Celebrating school music services

Last evening I attended the Oxfordshire Music Service annual end of year concert. The setting was the lovely one of Dorchester Abbey, although the pews do seem rather harder than a few years ago. Music has played a large part in the post-war education scene. This is despite successive governments from the 1980s onwards often seeing it as a dispensable extra activity. The fact that this was the 75th year the Oxfordshire Music Service has been in operation and it is now working at arm’s length from the local authority is a tribute to all who care about what this type of service can bring to the life of our young people.

Earlier in the afternoon I had been reading the latest briefing note on school funding from the Education Policy Institute. David Laws, the former Schools Minister and sometime Lib Dem MP makes no secret that he doesn’t believe in local democratically elected councils having a role in education funding. The briefing note laments that there was no legislative proposal in the Queen’s Speech to allow a ‘hard’ national funding formula. However, the EPI note suggests that the DfE could still significantly reduce the role of local authorities by the use of secondary legislation.

Now, regular readers will knows that both as a councillor and philosophically I believe locally democratically elected councils have an important role to play in education. I am not opposed to a national funding formula, but it throws up interesting issues if implemented as a ’hard’ national formula. An academy in the North West is to close as it is uneconomic and in deficit. The Multi Academy Trust will hand the lease back to the council that owns the freehold. All well and good, but the school was built by a PFI deal and those payments will presumably continue whether it operates as a school or not. Who should bear the cost, the local council taxpayers or the government? At present, it will be the local taxpayers, probably without any ability to recoup the costs, just as they cannot for additional transport costs that could result from a school closure. Would the government keep activities such as school music services going or be content to just leave them to market forces? I wonder.

The lack of a rational plan for the governance of our schools have been a worrying feature of the past thirty years, ever since central government really started the process of nationalising the schools with the Conservative Grant Maintained Schools.  Sadly, no government has had the courage to do what David Laws would like and fully remove all education from democratically elected councils. Such an outcome would at least have the merit of clear-cut solution.

You really cannot have a system with responsibility but no power. This fact is highlighted by the plight of children taken into care who have no right to a school place if moved to another area for their safety. I am delighted that all Oxfordshire MPs from the three Parties have signed a letter to the Minister highlighting this issue. Our most vulnerable children deserve better than to be not only be taken from their homes but also have their education disrupted, sometimes for months on end.

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5 thoughts on “Celebrating school music services

  1. Liverpool Council continues to pay PFI repayments for the closed Parklands School. The contract runs until the late 2020s. But Parklands was a foundation school not an academy.
    Northern Schools Trust must have known about the PFI commitments for Kingsway Academy when it took over Wallasey School. Now it says it can’t support repayments. The debt will presumably revert to the council.
    PFI was a disastrous policy not just for school but for hospitals. The annual costs are a crippling drain on organisations running buildings financed under this initiative.

    • Janet,

      It just showed how bad the originators were at negotiating in many cases leaving a legacy that last for a very long time. I suppose some schools did achieve new buildings but at a cost to others that couldn’t.

      John

  2. “David Laws, the former Schools Minister and sometime Lib Dem MP makes no secret that he doesn’t believe in local democratically elected councils having a role in education funding.”

    For me, not only should local democratically elected councils have a role, not only should they have their powers restored, eg to open new schools, they should also have their role strengthened as much as possible, and the role of national politicians greatly reduced.

    It is clear why national politicians love education so much, eg the huge funds, the potential for patronage and reward, the opportunity to make a mark, but it is also clear based on the failure of academisation, for eg, and innovations such as Teach First, that central government should now hand the reins over.

    Education ultimately is a local issue, for local people, and it is because people, like Laws, have overlooked this in recent times, that their reforms have not worked, parents and schools have been provoked into tiring but necessary democratic protest and campaigning, and is why the Liberals and Tories could not make any significant gains in the last GE.

    In other words, overlook local people and local issues at your peril.

    • To be fair, some academy chains have worked and are producing excellent results but the price has been high, with lots of under-performance with overheads that were a cause for concern with the money stayed with local authorities but doesn’t seem to both the government now. 150 chief officers or 500 Chief Executives of MATs; you do the maths.
      We need strategic planning and a middle tier but it isn’t obvious where the impetus going to come from right now.
      And we do need local democracy involved, especially for primary and early years, but also fr skills training and even the secondary sector.

      John

      • “150 chief officers or 500 Chief Executives of MATs; you do the maths.”

        Wow. Quite a contrast!

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