Magazine article Gramophone

National Music Plan-One Year On: What Are the Effects of the UK Government's Shake-Up in Music Education?

Magazine article Gramophone

National Music Plan-One Year On: What Are the Effects of the UK Government's Shake-Up in Music Education?

Article excerpt

The UK government's first ever National Plan for Music Education was unveiled over a year ago, in November 2011. Its ambitions amounted to a complete shake-up of the system, with music education no longer being delivered by local authorities and county music services, but instead by music 'hubs'. Appointed by the Arts Council for a September 2012 start, hubs would be made up of partnerships between local authorities and local music organisations, such as orchestras and choirs. Also announced was the expansion of In Harmony, the community-centred immersive whole-school instrumental learning scheme modelled on Venezuela's El Sistema.

So how's it all going now? Well, the happiest faces in this new music-education landscape are to be found within the four new In Harmony projects, which were awarded to The Sage Gateshead, Nottingham City Council, Opera North and Telford & Wrekin Music. Just two months into The Sage Gateshead's scheme, working with Hawthorn Primary School and the adjoining Ashfield Nursery, every child had enjoyed familiarisation days at The Sage, had picked their instruments with the help of Northern Sinfonia players, and had started lessons; a select few had even performed their own concert to parents at a school assembly. All was supported by a steering group made up of representatives from Sure Start, strategic health commissioners and the Newcastle city arts team. 'Everyone is just beyond themselves with excitement, it's so thrilling,' says Katherine Zeserson, director of learning and participation at The Sage.

Moving on to the hubs, it's a slightly more mixed picture, but there are undoubtedly positives. Deborah Annetts is chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, and also chair of the Music Education Council, which at the end of last year gathered together hub leaders, representatives from the Arts Council, teachers and partnership organisations to discuss the Plan's progress. 'I think they're doing better than we thought they would be doing, frankly,' she says. 'Given that the hubs only started in September and they had been set up within an incredibly tight timescale, there are positive signs coming out already. I think there is a better integration of music education provision coming through the hubs than perhaps was the case before the National Plan, and working within reduced budgetary constraints is making them think very carefully around how they deliver excellence, and how they reach students who may be more inaccessible because of poverty, ethnicity or special needs. …

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