Music Ed and the Spending Review – Music Matters Radio 3

I’ve just listened to Saturday’s discussion on Radio 3’s Music Matters, about the Spending Review and music education in England – definitely worth a listen.

It’s being widely reported that during the show, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey confirmed that funding for music education will remain ‘ring-fenced’ after 2011, when the Music Standards Fund runs out. This means it will be protected from the situation that’s arisen in Wales – where money for music education goes to local authorities, but it’s up to each authority to decide how they spend their money. This has led to a ‘postcode lottery’ with poor provision in many areas and apparently some authorities who put it to other uses – see previous post about Wales’s music education review.

But Vaizey’s exact words (when Tom Service asked whether music education funding would remain ring-fenced) were that although he doesn’t “want to pre-empt the Henley review’ … “that is my view, yes. .. That’s what I believe should happen … I believe that the music standards fund has been very effective … I certainly think that you will only get effective music education by providing it at an upper level.”

It isn’t a confirmation, and it leaves lots of questions unanswered. What if Michael Gove – whose Department the money actually comes from at the moment – disagrees? What if the results of the Review lead to something radically different? And he doesn’t say who he thinks should be responsible for music education funding at local level (or for that matter, in central government …).

Other interesting points were (my comments in italic):

•    Ed Vaizey believes the cuts to ACE won’t affect ‘the artistic experience of audiences’ because the government has asked ACE to pass on only 15% cuts ‘frontline arts organisations’ (rather than the full 29% which is the cut to ACE’s funding from DCMS).  He doesn’t mention the effects on participants or learners – or the wider effects on our society and economy.

•    what does he mean by ‘frontline arts organisations’ ? – there are many organisations that are essential in helping arts organisations to do what they do best, but which aren’t actually producing art (Louise DeWinter, Director, National Campaign for the Arts) – organisations that help theatre/dance/music/voluntary arts organisations to get better at what they do, attract more funding, etc; as well as, as Marc Jaffrey mentions later, those activities which encourage creativity and are the seedbed/life-blood of cultural institutions – as well as our society and economy.

•    there are too many music/arts education initiatives (Ed Vaizey)

•    arts/music organisations are being squeezed in all directions: many rely on funding from their local authorities which is now being squeezed, and even national arts/music organisations will be affected by this, because they work in partnership with venues/regional organisations (representative of Music in the Round, Sheffield)

•    the cuts to Arts Council England’s funding could be an opportunity to take a radical rethink of how we organise and fund the arts – yet government aren’t being clear what their overarching strategy will be – if they have one – they’re just talking about cuts to the status quo … we need a radical revision of how we think about arts in this country (Mark Jaffrey ex Music Manifesto Champion)

•    there are great examples of arts/music organisations working in a mixed economy, but they rely on core funding – most organisations are drawing funding from a range of sources, working with a range of partners – it can be done – but they need that core funding from ACE or local authorities to attract other funding and to cover core costs (an office/room, telephone, admin etc), which most charities or private companies aren’t interested in funding

•    lots of organisations are already radically rethinking the way they work – working in partnership, eg at Newcastle Gateshead arts organisations are sharing HR costs, buying electricity, etc ….  (Louise DeWinter)

•    we need to look more broadly at how services are delivered – there are 156 music services, 12,000 peris, 6,000 secondary music teachers, 50  orchestras with education departments (in England) – they aren’t working together very effectively …. we need to look more broadly at how these services are delivered… (Mark Jaffrey)

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