TALKS are ongoing over how school music lessons could still be provided – despite a £100,000 cut to the service teaching youngsters.
The Gwent Music Service works with more than 8,000 pupils in schools in Monmouthshire, Newport, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent – but is set to lose its final local authority subsidy from this April.
Labour-run Monmouthshire council has said it can no longer afford to provide the grant to the organisation that has taught children to sing and play musical instruments for more than 50 years.
The loss of the grant will, councillors on a scrutiny committee were told, likely result in reduced lessons for whole classes in Monmouthshire schools.
Council officer Nikki Wellington said some £40,000 of the council’s funding to the service is from school budgets to support whole class activities, rather than group or individual lessons, and talks are ongoing over how that will be impacted.
She said: “Schools will still have access to whole class provision, where pupils try out instruments and see if they want to continue with music lessons, it’s one of the decisions we need to make with Gwent Music.”
She said schools can also request more lessons if they are willing to “top that up” from their own budgets.
However while the council is increasing funding for school budgets by five per cent the amounts delegated, or allocated directly, to schools will reduce by 2.8 per cent, which works out at £1.45 million – and they are expected to use their reserves to make up the shortfall.
The council is also maintaining a hardship fund, which currently stands at £9,000, to support parents who would struggle to afford lessons.
Ms Wellington said there had been an underspend in that fund for a number of years with the money rolled over to build it up and schools will work with Gwent Music to identify pupils who may benefit. The fund isn’t limited to those only in receipt of free school meals to which only the most hard up of families are entitled.
Shirenewton councillor Louise Brown said a resident had contacted her to say her son has achieved grade six in the saxophone having been able to borrow an instrument from Gwent Music having first picked up the horn, in 2019, during one of its lesson at school when he was just nine.
“She was sad and really upset to read we will be withdrawing the subsidy,” the Conservative councillor said.
“I’ve been sent links to videos showing what amazing talent this child has got and I’m concerned about this cut. There is a hardship fund but I don’t think £9,000 is a particularly great amount to cover the whole of Monmouthshire.”
Cllr Rachel Garrick, the cabinet member for finance, said: “Music is an important part of our heritage and culture in Wales and therefore we are providing support for families on low incomes for music tuition.”