If cost saving plans to scrap instrumental tuition in East Sussex schools goes ahead the county council could find itself in breach of the terms of a funding agreement it signed with the Arts Council just three months ago and could lose almost £1.3m in funding.
Writing to Councillor Keith Glazier, leader of East Sussex County Council, the South East Area Director for The Arts Council England, Hedley Swain says: “We believe the East Sussex proposals would have an impact on the business plan submitted to us and put you at risk of being in breach of the funding agreement.”
Arts Council England (ACE) is questioning whether, without one-to-one instrumental tuition going on in schools, the East Sussex Music Hub can deliver on its business plan, thereby putting not only the instrumental service but all of the music service across the county in jeopardy turning East Sussex in to a ‘cultural desert’.
In the light of the possible loss of the instrumental teaching service ACE is asking: how the music service will be able to provide individual and small group tuition; how quality assurance of instrumental provision will be carried out; how instrumental teachers will access Continuing Professional Development; how the East Sussex Music Hub will increase progression from whole class to small group tuition?
Campaigners believe these things cannot be delivered if the on-to-one instrumental tuition becomes the preserve of private music teachers outside the control of the education service.
An alternative proposal for restructuring the service has been put forward to the council which has been drafted with the help of nationally respected leaders of Music Hubs.
Staff have been told the ESCC Legal and human resources departments have issues with that proposal but campaigners say the council has not told them what those issues are.
“The teachers’ union has asked for these issues to be shared. However, they were told that only relevant issues will be shared. Surely it would be sensible to share these at an early stage which would also reinforce whether this is being properly considered as a third option,” says campaigner Charlie Deacon.
Those leading the campaign to save the music service also question numbers being used by ESCC to justify the threats to end individual music tuition. They say that despite a council paper in April this year reporting a £180,000 deficit in the budget for the music service, it was revealed at a staff meeting in June that £202,000 of savings have already been made.
There are concerns that ESCC has been planning to lose the music service for some time. They say several factors point to this including the dissolution of the Music Service Management Committee prior to the initial restructure proposals being announced. This was something that Councillor Godfrey Daniel described this as a ‘pre-emptive strike’ at a recent council meeting.
Meanwhile Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd has also written to Mr Glazier. He is concerned about lack of transparency in the way the council is dealing with this issue, he said this week: “I have just sent a letter to… Mr Glazier, I’ve real concerns here and believe it’s essential county hall do NOT proceed with their cuts. And it appears my concerns are shared by Arts Council England.
“We have only a few weeks left before the consultation ends. If you haven’t already expressed your fears for the future of our brilliant county-wide music service, please do so.
“It seems we are fighting this Tory-controlled council on numerous fronts at the minute. This plan to cut the music services which is known across the UK for its outstanding reach and quality would just be a further blow to all that was good with East Sussex County Council. Shame on them.”
In his letter to Councillor Glazier Mr Lloyd says: “These are important questions concerning a much loved and highly reputable music service of which I and many others have profound concerns over the direction of travel your administration is taking.
“I am keen we achieve a good outcome for East Sussex Music Service so that it may prosper and properly serve the musical interests of our children for another 75 years.”