Music hubs facing £9-12m shortfall amid spiralling costs, survey reveals

Michael Pearce
Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Increased staffing and operational costs are forcing music hubs and services to raise fees, pricing out parents and schools.

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Cost-of-living salary rises and additional pension costs have left music hubs and services in England facing an estimated funding gap of £9-12m for the financial year 2023/24, according to a Music Mark survey.

76% of all music hubs and services in England took part in the survey, which illustrates the impact of rising costs on music education.

In addition to staffing costs, mounting charges for building and venue hire were a particular challenge according to 83% of respondents. Other reported increases include energy bills, travel, fuel and instrument hire.

‘We’re losing both parents and schools’

The survey reveals how organisations are having to increase fees to meet rising costs, in turn pricing out children and young people from accessing music education.

Respondents reported raising their fees by an average of 6.9%, with parents and schools facing lesson price increases of 6.6%. However, many said these increases will still not be enough to cover the additional costs.

The general cost-of-living squeeze on households is also seeing an increased demand for subsided lessons and bursaries.

‘The demand for assistance is now increasing to such an extent that we will have to start saying no,’ said one survey respondent. ‘It is heartbreaking to speak to families about their inability to pay for lessons, and their subsequent withdrawal of their children from lessons.’

One service said that is was ‘losing both parents and schools’ as it can't absorb the price increases.

Responding to the survey, Music Mark CEO Bridget Whyte said: ‘The value of musical learning is widely understood, and sustained government support for music education hubs has had significant impact in enabling more and more children to benefit.

'But this report clearly shows how standstill funding together with increased staff and operational costs is creating a perfect storm which could mean the ambitions of the new National Plan for Music Education in England, which began to be implemented this term, will not be fully realised.’

Music Mark is a subject association and an Arts Council England Investment Principles Support Organisation (IPSO) advocating for high-quality musical learning in and out of schools. Its membership includes music hubs and services, schools, teachers, individuals and organisations working in music education across the UK.

Read the full report