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Music cash fears grow

FEARS are growing among music services that the Government is on the verge of establishing a new funding system to safeguard instrument teaching that will penalise "good" local authorities at the expense of the "bad", writes Diane Spencer.

Education Secretary David Blunkett promised last May to reverse a decade of decline in school music shortly after The TES mounted a campaign highlighting the funding crisis in music services and the threat to music in the curriculum.

Mr Blunkett proposed to ring-fence money for local music services through the standards fund as part of the fair funding reforms for local management of schools.

It is understood that an agreement has been reached between the environment and education departments to top-slice local authority budgets to maintain music services.

But this could mean that some authorities which have supported their music services might get their budgets slashed and distributed to others which have neglected or abandoned services.

Michael Wearne, chairman of the Federation of Music Services, and head of Kent's service, said a "huge injection of cash" was needed to restore the service to its 1990 level of Pounds 100 million. "We need a combination of top slice and a generous top up," he said.

The FMS also urges Mr Blunkett to wait for the outcome of an extensive mapping exercise of musical instrument teaching and funding by the Performing Rights Society, a study which is almost finished.

However, Pauline Latham, chair of the grant-maintained schools advisory committee, thought music services would flourish if funds were fully delegated to schools rather than ring-fenced. Grant-maintained schools had increased their participation in music, she said.

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