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Welsh to abolish subsidy for music lessons in schools

Cardiff Council is proposing 100% cuts to funding for the ‘Cardiff & The Vale of Glamorgan Music Service’, ending public subsidy for instrumental lessons.

Local conductor David Hutchings has posted the following protest and put up a petition site in an attempt to mitigate the calamity. When a small country which prides itself on musicality attacks music teaching in schools, we have to wonder whether politicians have any grasp of national identity.

cardiff petition

“At a time when the arts are being harder-hit than most sectors, a 100% cut to the music service is nothing short of a disaster. Cuts are a sad, often devastating necessity of these hard economic times, but through music and artistic expression, people are empowered to find hope out of adversity. To make a 100% cut in funding for Cardiff & Vale’s invaluable Music Service not only puts in jeopardy such important work, it sends a message to all people that the arts (and therefore work which seeks challenge young people to find hope out of adversity) is simply not worth doing.

If we have lumbered our young people with this burden of economic debt, do we not, at least, owe them an outlet through which the hope and motivation may be expressed in art?”

UPDATE: We have been asked by some readers to modify the original headline, which they found too sweeping. The intent was to draw attention to a very serious situation in the provision of music lessons for poorer pupils in Welsh schools. The withdrawal of subsidy means that those without means will receive no music. This decision has been taken by a Labour-controlled Cardif council.

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  1. This is dreadful…and in a country that prides itself on its music making. Such a shame for the many young musicians who will no doubt be affected.

  2. Where does this Council think it is – Brazil?? The city which hosts the SINGER OF THE WORLD contest is aiming to become the musical pariah of the world! The city which boasts one of the world´s great training centres for advanced students of opera, run by Dennis O´Neill, is planning to stifle any possibility that one day some of its young citizens may study there. This notion is preposterous, ignorant, insulting, and unacceptable to the citizens of the city, of whatever age. So it may be costing a bit of money to fund music in schools – what will it cost not to do it?? What are they proposing to cut next – funding for sport? funding for languages? funding for science? I bet no funding for Council salaries has been cut – or will be!! WAKE UP, CARDIFF!! Support your own youth, and elect a new Council while you´re at it!!

    • Alan, before you jump to the usual conclusions (which are often sadly true), a glance at the council’s proposals will reveal that there are “abolitions” of Council Member perks for sure – £16k gone for broadband at a stroke.
      And yes, funding for sport, languages, a plethora of education work – it’s all in there, plus cuts in salaries and jobs for council employees.

  3. Fran Wright says:

    The same proposal has been made by Newport city council who are proposing to withdraw 100% funding from Gwent Music Support Serivice, Cardiffs neighbour music service. GMSS have been going through this for some weeks now with a huge petition And link to article here.

    Three other authorities, Monmouthshire, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent buy into the award winning GMSS music service, who knows what the future holds, GMSS have over 8000 children accessing them every week, many of them for free whole class projects in very deprived areas of south wales. The support of Music education in Wales is at an all time low, in my opinion, what is going to be left for our children nice they have cut it all?….. very sad times.

    • Hi Fran,

      I’d be glad to hear of anything we could possibly do to coordinate any protest on a more widespread scale, since we are all fighting the same cuts for the same reason. If we can share any ideas in the Newport & Cardiff area I’d be glad to hear from you at


      • There is plenty of sympathy around (mine included) but nobody seems to be doing much about it. Have a look at my latest blog, maybe see if the MU can help, have a read of my “Andante Report” (download from my website, ) and maybe send it to all the Cardiff and Newport councillors, as well as to all your staff. If it gives you any ammunition or helps in any way, I’s be delighted. Good luck!

    • David Powell says:

      Thanks to Fran for making clear the plight facing GMSS on here too. The service teaches in excess of 15000 students a week through a vast range of delivery. There seems to be a view in councils that music is only delivered one to one, to middle class children – WRONG! Take away the funding and the children who lose most are the ones that the Welsh Government are stating is their priority – ‘Closing the Gap’ and reducing ‘poverty of aspiration’ are great soundbytes but hollow words for the kids in schools where music is going to disappear! Once gone, these services will never return. In 5 years time, some ‘suit’ will suggest music education is the answer to all the ills in the system. I could go on…

  4. Helen Bailey says:

    This simply cannot happen. Being an instrumental teacher myself i see how learning a musical instrument benefits a child. It not only gives them a new skill but also teaches them about time management, organisation, expression in a new form as well as builds self esteem. It has been proven to help children reach their full potential at school in other subjects so it makes no sense in taking instrumental lessons in schools away.
    People need to see the bigger picture.

