Music hubs: why should schools care?

IMG_2666It’s a year since the government published its long-awaited National Plan for Music Education, and the first manifestation of this, the new music education hubs in England, have been operating for around three months now. It’s early days of course, but some teachers and heads remain uncertain about what they’re all about, how they can get involved and what the benefits will be for their pupils. It’s absolutely critical that hubs are built around your pupil’s and schools needs, so here’s a quick ‘Hub Pass Notes’ that might answer some of your questions and help you get support for your school and pupils.

We had a music service, now we have a hub
… led by the music service. It doesn’t look any different

You may or may not see a big difference initially. There was a very short timescale for organisations to submit their bids for funding to lead each hub. As a result, many have had to work with what’s been easiest to put in place for the initial few months. So even those  who seem not to have changed much yet, will be working behind the scenes – or should be – to find ways to:

a) find out about, and meet, the needs of children, young people and schools
b) connect with local musicians/music leaders and music organisations to give you easier access to relevant types of music/methods of music-making and specific services tailored around your pupils

I’ve included a summary of the core and additional roles of hubs at the end of this blog. To find out more about what your school should expect from the hub, read The Importance of Music: The National Plan for Music Education (there is an exec summary if you need it) or for an overview, visit the Arts Council’s music education hubs page.

Music’s just one of the things on my plate/ my head’s plate … we don’t need another ‘initiative’

Hubs aren’t ‘yet another thing’ for schools to deal with. They were set up to make better use of time and money and avoid duplication. Schools and pupils should expect clear, helpful, signposting, rather than being bogged down by a confusing array of practitioners, projects, programmes and offers.

But it’ll be all down to how effectively and willingly the people and organisations in your area work together. Also, how well the hubs can advocate their work to your head and school leadership team. They need your help to do this.

So how are hubs going to understand and meet the needs of schools?

Rather than being passive recipients of ‘what music services offer’, schools will have a much stronger voice in hubs. Ideally, they will have a central role in developing services so they’re relevant to schools, children and young people, and deliver the outcomes you want to see  – both musical and non-musical (see Aspiration and achievement – heads say music can make the difference).

Hubs are expected to do an analysis of needs (as well as an audit of existing provision). Get in touch and talk to  them about the challenges you’re facing in your school, your priorities, and what would really help the children and young people you work with. Ask if you can have a place on an advisory group or working party. You’ll get to know more about what’s happening and may be able to radically influence the shape of things to come. Don’t expect to hear ‘this is what we offer, what do you want?’ as that’s not the point of a hub!

Hmm, can they really convince my school’s leadership team that they’re not just about teaching instruments?

Music services are changing. Most are undergoing an organisational and cultural transformation, working hard to understand and respond to the rapid and deep changes to education and other public sector services. They’re well aware that the place of music and the arts in policy and funding generally, and schools in particular, is under threat. They know they need to advocate music education to heads and governors, schools clusters/chains, and local authority policy makers; to explain its importance as an integral part of 21st century schools, and an essential part of children and young people’s wellbeing and rights, and their development into future citizens and leaders.

They can’t do this alone: they need teachers and others who care about music and are aware of its importance in young people’s lives, to get in touch, work together, and help shape what’s on offer.

So what’s in it for me as a teacher?

For teachers as well as the wider workforce, the hubs will offer professional development opportunities and access to local expertise and networks – including in particular, around singing and music technology.

They should also be able to help you to strengthen the place of music in your school: the National Plan says they need to help teachers to ‘better embed music teaching within a school’s overall strategy’ and advocate ‘the importance of music education to school leaders’. See also Seven tips for advocating music in your school.

And for young people?

Inspiring, relevant, music opportunities which are available and accessible to *all* pupils. Better, clearer pathways and progression routes taking account of the types of music they choose to pursue and the ways they want to learn. And much more. There’s a table in the National Plan for Music Education (pages 13-15) that sets out exactly what pupils should expect.

What should I do next?

Check out the information on your local hub’s website, if it’s live yet (many aren’t), and arrange a meeting with the lead organisation in your local hub. If you’re unsure, visit the Arts Council’s music education hubs page and download (from the right hand column) the spreadsheet of music education hubs successful applicants.


Summary of music education hub roles

There are four ‘core’ roles, which are compulsory and which the DfE funding is to be spent on, and three ‘extension’ roles which most hubs are expected also to deliver, with DfE and other funding:

Core roles are to provide:

  • weekly learning of instruments through whole-class ensembles for a minimum of a term (but ideally a year) for every child aged 5-18
  • opportunities to play in ensembles and perform
  • clear progression routes which are available and affordable to all young people
  • regular singing opportunities including choirs and vocal ensembles for every pupil as a result of a singing strategy (possibly drawing on support from Sing Up! or the Voices Foundation)

Extension roles are to provide:

  • CPD for school staff, particularly to help deliver curriculum music, as well as leadership
  • an instrument loan service (discounted/free for those on low incomes)
  • access to large scale/high quality music experiences for pupils via professional musicians/venues –  may include publicizing opportunities available to schools, parents/carers, pupils.

Hubs can provide services directly, or link schools to other providers.

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