‘The opportunity to play music should not be elitist’ - petition to stop music cuts attracts thousands of supporters
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Thousands of people have signed a petition to halt proposed cuts to the Norfolk Music Service.
The service teaches one-to-one instrumental tuition at more than 270 schools as well as providing a variety of music ensembles for dozens of youngsters.
The petition was set up by clarinetist and Notre Dame High School A-level student Emily Crook, 17, on February 28, and has so far attracted nearly 3,500 signatures.
Miss Crook, from Plumstead Road in Norwich, said: "Without the service there is not going to be music coming through schools. I want to help young musicians. The Norfolk Music Service gives them the opportunity to play with other people and provides the best lessons. They are really supportive and encouraging."
Miss Crook, who has secured a place at the Royal College of Music, started music lessons through the Norfolk County Council-run service aged seven and is a member of the Norfolk County Symphonic Wind Band, which is also run by the service.
The council is proposing to cut the number of tutors from 46 (34.6 full time equivalents) to 21, with the tutors who keep their jobs expected to teach multiple instruments. The service has run at a "substantial" loss over the past two years.
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Saxophonist Scarlet Bishop, 17, from Stafford Street in Norwich, who also studies at Notre Dame High School Sixth Form College, said: "Music is beneficial for your mental health. The opportunity to play music should not be elitist. It should be accessible for all."
Percussionist Jake Brown, 18, from Costessey, who also studies at Notre Dame High School, said the music ensembles offered sociable activities for young people and added: "Norwich has been a good springboard for budding musicians."
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Chris Ellis, Notre Dame High School director of music, warned there would be less music in schools if the cuts went ahead.
A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: "Norfolk County Council is transforming its music service so that it can continue to deliver high quality music tuition for children and young people across the county.
"The council wants to change how the service operates so that more children can enjoy music tuition and music tutors are able to spend more time teaching and less time travelling.
"This traded service has been running at a substantial loss over the last two years, due to unsustainably low tuition prices, significant travel costs and increased staffing costs.
"This means changes to the service will reduce financial losses and ensure more children can learn an instrument."
It added that small schools and low-income families would not miss out on opportunities because of financial reasons under the new model.
Pupils eligible for free school meals will receive subsidised tuition and lessons will also be free for children in care.
John Fisher, cabinet member for Children's Services at Norfolk County Council, said: "We have a fantastic music service in Norfolk and we want to make sure that continues, so that our children can enjoy the many benefits of learning an instrument - just as my own children did.
"These changes will mean that the service can continue and schools will still be able to get the service they receive from us. However, we have to make some changes, reduce travel times and maximise teaching time, so that we make the best use of the money we have.
"All pupils will still be able to hire an instrument free of charge and we'll be looking to develop more group tuition opportunities, so that more young people can benefit from music tuition."
The cost of tuition would increase from £34 per hour to £40 per hour, to meet the cost of providing the service, but there will be greater focus on group tuition.
Staff are currently being consulted on the proposed changes, which would come into effect in September.
To sign the petition visit https://bit.ly/2PYrEyr