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Capital's demand outstrips supply

Intrumental teaching in the central 13 boroughs has never fully recovered from the abolition of the Inner London Education Authority in 1991.

At one time there was a single, highly organised peripatetic service which, offering free tuition, played a central part in maintaining the capital's reputation for musical excellence. Now, however the cash-strapped councils have been left to their own devices and the result is a service of great variation and financial volatility.

If abolishing the ILEA gave freedom to the boroughs, local management handed power to schools. And this is likely to be at least as significant a factor in the difficulties facing central London.

Individual schools are now making their own arrangements: some are even turning to charities and community groups for financial help. In one borough the chief education officer says that the charges levied for tuition range from nothing to Pounds 15 a lesson.

Demand for the lessons outstrips the supply; another CEO described the situation as "trying to stop the Thames with a bottle cork".

In outer London, which includes several predominantly middle-class boroughs, music services are comparatively stable. This is thanks in part to large parental contributions. Most of these outer boroughs have devolved funding to the schools and placed their music services on an agency or trust footing - responsible for earning their own keep.

The LEAs claim that this has had a positive effect. . The fees are relatively high: Pounds 36 per term was a typical figure from a range of charges. The most expensive tuition ran to Pounds 15 for an individual half hour lesson - the equivalent of Pounds 150 per term.

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