  5. Kenneth Griffin says:

    Your headline “Welsh to abolish music lessons in schools” is misleading. Cardiff Council’s budget proposal, linked in your article, states that the C&VG Music Service would need to increase its music tuition fees by 11% to enable it to “sustain the complete deletion of revenue funding”, which is currently £151k from Cardiff Council and a “balancing contribution” from the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

    By all means report the actual proposal to encourage public response, but is it helpful to so misrepresent the proposal that the public will be responding to something not even proposed by the Council?

    • A 100% cut = abolition. QED.

      • It is an abolition of the subsidy from Cardiff Council to C&VG Music Service.
        This is NOT the same as abolishing the music lessons themselves.
        The total turnover of C&VG Music Service is around £1.8m. The funding cut (abolition of subsidy) amounts to £151k. So actually the proposal is for C&VG Music Service to receive an 8% cut in funding. Not even 10%! Doesn’t sound so bad, put this way.

        I’m not saying I agree with it, and supporters of C&VG Music Service will have noticed that the council classifies this cut as “RED” for equalities impact, and “Red-Amber” for residual risk and achievability, so Cardiff Council clearly aren’t expecting making this cut to be a “green” across the board and an easy implementation. It is worth fighting, then, but let us not pretend that a funding drop of 8% is the same as an abolition.

      • Kenneth Griffin says:

        By that definition, I could “abolish” Oxfam by stopping my entire annual donation to it.

        Cardiff Council and the Vale of Glamorgan Council propose to continue to run their Music Service but with 100% of its income for music tuition coming from fees, instead of the current 90% or so. In common parlance, that is not abolition of a service.

        I do however fear that the proposed cut could destabilise the Music Service which would have to recover all its fixed costs from fees. The danger of that is that a fall in demand for music lessons would require a fee increase, to pay these fixed costs, and that would reduce demand further. This cycle of additional fee increases and falls in take-up of the service could continue until the Service collapses.

        But until that happens, the Council would continue to manage the same Music Service, on a different model of income, and it would be misleading to term that “abolition”.

        • Yes – it does sound rather as if the actual story here is “instrumental lesson fees to rise by 11%” which is not good, admittedly, but hardly “abolition”.

          • Do stop picking nits. They have abolished subsidy for individual music lessons in schools. End of.

          • I’m afraid Halidor is right, Norman….
            In any case, rather than focusing in instrumental lessons (which will probably suffer a small price rise – unpleasant, but unlikely to be disastrous), it might have been better to look at the impact on other areas, such as the provision of musical instruments to poor children or the many ensembles run by the service. These areas aren’t currently funded by income from end-users, so these could well be more vulnerable to a loss of council funding.

          • There have been no complaints from Wales about the headline.

          • But lessons will continue. The difference between total “abolition” and an increase in fees of £3.50-£4.00 per instrumental lesson is hardly “nit-picking”. And the subsidy that’s being withdrawn is purely a revenue subsidy; unless I’ve misread the proposal in the council’s Budget Proposal, overheads and in-kind services will continue to be met by the council, meaning – again – that the service will continue.

            This is far from ideal, and may well have a long-term destabilising effect (and I’m wholeheartedly behind the campaign to prevent it) but it’s not uncommon these days. The youth ensemble I manage is budgetted for on a similar basis; the aim is for its operations to cover 100% of its up-front costs, with the support of a much larger parent organisation that absorbs overheads and provides administrative support. There might be more enlightened (and certainly easier) ways to run it – but despite everything, it’s thriving, when by your logic (“QED”) this ensemble doesn’t exist!

            Shock headlines are useful to raise awareness (and it’s to be hoped that this one will steer people to the petition) – but a few years down the line, as music educators do their best in an ever-more hostile climate, it’s problematic if the general public is under the impression (because they’ve read it somewhere) that their local music service no longer exists – when in fact it needs their awareness and support more than ever! Or if concerned parents who can afford it read of “abolition” and rush to find private lessons for their children; leaving a music service financially unable to support those who can’t.

    • Finally somebody talking sense. This is an ~10% cut to CCVG music service funding, not the abolition of the service (or music lessons) as many misleadingly imply.

      • Fran Wright says:

        .lessons WILL continue….

