East Sussex County Council says the service cannot continue to fund individual and small group instrumental lessons without affecting other statutory children’s services.
An Arts Council grant and income from lessons does not cover the cost of instrumental teaching in East Sussex Music, and despite major restructuring the service still needs to save £180,000 to balance its books.
Further restructuring and other efficiencies will help achieve some, but not all of the savings required. The county council has provided some funding from its reserves to enable the service to continue, but once this funding has been used the service will be left with a shortfall in its budget.
Cllr Bob Standley, the county council’s lead member for education and ISEND, said: “We recognise the value of the music service in East Sussex, but cannot afford to provide the music service in its current format.
“We want to do everything we can to ensure pupils continue to have the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, and this consultation will give people the opportunity to share their views, ideas and any information that will help us achieve this.”
He added: “Reducing the role of the music service is not a decision we want to take, but significant cuts in Government funding mean we have to make some incredibly difficult decisions to ensure we are protecting the most vulnerable people in our county and delivering services we have a statutory duty to provide.”
While the proposal would see the closure of the instrumental teaching part of the service, East Sussex Music would continue to provide whole-class instrumental teaching in schools, the county’s four area music centres – which offer children the chance to play in ensembles – and the sixth form music education provision at the Academy of Music.
Should the proposals go ahead, lessons would be provided through the private market or through other organisations, which are already used by many children in East Sussex to access instrumental lessons.
East Sussex Music would continue to offer financial support towards the cost of lessons for low income families and would look at ways to increase opportunities for children with special educational needs and disabilities, and other challenging circumstances, to benefit from music-making.
Cllr Standley added: “I would urge people to share their views and ideas during the consultation period, as I am keen to explore all viable alternatives.”
A final decision on the proposals is expected to be made in September 2018. No changes to East Sussex Music would be made until September 2019.
All core funding for the music service now comes from the Department for Education via the Arts Council, and by charging schools and parents for services such as music lessons.