Fury among parents over plans to axe musical instrument tuition across East Sussex has reached boiling point.
On Monday, a single ESCC councillor is expected to agree plans to close the small group instrumental teaching service across the county which will save the council £180K and cost 70 jobs in the process according to a document Hastings In Focus has seen this week. The service would go by the end of next year.
Parents were only told of the plan earlier this week and have reacted with fury and indignation. there has already been an online petition set-up and an active Facebook group is running to gather support to fight the closure. The organisation Freedom for Musicians has also joined the fight to halt the proposed closure.
The petition which as of this morning had already been signed by more than 7,000 people and can be found at https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=500000014&RPID=501109016&HPID=501109016
The petition says: “We, the undersigned oppose the closure of East Sussex Music Instrumental Service. To avoid the dramatic impact this would have for the thousands of children concerned, we believe that ESCC should provide the funding or implement alternatives changes to keep the service open.
“ESCC has announced that plans are being made to close the music instrumental service by 2019 because of a funding shortfall of £80,000. This will result in loss of valued music provision for thousands of children across the county and job losses for teachers and administrative staff.”
East Sussex Music Service is celebrating its 84th year in 2018 and delivers music lessons to around 7,000 children in schools across the county. Nearly 1,000 children aged between four and 18 attend area music centres each week.
Staff at the music service believe that the funding can be found to keep the service running and say there are other viable structures that the council can implement that would allow the service to continue.
The National Education Union says the closure will result in the loss of ‘valued music provision’ to thousands of children and job losses for teachers and administrative staff. Union representative Jane Humberstone said, “On Monday the council’s director of children’s services Stuart Gallimore will be asking Councillor Bob Stanley, the lead member for education and inclusion, special educational needs and disability to single-handedly make the decision whether or not to close the service.
One youngster said of the proposed closure: “East Sussex Music Service gave me so much more than just some lessons but also a chance to play in many ensembles and orchestras, finding friends that I couldn’t at school and building skills that I can now enjoy for the rest of my life.”
One mum, Claire Harris says her sons Brendan, 15, and Nathan, 13, have benefited enormously from the service she said: “We were devastated to get the news but in some way I wasn’t entirely surprised. The arts has been coming under attack from government policy for years now. Music facilities have been decimated. What message does this send to students? ‘We don’t value music and we don’t value you’. It’s robbing future generations.” While Charlie Deacon describes the plan as ‘cultural vandalism’ and a ‘travesty.’
Another parent, George Ellis, who has already contacted his councillor was less than happy with the response he received, he was told ‘the vulnerability’ of the service has become increasingly apparent and was told by his councillor: “I very much hope that we can find a solution despite our having no funds to pay for the service. We will continue to look for ways to keep the service going in some form. However I cannot promise anything at this point.”
One teacher, who’s job is now at risk posted online to say: “Through ESMS I have played in the Royal Albert Hall, and on the Glyndebourne stage. I have played around the world from New York to Krakow and Barcelona. My first teaching job was an afternoon and a morning for ESMS, my next was given to me by a teacher who I had met at ESMS. I owe them my career, some of my most treasured memories, and one of the parts of my identity which I am most proud.”
Call to action
Sign the petition – https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=500000014&RPID=501109016&HPID=501109016
Visit the website – https://sesm3.wordpress.com/
Join the facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/SaveESM/?fref=mentions
Tweet your support #saveourmusicservice