Musicians' Union (MU)
The Musicians' Union (MU) has welcomed the National Music Plan, announced on 25 November by the Government.
Diane Widdison, National Organiser for Teaching at the MU, says:
'What is important is that access to quality music education is available to all children and young people, and that music tuition is delivered by a skilled and well resourced workforce.
'Over two thirds of our 30,000 plus members work in music education and it is imperative that these teachers are engaged in the implementation and delivery of the National Music Plan as it is the workforce who will be responsible for inspiring the next generation of musicians.
A cunning plan
'"I have a cunning plan," Baldrick used to say in Blackadder as he dreamed up a solution to a particular problem or crisis which was usually ridiculed scathingly by Blackadder on account of its implausibility but then frequently resorted to when the situation became desperate.
'Is this where we are with the long awaited National Music Plan?
'Having waded my way through it a few times now and read the blogs, tweets and comments on various websites, I would say no, it is not on the level of a Baldrick but something, although not perfect, which could work and at least tackles some of the big issues which have dominated and skewed the delivery of music education in England.
Focussing on the positives
'We actually do have a plan! We know that there is some fantastic music education and educators working in England – a night at Music for Youth’s amazing School Prom at the Royal Albert Hall confirms this. We also have known that in some schools there is little more than a CD played to pupils as a way of delivering the curriculum requirements for music education and it is heartening to know that this is now being addressed in a strategic way.
'Having worked for Music Services for over 20 years before I came to the MU, I am well aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Here, we deal on a daily basis with Music Services and know that there are some excellent ones out there who consistently deliver quality tuition by a motivated workforce but unfortunately, some do not. We hope that the new hubs will build on the strengths of those good ones and bring other organisations into the mix to help those who need it, ensuring consistency across the country.
'The allocation of funding on a per pupil premium is again a welcome innovation. It has long been a mystery as to why all 150 Music Services in England were funded differently and at least this new way of funding will go some way towards addressing the anomalies in the system.
'The decision to include more training for Primary school teachers has to be welcomed. Music is a notoriously difficult subject to deliver for non-specialists and anything to boost confidence in this area is a bonus. As are the recommendations in the areas of Music Technology and SEN teaching and anything that addresses issues of inclusion and progression.
And so to the negatives…
'Of course, funding has to be an issue and the cut in real terms along with cuts already announced by Local Authorities will have a real impact on delivery. Having said that, at least a three-year funding policy is in place now and it is ring-fenced which, in today’s economic climate, is rare.
'Also, there are lots of questions about the proposed hubs and how they will work in practice and challenges as to how they are able to meet the criteria of what they have to deliver and administer with a reduced budget but we have to see who applies to run them in the first instance. At the MU, we are putting a strategy together to engage with the hubs as we need to ensure that musicians who teach are remunerated appropriately and on contracts with suitable terms and conditions but also well resourced with access to relevant and high-quality Continuing Professional Development opportunities.
'There is also a serious morale issue within many Music Services because of the uncertainty that has been over the last 18 months which has already seen job losses and reduced pay, conditions and work opportunities for musicians in the sector.
'Of course, writing a plan is the easy bit (although the DfE might disagree with this, having had to delay the publication of the NMP on a number of occasions); it is the implementation of it and the practical way it will work that will be the ultimate test. It will also be whether access to quality music education improves over the next three years and whether more young people are engaged in creative music making. Will be the School Prom be even more diverse and of a better quality in 2015 than it was this year? Is that possible? We wait and see but it is up to us who are involved in the music education sector either as policy makers or deliverers to rise to the challenge.'