing work.

We must ensure that any proposals for extra responsibilities for music education hubs are matched by additional funding and do not lead to a watering down of musical opportunities.

Likewise, we hope this recognition of the importance of music education leads to a reconsideration of the proposed EBacc which has been so detrimental to music and the arts. Music is central to the life of every school – after all it is where all children go to learn so we hope that in the light of this great news, Lord Baker’s proposal for a more creative Bacc will be adopted.’


The Government will work to ensure that the funding particularly benefits children in the six recently-announced Opportunity Areas - parts of the country identified as the most challenged when it comes to social mobility – to give those young people access to the best possible music and cultural education. 

This will see them building on schemes like one set up by Oldham Music Hub which works with children with a range of special needs. The sessions are geared to the needs of the children and include songs and musical instrument activities to develop social and communication skills.

A further six cultural education programmes which cover heritage, dance, art and design, film and museums will share a further £4.1 million a year until 2018. This includes Heritage Schools, a programme run by Historic England, which aims to ensure school children develop an understanding of their local heritage. The scheme will expand into Blackpool next year, another of the Opportunity Areas.

Alongside this, further funding for a series of other arts and cultural education programmes has been announced, including:

  • £500,000 a year until 2018 will go to In Harmony, an orchestral training programme for pupils in extremely disadvantaged areas, intended to develop positive character traits;
  • £600,000 for other small music programmes across the country for each year until 2020; and
  •  £13.5 million a year until 2018 for the Dance and Drama Awards Scheme. This scheme offers income-assessed support for tuition fees and living costs for students aged 16-23 at a number of high quality private dance and drama schools. 

The £300 million for music education hubs, of which £75 million has already been announced for this year, builds on the £271 million invested in music hubs between 2012 and 2016. The funding will be administered by Arts Council England, which has a wealth of experience and strategic partnerships to improve music and cultural education for children.

Music education hubs are local partnerships – including schools, local authorities and arts organisations – which work together to ensure that all 5-18 year olds have access to high quality musical opportunities.

Small music programmes

  1. Music for Youth provides opportunities for more than 60,000 children and young people each year to take part in, and attend, a series of music festivals. School Standards Minister Nick Gibb visited the rehearsals at the Music for Youth Proms on Wednesday 16 November.
  2. In Harmony provides intensive orchestral training to pupils in extremely disadvantaged areas and is intended to develop positive character traits in pupils such as a sense of loyalty and commitment and to improve parental engagement in education.
  3. National Youth Music Organisations are elite ensembles which also receive funding from Arts Council England and charitable organisations, as well as fees from members’ parents.

Opportunity Areas

  • Six areas (West Somerset, Norwich, Blackpool, Scarborough, Derby and Oldham), identified as the most challenged when it comes to social mobility, will have access to funding to address the biggest challenges they face.
  • Opportunity areas will see local partnerships formed with early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and local authorities to ensure all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
  • The aim of opportunity areas is to build young people’s knowledge and skills and provide them with the best advice and opportunities, including working with organisations such as the Careers and Enterprise Company, the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses, and the National Citizen Service.

About the ISM

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is the professional body for musicians in the UK and a national subject association for music educators. We support our members through a range of tailored services including specialist in house legal advice, business support, guidance, professional development expertise, research and robust campaigning. We are wholly independent and represent and champion the interests of the profession and our 7,600 members.

For more information, contact [email protected]