Renowned specialist music school faces closure

Campaigners say the 'national centre of excellence' in Edinburgh is unique in the UK

Henry Hepburn

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Concerns have emerged that a specialist music service for talented pupils – with alumni including composer Helen Grime and Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson – may close as a result of budget cuts.

Parents at the City of Edinburgh Music School reacted angrily to the news that the specialist service, which takes 50-60 pupils at the Scottish capital’s Broughton Academy and Flora Stevenson Primary School, may be subsumed into a citywide service in order to save £363,000 as councils come under pressure to find savings.

One parent, Helen Wright, said in a letter to parents at the primary school that “an apparently benign line in the proposed City of Edinburgh Council budget for next year, seeking to create a city-wide music service, is actually based on a proposal to close the Music School at Broughton and at Flora’s”.

The single line in the report, to be considered in wider budget deliberations by the city’s Finance and Resources Committee tomorrow, simply states that there is a proposal for “Creation of a citywide equity and excellence music service”, as part of “service transformation”.

Dr Wright told Tes Scotland that a source had alerted staff and parents to the implications and that she did not believe city councillors realised that closure – a move she described as “unconscionable” and “unbelievable” – was intended.

In a letter sent to councillors today, she said: “Nowhere else in the UK is there a school offering a free specialist musical education from the start of primary school through to the end of secondary school, in the state sector, on a joint site like Flora Stevenson’s and Broughton High.”

She added: “It is an international centre of excellence which serves a diverse community, and has equity at its core, through equality of access to musical tuition regardless of financial means.”

The proposal is part of the city council’s budget consultation, which runs until 15 December.

Education, children and families convener Ian Perry said: “The proposal to create a Citywide Equity and Excellence Music Service gives scope for increasing the number of pupils who can access creative instrumental music in larger groups across the city, particularly in primary schools and areas where there is a lower uptake of instrumental music at secondary school.

“A high-quality instrumental music service in every mainstream school would be maintained and the integrated specialist provision currently provided by the City of Edinburgh Music School would be delivered in several sites across the city, so fulfilling our commitment for developing our gifted and talented pupils.

"In addition, we would explore ways of strengthening our partnerships with professional music organisations and we have committed to protecting free school music."

The council has also said that school and citywide bands and orchestras would not be affected by any proposed changes and that there would not be a reduction in the full range of instruments currently available.

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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