Stretching your shoestring budget: Music

Jan 13, 2021

I do love a good bit of shopping. Excellent, us too, but with perennially tight budgets under additional pressure this year, as money is reallocated to assist in other areas of pandemic recovery, you’re going to have to shop even more savvily than usual. With many annual subject budgets renewing after Easter, now might be a good time to start thinking about how to allocate yours.

Absolutely! It all feels a bit overwhelming, though, and I never know how best to approach the process. We’d suggest you start by asking yourself four fundamental questions:

  1. How much money do I have and what is it expected to cover?
  2. How did spending go last year?
  3. What’s on my music action plan?
  4. What are the priorities for this year’s money?

OK, will do. Could you give me some more details about what each of those questions means? Of course! In the case of the size of your budget and the expectations there are for it, the answers will vary greatly from setting to setting, and it is essential for you to understand the parameters before you start spending. If new choir resources are required, for example, will that come out of your music budget, or is there a separate pool of money for that?

Good point! And then I should look back at last year’s spending? Absolutely. In our experience, reflecting on how last year’s budget was spent is an essential part of the process. What was worth the investment and what, in hindsight, might have been a waste of money? Did you spend a fortune on a resource that was and is hardly used? Is there an alternative to a disposable resource that would last longer? Is your CPD budget out of control?  This exercise should, very quickly, help clarify your spending priorities for the coming year.

Right, and once I’ve done that, can I start making some concrete decisions about this year’s spending? You can, and that’s where questions 3 and 4 come in, and where you need to rely on that key weapon in every good teacher’s armoury – planning. Start by looking at your action plan and making a list of everything you might potentially need to spend money on. Consider the times of year that resource/organisation renewals fall; whether you want to resource for the whole year now or spread the spending across the year; and if you want a contingency fund.

That all makes sense, but my budget is very tight. Any suggestions on how I can make it go further? There’s no simple solution, unfortunately, but with some careful planning, and an eye on the Subject Leaders’ music subject page, you can certainly trim your spending without leaving your subject under-resourced. For example:

CPD:

  • Run your own CPD, or opt for cheaper, online options such as these free CPD videos from the IMA. One of the silver linings to the pandemic is that many CPD offerings have shifted online (often reducing the price)
  • Build connections with subject experts at other primary and secondary schools to help develop and support staff subject knowledge
  • Check if free or reduced CPD is included in any of your subscriptions e.g. Music Teachers Association or Music Education Solutions, or through your local music hub, local authority, academy trust or union

Resources:

  • Coordinate with other subject leaders and share resources and purchases (e.g. English, geography and history budgets often overlap with music)
  • Try to complete a resource audit to ascertain where the gaps are and where resources may need replacing, developing or complementing
  • Reflect on digital subscriptions/resources (e.g. Music Education Solutions or Sing Up) – how are they used in your school and are they worth the money? Can your music hub offer alternatives?
  • Encourage the use of free quality online music resources, such as BBC Bitesize, BBC Teach for KS1 and KS2 (including the Ten Pieces and Bring the Noise resource) or teacher-populated sites such as Teaching Ideas

Scheme of work/planning resources:

  • Is planning included with any organisation subscriptions you have?
  • Can you make the case to your head that paying for a day of supply from your budget will allow you to develop schemes of work or planning resources?
  • Can you incorporate curriculum development into staff meetings or CPD days?
  • Ensure any pay-for schemes are value for money – why not ask other subject leaders on Facebook, in groups like this one which schemes they would recommend. Explore schemes for music on Scheme Support
  • Make use of free resources: many new and free resources have come to light during remote learning (see our remote learning article for plenty of links)

Subject organisation memberships and local music hubs (e.g. Music Teachers Association):

  • Are you making the most of them?
  • What else do they provide beyond advice (e.g. CPD or resources) that might help you trim your budget elsewhere?

Enrichment events/weeks/visits/trips:

  • Could some of these be funded through PTA or equivalent funds?
  • Could you join up with other curriculum areas?
  • What is available online?

Sounds smart – is there anything else I can get on a shoestring? There is! Don’t forget to keep an eye on annual grants and funding, such as those from Universal Music UK, Music for All, the Youth Music Network and Restore the Music.

Excellent. Any final thought? Yes! Why not ask staff if they have any wish list items that they think would enhance the subject. You don’t have to buy them, but it might be food for thought.

In a nutshell… Plan early and smartly to ensure you make the most of your financial resources.

Older posts

Ofsted Research review series: Music

ADDED AUGUST 2021
We summarise the key findings from Ofsted’s music subject research review and list key features of ‘high-quality music education’.

Remote learning: music

ADDED OCT 2020
We explore possible options for remote music learning where bubbles and individuals are self-isolating.

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