TUC 2012: From this month the delivery of instrumental music tuition in England will look very different with the introduction of Music Education Hubs.
Following recommendations in Darren Henley's review of music education in England, The Importance of Music, the government produced a National Music Plan which sanctioned Arts Council England to assess hub applications.
In May they awarded funding to 122 music hubs which will come into existence this month.
In most cases the hubs are led by existing local authority music services, although now working with local partners, but with a combination of a reduction in funding of 25 per cent over the next three years combined with significant cuts to local government funds the new hubs are being asked to deliver to more pupils with far fewer resources.
Music services are a big employer or engager of musicians working in education with over 10,000 instrumental teachers working in England alone.
The majority of this workforce tends to be part time as the nature of a musicians' work is that teaching is part of an increasingly "portfolio" career.
Most peripatetic instrumental teachers work in isolation to their colleagues and, unfortunately, as it is not an organised or overly unionised workforce.
These teachers are vulnerable to having their working terms and conditions eroded in these challenging times.
One worrying trend we see is a move away from employed contracts to self-employed ones - yet with music services still wanting the teachers to work as if they were ordinary staff.
Teachers who had been employed on teachers' pay and conditions, with the rights and enhanced terms that includes, are now being put on hourly paid, zero-hour contracts - or even in a number of music services being offered work but only as self-employed contractors.
Although many musicians work as freelancers and are used to combining both employed and self-employed work this development is bound to make the planned hubs less effective.
We have seen a real diminution of terms and conditions for instrumental teachers over the past 40 years.
Those working for traditional county music services would formerly have been fully employed, with an essential car users allowance as well as having in-service training and regular staff meetings to interact with colleagues.
Many music services have had two years of turmoil due to the changes in local authority funding and instrumental teachers are about to see their working conditions eroded again, adding to the already low morale.
A major concern is that the next generation of musicians will not see a career in music education as viable and this will really affect the quality of instrumental work.
It is widely acknowledged that most musicians teach as part of their portfolio career but they are much more likely to go down the private teaching route, which can command higher rates of pay - and this will mean that pupils who cannot afford private tuition will lose out.
In our attempt to engage with hubs in a positive way we have produced a resource pack with support material and information on how the Musicians Union can assist their becoming responsible and ethical employers of instrumental teachers.
We are also encouraging hubs to have an instrumental teacher on their respective monitoring boards so the workforce has proper representation. We will continue to fight for members who work in education to ensure that their careers are protected and that music education in general does not suffer.
John Smith is general secretary of the Musicians Union.
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