The education department at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford has closed, despite its reputation as one of the country's leading practitioners of museum education.
With the budget already trimmed by cuts in previous years, funding for the salaries of the museum's education department's remaining three members of staff has been withdrawn by Bradford metropolitan council, as part of the city's Pounds 20 million budget cut. Without staff, the museum's popular teaching facilities for visiting school parties have been closed.
More than 60,000 children visit the museum in organised groups every year, with visiting schools having previously had access to hands-on lessons in television studios, photographic darkrooms and animation workshops.
Despite an annual income of more than Pounds 2 million, the museum has not taken over the estimated Pounds 41,000 funding of its education service from the council, leaving it in the highly unusual position of being a national museum without any specific provision for education.
But Amanda Nevill, the head of the museum, said that she remained "wholly committed to education" and that a new service would be introduced for the autumn, although one which was unlikely to have the same emphasis on direct teaching as the outgoing education department. The loss of the education department was "a tremendous blow for the whole museum", she said, and a search was now on for a "cocktail" of funding sources to replace the money withdrawn by the council.
Bradford West MP Max Madden said that he was "extremely concerned" at the cutting of the service, which would damage one of the city's prime attractions that had proved "a highly successful magnet for people throughout the country". Promising to help find a way to resolve the funding difficulties, he said that it would be "quite absurd" for the museum not to have education facilities because of the loss of such a relatively small sum, and that he would make every effort to restore education to the museum.
The museum, which has been praised in the past for bringing the facilities of a national institution to a wider, out-of-London audience, has hitherto been known for its strong links with education. The main annual young film-makers event, the Co-op Young People's Film and Video Festival, is held at the Bradford museum on alternate years, and other media education events have regularly been hosted there. The museum has also developed pioneering cinema displays, and possesses the country's only facilities for showing wide-screen "Imax" films.
The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television is part of the National Museum of Science and Industry, along with the Science Museum and the National Railway Museum, York. The Science Museum in London, in contrast with the closed doors of Bradford's education department, has a busy programme of events and activities for children and adults, supported by more than 30 education staff.
These national museums are overseen by a single board of trustees, among whom is the headteacher of Banbury School, Oxfordshire, Anita Higham.
Ms Higham said that although she was "extremely sad" at the closure of a department, she was unable to give any promise of a quick re-opening of education facilities at Bradford.
o Salford is set to be the home of the first purpose-built visual and performing arts centre in the country, Diane Spencer writes. The Lowry Centre will not only house the largest collection of the works of LS Lowry, but a children's gallery to boost arts education, two theatres and an exhibition gallery. The council hopes to attract National Lottery and Millennium money for the Pounds 75 million project.