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Call for new national body to save music education services

A violinist
Image caption The committee was told music services were in a vulnerable position

A new arms-length body should take charge of music education services to help save them from a crisis after budget cuts, a group of AMs has said.

The assembly culture committee’s report says “vastly different” services are available, depending on where you live.

Committee chair Bethan Sayed said the sector needed “sufficient resource and clear direction” now.

Ministers highlighted moves to find alternative funds for music education, pledging to work with the committee.

Last year Welsh Proms founder and leading conductor Owain Arwel Hughes told the committee’s inquiry Wales would no longer be a musical nation unless it tackled a crisis in funding for school music lessons.

With Welsh Government funding, local authorities are currently responsible for services that include providing instruments, instrumental and vocal tuition and support for teaching music within the school curriculum.

Image copyright St David’s Hall
Image caption Owain Arwel Hughes has argued music is better than sport in teaching self-discipline

In January, Wrexham joined other councils in cutting music services, as part of its efforts to reduce spending by £13m over two years.

The Culture Committee’s report – Hitting the Right Note – calls on ministers to “transfer responsibility for the delivery of music services to an arms-length, national body with a distinct regional delivery mechanism”.

With core funding from the Welsh Government, the AMs say the new body should ensure “both pupils and staff working within the music education sector, regardless of their location or social background, are afforded equitable opportunities”.

The document also calls for:

  • a Welsh Government national action plan for music
  • adequate funding, support and advice for anyone wanting to set up alternative ways of providing music services
  • a significant increase in funding for councils to buy music instruments “as a matter of urgency” before a national body is established

As a “musician who came through the music education system”, Ms Sayed said she was “passionate about addressing the urgent need to sustain and develop music in Wales” and she believed “we must now come up with radical solutions in the face of continuous cuts to these services”.

“This report specifically focuses on addressing the shortfalls and achieving consistency across Wales, in order to ensure that every child, regardless of their location or financial backing, has an equal opportunity to progress to excellence,” she said.

“The time has come to not simply paper over the cracks but to give sufficient resource and clear direction to the sector.”

Image caption Bethan Sayed says music services must be “protected, nurtured and accessible to all”

A Welsh Government spokesman said it was “important to recognise the progress that has been made in finding alternative sources of funding for music education in Wales, including our £1m investment in Anthem – a pioneering music endowment fund“.

“This, as well as our Musical Instrument Amnesty, will help children and young people access new musical opportunities and develop their skills and talent.”

Ministers added they would work with the committee “to decide how best to use the £2m set aside for music education in the budget, as agreed with Plaid Cymru, and build on discussions we have already had with the chair of the committee”.

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