Music services find one voice

12th April 1996 at 01:00
A new organisation will be launched next week to safeguard and enhance music services which have been under threat since the introduction of the 1988 Education Reform Act.

The Federation of Music Services will take shape at a two-day conference in Oxford. It aims to provide high quality specialist music teaching and develop access and opportunity for all children.

It is also hoped that it will give a collective voice to the wide but uneven range of music services across the country. Cuts to local education authority budgets and the introduction of local management means some LEA services have disappeared but others have survived as free-standing trusts. More than 70 music services have signed up out of around 100.

The overall picture is one of considerable disparity in provision depending to some extent on the ability and willingness of parents to pay, Michael Wearne, chairman designate of the FMS, said. The new unitary authorities may fragment the service even more, he added.

The FMS will seek to ensure quality and value for money and give members access to professional marketing, advice and shared expertise.

Howard Dove, former head of Hampshire's music service, is delighted with the new organisation. He urged delegates at last year's Music for Youth conference, sponsored by The TES, "to set an agenda for the 21st century".

Peter Dunkley, head of Northamptonshire's music service, saw the federation as a positive move to create a network which would improve standards for teachers, children and parents.

The 70 members of the FMS represent around 300,000 pupils and 5,000 teaching musicians. The combined spending of music services is about Pounds 100 million a year so the music industries are keen on this development.

Junior education minister Eric Forth was jeered by participants at last year's MFY conference, when he defended the Government's record on music education, claiming that delegated funding had enriched the service. A TES survey published just before the conference revealed LEAs increasing charges for tuition and instrument hire and cutting staff, with 40 per cent losing their music advisers.

Some services have risen from the ashes. Newcastle was forced to remove most of its music funding last April, but the North East Music Co-operative - a partnership of the LEA, teachers, parents, pupils and the Musicians' Union - started trading in September. It has set up a hardship fund and recently held a celebratory concert.

Barnsley's Performing Arts Development Service was set up last year, from a service devastated six years ago.

And Hampshire pioneered a charitable trust model, the Foundation for Young Musicians, which schools have bought into, enthusiastically so far, from delegated budgets.

Further information about the Federation of Music Services from Michael Wearne on 01622 765072 or Richard Hickman on 01494 439572

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