The Department for Education is warning that there should be no money in local authority education budgets for extra-curricular music and arts. 

Photo of school children playing instruments

Gus Estrella (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Local authority support for music services could soon come to an end following a Department for Education (DfE) consultation which is collecting views about how forthcoming cuts to the Education Services Grant (ESG) should be implemented. The per-pupil grant, paid by the DfE to England’s local authorities and academies, will be reduced by around £200m from 2015/16, and the consultation document makes it clear that there is now “a limited role for local authorities” in providing extra-curricular activities including music and other arts services. Whilst the consultation aims to “gather views from the sector about how the grant is currently being used, how much money could be saved and the impact of making those savings”, the document goes on to say: “Our expectation is that music services should now be funded through music education hubs (which can cover one or more local authority areas) and from school budgets, not from the ESG.”

One hundred and twenty-two Music Education Hubs were set up in 2012, in response to the first ever national plan for music education. Central Government funding for music education has since fallen, from £82.5m in 2011 to only £62m this year, plus a further £14.3m from local authorities. In what the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) describes as “continuing uncertainty and confusion surrounding the funding for music education”, it has stepped up its campaign to Protect Music Education and is urging the arts sector to sign a petition and spread the word about the new Government instruction to local authorities. Deborah Annetts, ISM Chief Executive, said: “The National Plan for Music Education supported by the Department for Education was a visionary strategy for music education in England. The demand that local authorities – a key partner in many music education hubs – should stop funding music services risks derailing this flagship Government initiative.”

The DfE will publish the final details of changes to the allocation of the ESG later this year, together with guidance for local authorities and schools.

Liz Hill