Gove’s music shakeup hitting all the wrong notes

New £171m school music ‘hubs’ are not benefiting those children who need it most. As the education secretary might have learned from Chaucer, hubs can cause a stink …

These new school music “hubs”, costing a monstrous amount totalling £171m, have made “little discernible difference” to music in more than two-thirds of schools inspected, says Ofsted. Local council music centres seem to have been doing just as well, before the “hubs” took over. Well surprise, surprise. If you take a system, pick it up, shake it about, put it down again and give it a silly new name, the only difference you’re going to make is more of a mess and more work for teachers, who are already sick to death of non-stop government initiatives written in gibberish. They always seem to be doing this to poor old education. Gove plans to change GCSE grades from letters to numbers. Schools have been turned into “academies”. Not much “discernible improvement” there either, unless you count more jobs for managers and profit for private individuals.

And what’s wrong with local councils running things? They used to do a pretty good job with their “supply pools”. They knew all their supply teachers and schools, teachers and schools would ring in, council would efficiently match them up and sort them out. Then in came the private agencies, down went the teachers’ wages, up went private gain, and nothing improved.

“What’s a ‘hub’,” asks Fielding, 35 years a teacher. “It’s a pile of money with managers sitting on top of it, giving wads of it out to their favourites,” explains a younger teacher, who has just tried to get money out of a hub and failed. To him the money didn’t seem to be going to the poorer children who needed it most. And the hub managers often aren’t even musicians.

This all brings to mind a suggested method in Chaucer’s Summoner’s Tale, for sharing resources via a “hub”. A hypocritical, greedy and thieving friar is advised to position his 12 colleagues, kneeling, with their noses stuck into the end of the cartwheel’s hollow spokes. He then farts into the hub, distributing his bounty equally. Hot air? Bit of a nasty smell? I see parallels. Perhaps “hub” isn’t such a good name after all …

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