David Price OBE, Project Leader, Musical Futures and Learning Futures; Senior Associate at the Innovation Unit
Some welcome shaking up – but, like most coalition pronouncements, it seems to espouse self-determination with an irresistible nudge to the preferred direction of travel.
Whilst the intention of the hubs concept – to achieve more universal access and consistency of experience – is laudable, there seem to be two major flaws in the proposed execution: first, judging hubs by their ability to provide Whole Class instrumental access isn't compatible with the amount of funds available. Even on current levels, it's just not possible to reach every child via Wider Opportunities so how will it be possible on less? And what happens to hubs which fail to provide universal access?
Ever since David Blunkett's ill-thought-through statement, which led to Wider Opportunities, we've been bedevilled by the maths. No-one has grasped the nettle or downgraded the aspiration – and that continues here. The second is that hubs will be, by design, very different in construction and, no doubt, in terms of the quality of the experience they provide. So it seems inevitable that the previous 'patchiness of provision' will continue.
A more radical plan could have been to instigate a version of the school sports partnerships which would at least have had a better shot at universality and consistency. But that goes against the grain of the 'nudge' philosophy.
Young persons' needs analysis is essential (for hubs) but the funding for In Harmony has increased – where's the needs analysis there?
The Music and Dance Scheme remains 'the pinnacle to which all children can aspire' – actually, no. Do the needs analysis – you'll see that X Factor eats it for breakfast. The 'nudge' here is that playing in an orchestra/ensemble is a civilising force and one which presumably the 25% who become unemployed will aspire to. Meanwhile, the contemporary creative industry routes (where there are real jobs) don't even get a mention.
And how much of the money available will be required to support ACE in holding hubs to account? More expensive nudging, I fear.