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Blunkett fails to deliver on music

Primary heads lament lack of money for Labour's promised instrument lessons By Amanda Kelly and Jon Slater

EDUCATION Secretary David Blunkett has yet to live up to his promise to give every primary pupil the chance to learn an instrument, a TES survey reveals.

Less than 10 per cent of heads and music teachers believe he has met his pledge in The TES following our "Music for the Millennium" campaign in April 1998.

The TES crusade was launched after a survey showed that thousands of primary pupils were missing out on a significant introduction to music because of the Government's emphasis on the 3Rs.

In response, Mr Blunkett vowed: "All schools should have the resources to teach music. Every child should have the opportunity to learn an instrument."

The Government insisted this week that its Music Standards Fund, giving pound;270 million to schools over five years, has started to have an effect. "No local authority has spent less than they did before and many have spent more," said a spokesman. A Government-backed survey found instrumental teaching increased between 196 and 1999.

But the TES survey shows that at the primary level the number of schools offering free lessons in piano, violin and other instruments has nearly halved, from 24 per cent to 13 per cent.

The survey of more than 400 primaries across the UK, found that the percentage of children receiving instrumental tuition has fallen in more than one school in four.

Michael Wearne, chair of the Federation of Music Services, said: "When the extra money was made available, many LEAs cut their own contribution. The Government has poured in funding at one end while LEAs take it out at the other. Further funding will be effective if councils keep up support."

As before, famous musicians are quick to emphasise the importance of early teaching. Violinist Vanessa Mae, who made her first professional recordings at the age of 12, said: "Giving children an early introduction to music is not only important for identifying the classical and pop music stars of the future, but also for helping every single child develop an appreciation of music."

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