The budget. It's a worrying concept for most UK music teachers every year. Whilst internationally music seems to be well funded and respected, the UK is having a crisis. Each summer I hear tales from concerned heads of departments whose budgets have been cut and are now expected to deliver music to 600 students on £500. Or those who don't have a budget at all and are expected to 'bid' for any items they need. Or, perhaps like me in recent years, you have a budget but are also told you must photocopy books for all KS3 students, and that that cost will basically eat your entire budget?
In the UK we are all aware that despite music being rolled out at each and every important national or state event, the funding for music education has been, and is being, cut at every corner. Schools are now expected to pay more towards National Insurance and pensions, among other things and funds are being diverted in many instances to the teaching of Ebacc subjects.
It is frustrating if you have senior leaders who don't understand that there are ongoing repairs and replacements to be paid for, and that 3 guitars won't simply 'last a lifetime' without new strings or leads, or amps. And as for piano tuning.....who pays for that?
But the good news is that there are a range of funding options out there. You just have to look around, be a little entrepreneurial and make careful applications.
If you have to make a bid to senior management, I know it's frustrating, but you have to play the game! Find out what paperwork needs to be completed. Link everything you say to the School and Department Improvement Plan and consider how every single child you teach will feel the benefit of the equipment you are asking for. Link it to your school values if you can. Have several quotes for the equipment prepared to submit with the bid and get in there early. Don't wait until the last minute, do it the moment the new financial year starts.
Just because you are an employee doesn't mean you can't have an enterprising spirit! Many music departments make a fair amount of extra money each year from simple activities such as:
If you don't know where your local hub is, you are missing a trick. Not only do the hubs have a variety of instruments and equipment that you can borrow, (big money saver there) but they also run groups and offer teaching and assistance for your department. Each hub is run differently so it is up to you to reach out and find out what they have to offer. They are funded directly by the government, so are more than happy to distribute the funds down to the schools through equipment and guidance.
When you do apply for any funding be sure that you have considered the following....
1. Explain how the funds will be used for every student, not just those at exam level or learning to play an instrument. There must be a holistic approach.
2. Don't just focus on performance eg funding for new instruments. Consider how funds can be used to increase opportunities for composing, singing, listening to and experiencing music.
3. How will the funds help students to become more rounded individuals generally? What life skills will you be improving or introducing. eg group work skills, literacy, numeracy
4. How will your work impact the local community? Try to think outside the school grounds - how can you include parents, community groups and other schools?
5. Have a clear strategy, focus and timeline for your project. How does it develop the key values of excellent music education?
So if you've run out of budget, can't 'bid' for any more funds, have exhausted the students through a series of concerts and have taken all help from your music hub, where do you go next?
Well there are a number of companies that offer grants for music education. Check the rules for each one:
Below is a list of possibilities in the UK. If you are international, you will be able to find a similar list.
There are also many local charities set up to help, such as this one that covers Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire Ewelme Education Awards
and this one covering Cheshire Cheshire Community Foundation
Although it can be time consuming and annoying having to find the budget to deliver your educational programme, the benefits far outweigh the effort. Try to be organised at the beginning of the financial year. Look at your curriculum and extra-curricular plan, work out what funding you will need for the year and get those applications in as soon as possible.
Still umming and ahhing about what to teach this term? Have a look at this list of 100 Curriculum Ideas for some inspiration and receive a new resource every week in your inbox!