Music mess is exaggerated

6th November 1998 at 00:00
We refer to the report "National service for youth music" (TES, October 23).

In calling for a national music service that would be self-funding in five years, Larry Westland and Howard Dove of Music for Youth are misinterpreting the implications of what has happened over the past 10 years.

Howard Dove's description of music teaching as "an appalling mess" since the introduction of local management and because of drastic budget cuts, is sheer hyperbole and also undervalues the excellent work of many who provide it under very difficult financial conditions. However, it does at least acknowledge that lack of public investment is the problem.

So what makes him think that he can provide it on no public funding at all? Even the Government doesn't think that, going by its consultative paper "Fair Funding" in which it accepts that new money is needed to top up existing public funding as and when resources become available.

Howard Dove says: "You can't go to the Government and say we need more money." On the contrary, the Federation of Music Services, working with many other national bodies through the Music Education Council, has done exactly that and has persuaded the Government that more money is needed.

The 21 countries of the European Music School's Union, of which FMS is the British representative member, all support their music schools and services through public funding. It should come as no surprise that British funding is low by comparison with the European norm, and getting lower, and our aim is to see it stabilised then increased. If MFY were to support this aim it could only help strengthen our case.

We have been very encouraged by the consensus within the music education profession on the subject of future funding. We have contributed to a paper that the Government is already considering, entitled Future Music Services - Principles and Practice.

It focuses on the key issues such as equality of access and opportunity, a national framework, quality assurance, breadth of curricular content, and public and private investment in music services.

We discussed it with the under-secretary of state at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport last June and are pressing the Government for more progress on that issue. Meanwhile, we hope that MFY will join with us to address the future of music services. The consensus achieved so far needs to be built upon.

We agree with Graham Lane's cautious but perceptive comments at the end of the article. He is right in saying that there is no simple solution and that the service should not be delegated. We also strongly support The TES campaign Music for the Millennium.

Michael Wearne, Richard Hickman

Federation of Music Services

Kent Music School

The Master's House

College Road, Maidstone, Kent

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