Mr Stilgoe said: "Every year the standard gets better and better - if you're lucky enough to live in the right place. But there are parts of the country which aren't covered and where there is very little schools music at all. "
According to Gavin Henderson, director of the Government's Youth Music Trust, school music services have lost around Pounds 100 million in the past 15 years.
Essex is the latest authority in trouble, with music teachers facing possible redundancy. The budget lost Pounds 370,000 this year with further huge reductions threatened next year. A confidential council document suggests closing at least 12 music centres across Essex.
John Phillips, who runs a music centre in Harlow, said: "It has been one disaster after another in Essex over the years."
There is better news from the Association of British Orchestras which, with TES backing, is launching a scheme to encourage primary teachers who are not musically trained (See page 20 of Friday magazine).
Orchestras Now, also sponsored by the Arts Council and BT, will offer six free training days hosted by professional orchestras across the UK. Further nformation is available from Fiona Penny on 0171 931 7750.
Nigel Williamson and Robert Mendick