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Music hubs 'not successful enough'

A Government initiative which aimed to improve music education for children has "not been successful enough", the schools watchdog has said.

Music hubs have "failed" to improve music education for all , a new report from Oftsed concluded.

Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the initiative in 2011 after a review warned that music education in England was "patchy", leaving many children missing out.

The hubs were designed so schools could team up with councils and local music organisations such as orchestras and choirs to work together to provide music education for youngsters.

Funded through the Arts Council England, the 123 hubs were supposed to ensure that every child sang regularly and learnt a musical instrument in normal school class lessons.

Between 2012 and 2015 they will be given £171 million to improve music education.

But a new report from Ofsted said the novel approach to supporting music education in schools only reached a " minority" of pupils.

The report, based on visits to 31 schools, found that in all but a few the music curriculum "lacked depth and rigour".

It added: "T he hubs visited could not show how their work in schools provides, or will provide, best value for public money.

"We must expect greater impact on music education for all pupils in schools."

The report concluded that "little has changed" in terms of provision in the music hubs' first year.

In more than two-thirds of the schools visited there was "little discernible difference" from the support previously given by local authorities, Ofsted said.

"Music is a demanding academic discipline, developed through exciting practical musical activity," Michael Cladingbowl, director of schools policy at Ofsted, said.

"However, the vast majority of the schools visited shied away from teaching pupils about fundamental aspects of music as they thought it too difficult.

"All children, not just the privileged few, should enjoy a good music education.

"Music hubs were created with this very aim, so it is concerning that the hubs visited for this survey could not show how their work in schools achieves this or how they provide value for money.

"It is important that this report is used to share the best practice that we did find, highlighting where music hubs and schools are working well together.

"Over time we must expect greater impact on music education for all pupils in schools."

The report authors called on each hub to produce a school music education plan to address the issues highlighted in the document.

They also called on ministers and Arts Council England to improve the reporting and accountability framework for the hubs.

An Arts Council England spokeswoman said: " We will continue to work with them - building on best practice - so that they can be more ambitious and confident in shaping schools' music education offer.

"The Arts Council is already addressing the specific recommendations directed towards it in the report which are around our responsibility to set up and monitor hubs.

"Raising quality drives everything we do and we are working with hubs to pilot new approaches to performance measurement, which will apply from next year.

"We have taken the lead in establishing an advisory group with a focus on quality - set up to share good practice between hubs.

"We are also planning a series of seminars in the New Year, to be run jointly with Ofsted, to look at the continuing development of hubs and help them to develop effective school engagement plans - key issues which were raised in the report."

A Department for Education spokesman said: " For far too long, music education has been patchy across the country - but music hubs, part of our National Music Plan, are again placing it at the heart of school life. We are clear that every child should experience high-quality music education.

"These are early days for this scheme - Ofsted's findings are based on just a quarter of the 123 hubs, which were assessed only a few months after opening.

"But Ofsted is clear that when hubs are properly run, they are already making a real difference.

"We are working with Arts Council England to ensure music hubs benefit all children."


From Belfast Telegraph