Sound Sense welcomes the National Plan for Music Education but is concerned it does not go far enough
Sound Sense, the UK professional association for community music, welcomes The Importance of Music: A National Plan for Music Education. The plan builds on Darren Henley’s review of music education earlier this year in the positive directions we championed at the time.
It is good to have strong indicators that music education hubs, as the new framework for assessing and delivering the wants and needs of young people within music education in England, must cater for all children regardless of background or personal circumstances; and we urge Arts Council England as grant assessors for the new hubs to ensure this stipulation is paid serious attention to.
We are pleased to see the emphasis on hubs undertaking regular analyses of young people’s needs and audits of what provision is available in an area before agreeing their offers. We are particularly pleased to see that funding for hubs will be directed to 'genuine partnerships where all partners are able to invest in a collaborative approach with outcomes for pupils at its core' and that it is envisaged that organisations other than local authorities might wish to consider leading a hub. All this was part of the original vision of a hub that Sound Sense described along with co-author, FMS, in the second Music Manifesto report five years ago.
We are concerned, however, that the required core, and even extension, roles of a hub are so limiting. Nothing in either role requires a hub to engage young people in the true heart of music: creative music making. At the same time, funding for the core role is being reduced and applicants are being signposted to sources of funding that have traditionally been used by non-formal music education working with children in challenging circumstances. We urge the grant managers to ensure that these funding sources are not used to prop up the core or even extension roles as stated but remain available for their traditional purposes.
The model for young people's musical progression is still limited: where would the progression route be for a beatboxer, MC or rapper? For those aspiring to headline at a major festival such as Glastonbury? Or for work in the creative industries generally?
While we are pleased to see more emphasis placed on music technology than was apparent in the original review, there is still not enough attention placed on creative music making applications of technology. Especially given the links between music technology and under-represented groups of young people this needs to be addressed if the plan's vision that 'Children from all backgrounds and every part of England should have the opportunity to . . . make music with others' is to be realised.
We believe a hub will not succeed unless it involves both formal education and non-formal education in equal partnership at the strategic level and we offer our support to help agencies come together to achieve that.
We note the outline plans for the development of a qualified music educator qualification. Sound Sense members are already faced with a raft of qualifications they can take for working in music education with young people, for working with older people, in the criminal justice sector, in lifelong learning and elsewhere. We look forward to working with Arts Council England and Creative & Cultural Skills - both directly and through our place as a partner in the Paul Hamlyn Foundation special initiative, ArtWorks - to ensure any additional qualification is a help not a hindrance to those whose work includes non-formal music education with young people.