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Music Education

Volume 523: debated on Monday 7 February 2011

7. What assessment he has made of the effect on music education in schools of reductions in his Department’s funding for music services. (38224)

I am happy to inform the House that this morning we published Mr Darren Henley’s review on music education, and I am hugely grateful to him for his in-depth consideration of the issues and for the realistic and practical measures he has put forward. Following that report, I can now confirm that funding for music education in 2011-12 will be the same as it was in 2010-11—£82.5 million. That is not a cut; it is a very good settlement for music services, which is consistent with our broader strategies for school autonomy and deficit reduction.

I, too, pay tribute to the work of Darren Henley, who has at heart the need to ensure that young people get a good music education. Labour’s £332 million investment in school music helped children from poor and average backgrounds access good education in music. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the £82.5 million, although ring-fenced, is a real-terms cut? Local authorities are already slashing music services in their areas, so rather than blowing his own trumpet, should the Secretary of State not admit that this is really a cut, just like his cut to school sport?

Once again, we have had a superb pun: we had trumpets from the Back Benches and fiddles from the Front Bench, but what a pity they are not singing from the same hymn sheet as Darren Henley, local authorities and all those who care about music. From Alfie Boe the tenor, to Julian Lloyd Webber the cello player, everyone in the world of music is saying that today is good news for all children who want to learn more about music, including your own, Mr Speaker.

Bedfordshire Orchestral Society has an enviable record of promoting music in schools, but it is reliant on funding from two local authorities. Even ahead of today’s good news from the Secretary of State, Bedford borough council has committed funding, so will my right hon. Friend join me in encouraging Central Bedfordshire council to do likewise?

When Central Bedfordshire council hears that my hon. Friend and I are both on the case, I am sure that it will be only too happy to join in and become as one in harmony with us both.

Once again, there is a chasm between rhetoric and reality: the big announcement is a cash freeze, which in real terms is a cut. It is another example of confused decision making. The right hon. Gentleman promises to increase access to music, but the cuts mean that 60% of schools, as surveyed by the National Association of Music Educators, are cutting music provision this year. Does he accept that, unless music is protected and ring-fenced not just for one year but into the future, all his rhetoric will lead to is less music provision in deprived areas?

There is a huge chasm between rhetoric and reality: the chasm between the apocalyptic rhetoric that we heard from the Opposition Front Benchers and their sock puppets elsewhere, and the reality of increased funding for those areas that need it most, and new funding for the teach music first scheme, ensuring that some of our most talented musicians from leading music schools and conservatoires work in our most challenging schools to ensure that every child has an opportunity, which I, like the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), believe should be extended to all. It is only under this Government, with this announcement on school music and our pupil premium, that we are at last ensuring that money goes to those children who need it most, instead of being wasted on the quangos and bureaucrats that characterised the past 13 wasted years.