A Perfect Partnership or an Arranged Marriage?

Now that the Music Education Hub map has been drawn and the reality hits of a need to deliver the visions so carefully crafted for Arts Council England application forms – what happens to all the (potentially rushed) partnership agreements and/or promises?

The National Plan for Music Education states:

Great Music is a partnership between classroom teachers, specialist teachers, professional performers and a host of other organisations, including those from the arts, charity and voluntary sectors.  For this reason the creation of a national plan is necessary to help us bring together all of this expertise in a focussed way for the benefit of children and young people across the country.

The WORK of the hubs will be all about providing broad and accessible musical education opportunities for all children and young people (see It’s who you know….’), but the DNA of the hubs will be just as crucial.

I am sure that for many areas of the country partnership working isn’t something new – indeed, for example, there have been some great Music Partnership Projects funded by Department of Education which have shown how beneficial joint working can be (see Partnerships in Music Education).  But I have also witnessed projects where there is a misunderstanding of exactly what partnership working means.  Contracting an organisation to provide a service is not working in together, that’s like saying I work in partnership with British Gas to heat my house!

I hope that organisations will truly wish to work together – to collaborate.  Margaret Griffiths in her report on the Music Manifesto Pathfinder Projects wrote of three levels of partnership – cooperation; collaboration; confederation.  My vision for the Music Education Hubs is that the existing cooperation between organisations in a Hub area will from September 2012 become collaboration.  And over time perhaps a confederated music education offer will become established.

Of course the perfect partnership takes time.  It needs the compromise and understanding from all sides, and may even need – at times – a facilitator/marriage guidance councillor.  But if we are to get this right – make hubs work even better than the music education offer we have had up till now AND ensure the future of provision through sustained funding which recognises the success achieved – the investment in making the relationships work has surely got to be worth it.

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