Uproar over Flintshire school musical tuition fees plan

Reporter:

Andrew Boyd

A LOCAL authority is facing the music over plans to charge children for musical tuition in school.

It was revealed at a meeting of Flintshire County Council’s lifelong learning overview and scrutiny committee that the authority is proposing to implement a £40 per term charge for each child to receive lessons using musical instruments.

About 2,500 pupils in Flintshire use the service.

Cllr Ian Roberts was one of several members to vent his fury at the proposal that will see parents pay £120 each year per child.

He said: “The cuts in the county’s music services are absolutely astonishing.

“It seems this has been singled out against all council services for a 30 per cent pay cut.”

Cllr Nigel Steele-Mortimer, executive member for education, defended the authority over the cuts.

He said: “I am someone who is not afraid to use the word cuts when it has to be used, but it is not appropriate in this case. We are not making cuts, we are moving the funding stream from one area to another.”

He added that the situation would be reviewed in a year.

In response, Cllr Roberts said: “There are other services within this council that are non-statutory that have not received the same amount of cuts as the county music service has.”

Cllr Chris Bithell, who regularly attends the concerts, raised the issue during a debate about the authority’s proposed budget.

He said: “The schools music service is a gold plated premier service that we really can be proud of.

Cllr Carolyn Thomas, who said she was aware of children’s self-esteem growing through taking music lessons, called for a trial period to be implemented so youngsters would decide whether they wanted to pursue musical tuition before their parents made payment.

Although children who receive free school meals are not likely to have to pay the new costs, concerns have been expressed for parents who are only narrowly above the cut-off line.

Cllr Rosetta Dolphin, whose two children both received music tuition when at school, said: “I can’t believe we want to charge £120 per year. That would be £240 for two children as well as the cost of equipment.

“I am particularly concerned for those just above the thresh-hold who will not be entitled to this and may not be able to afford it.”

Ian Budd, Flintshire’s director of lifelong learning, said many other counties already charge for music lessons.

He added: “In other counties the cost has gone up to £80 per term.”

Mr Budd said the authority would look at revising the system where families have more than one child taking lessons.

The council has identified £177,000 efficiency savings from rationalising its LEA run music service for 2011-12.

A majority of members voted in favour of a proposal by Cllr Bithell for the issue to be referred back to the executive in the hope the proposed charges will be scrapped.

See full story in the Leader

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