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Blunkett promises to protect music;Music for the Millennium

Education Secretary backs TES campaign. Jeremy Sutcliffe and Diane Spencer report

DAVID Blunkett today promises to reverse a decade of decline in school music and help give all children the chance to learn to play an instrument.

Writing in today's TES the Education and Employment Secretary reveals plans to revise the school funding system, guaranteeing a future for threatened music services.

He also pledges to end the "lottery" which denies children in many areas access to a full range of musical activities.

The announcement comes just a month after The TES launched a campaign highlighting the funding crisis facing music services and the threat to music in the curriculum, following ministers' decision to concentrate on the 3Rs in primary schools.

The campaign has been backed by famous musicians, including conductor Sir Simon Rattle, composer Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies and Anne Dudley, who recently won an Oscar for her score of The Full Monty.

Only last week Sir Simon warned in The TES that sidelining primary music marked "the death of imagination".

Mr Blunkett backs one of The TES campaign objectives - that every child should have the chance to learn an instrument.

He said: "The TES has highlighted the lack of equity through its Music for the Millennium Campaign. All schools should have the resources to teach music. Every child should get the opportunity to learn an instrument."

He is considering setting local authorities minimum funding levels designed to ensure adequate provision for music services. Additional money would come through the Government's standards fund, which currently pays for initiatives on class sizes, truancy and after school clubs.

Further details are expected later this month, when the Government outlines plans to reform the school funding formula .

Mr Blunkett says: "I believe these changes will move the position of music in schools and local education authorities from one of decline since the 1980s to a position where it flourishes in the future."

Culture Secretary Chris Smith is currently working on plans to use lottery cash to buy musical instruments and tuition.

Mr Blunkett's initiative has been welcomed by school music campaigners, although concern remains about the threat to the music curriculum.

Larry Westland, chief executive of Music for Youth, said: "This is just the signal we have been looking for. Top-slicing to protect central music services is something we have wanted for many years."

The Federation of Music Services calculates that the amount spent by local authorities on music services has declined from pound;100 million in 1990 to pound;30m today. This includes an estimated pound;10m cut in the current financial year.

Richard Hickman, FMS chief executive , said some services were struggling for survival. Norfolk has just axed a pound;168,000 subsidy for instrumental tuition.

He said that although he applauded Mr Blunkett's commitment to music education, he was not sure that the Education Secretary's proposals would deliver greater equality of access.

Platform, page 13

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