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Clarke warns councils to use it or lose it

THE Government has warned local authorities against raiding funds earmarked to improve music in schools.

Schools minister Charles Clarke told the National Festival of Music for Youth conference in London's South Bank that a survey to be carried out over the next two months would find out how authorities use the cash.

This move reflects the Department for Education and Employment's concerns on the way the pound;150 million Music Standards Fund is being spent. The fund, set up in January, is designed to support music services which have declined dramatically over the past 20 years.

Two separate grants are available: one to protect existing services, the other to expand them. But critics fear that cash-strapped education authorities will use the funds elsewhere.

Mr Clarke said the results of the survey would remain confidential and would refine the way the fund worked. This year pound;41 million was allocated, pound;50m will be granted next year and pound;60m the year after.

In addition, pound;30m from the National Lottery has gone to establishing the National Foundation for Youth Music to promote music-making and singing among children and young people.

Richard Morris, chair of the Music Education Council, said his members were concerned at the scrappy provision and quality of music services and called on the DFEE to set up a national scheme to ensure consistent standards.

Michael Wearne, who chairs the Federation of Music Services, appealed to Mr Clarke to "join up the jigsaw puzzle" on the various aspects of funding. Music teachers did not know what was statutory, nor which Government department or agency was responsible for doing what.

Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary, said the new foundation had a major role in the Government's plan to give any child who wanted to play an instrument the chance to do so.

The foundation began consultations after being launched by the Prime Minister last week.

Copies of the consultation document can be obtained from PO Box 214, 35 Winkley Square, Preston PR1 3GJ. Telephone 08450 560560; fax 01722 836199; or e-mail

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