        ….for those who can afford it….

        and that is the biggest issue here. Many parents don’t have the money, the skills, the transport, the time to support their children. Music services like Cardiff and Gwent provide this all for FREE in school and in Gwent in their out of school music centres where ANY child with or without an instrument can come. This is where the biggest loss will be, and I can tell you as someone who worked for the music service, I used to run a free early years class in a very deprived area. We had children in with additional needs, from families who were on the poverty line, but because we were free….we were accessible. We paid for specialist projects in Special Schools with some of the most profoundly disabled children, promoting inclusion. Cardiff Music Development service does the same. This is how music services run. They won’t have the funding to do this and all the other fantastic unsung things they do if these cuts are made.

        Lessons may continue, but the most vulnerable children in society will lose out, again.

        • Yes I agree, it is a definite loss for those who can’t afford the ~10% increase in fees these cuts will result in. Also I’m confused about what you’re referring to when you say “Music services like Cardiff and Gwent provide this all for FREE in school”, my lessons in Cardiff High School were with the music services and I had to pay, likewise for my membership to various youth ensembles provided by CCVG..

          • Fran Wright says:

            I’m sorry, perhaps my statement was a little sweeping, (must not type and try to cook dinner for kids!) and I can’t speak for Cardiff, but GMSS provide 6 music centres across the four counties that they serve that are all free to access. Parents in schools pay for individual tuition yes, but within these music centres there run early years groups for example, where children can come to develop basic musical skills without the additional cost of learning an instrument. In addition, many whole class projects are often met by the school via their service level agreement in very deprived areas so they are in effect free to parents. This is what I mean by free in school. I myself have delivered music projects to over 400 children on occasions at no cost to the schools involved. There is alot of work that is ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak that enables free access, and it is often hard to identify that but it does go on.

            Further information about GMSS here.


      • Rhian Morgan says:

        Well, I’m Welsh and it was a misleading headline.

  6. Petros Linardos says:

    This is very sad news. Nevertheless, thank you Norman for turning your attention to music education. It’s worth it.

  7. This would have an absolutely devastating impact on the opportunities available for young people in the Cardiff area to achieve their musical potential. It would also be a huge step backwards culturally for the Welsh capital at a time when music could be playing a vital role in the region’s economic recovery. Musical opportunities for children should not be dependent on family income. I urge Cardiff council to think again.

  8. Jeff Howard says:

    We MUST encourage our youngsters to take part in artistic pursuits. Humans have been making music from as long as we’ve been able to make sounds or bang two sticks together. It is a natural urge for us as a species to come together and be a community making music. To have a formulated, educated basis, especially for us Welsh who have an almost genetic propensity to the arts, is essential. The work that the school music service does is invaluable and must continue. Society will suffer in the future if it doesn’t.

  9. Rakhi Singh says:

    This is appalling and there is no excuse –

    I am a violinist and my mother – Dorothy Singh – is a violin and piano teacher in south west Wales and has recently started the Kodaly Society of Wales.
    For one year she went into our local primary school (Llandybie, Carmarthenshire) and taught violin and musicianship in after school classes – for free.
    There was so much interest, almost every single child in the age range she targeted wanted to play the violin. Boys and girls. The parents of the children noticed a remarkable difference in their enthusiasm, their concentration and their feeling of achievement and now Dorothy has some funding to continue the scheme in conjunction with the Kodaly Society.

    It is necessary for us as humans to have tools to express ourselves. This encourages creative thought, discipline, empathy, self questioning and above all, a feeling of worth. It is sad that we live in a society that doesn’t seem to recognise the importance of this but it is wonderful that there are people, such as Dorothy, who are prepared to devote their lives to helping others realise their potential – and yes, my mother is a little crazy!!

    There is always a way if we look hard enough, for those of you in Wales who are searching for a musical outlet and education for your child or yourself -regardless of your income – have a look at the Kodaly Society of Wales and see if it inspires you.

    Rakhi Singh

  10. Sign the petition – - and get your friends to sign it too.

  11. Michael Fischer says:

    Whenever subsidies for anything in or around classical music (school lessons, orchestras …) get cut I am asking myself the same question: what do the protagonists of this art form do wrong? Are most of classical musicians just plain arrogant to deal with the low depth of attracting audiences to a degree where the audience cries out instead of the musicians or teachers? Or just too uneducated to understand that a bit less practice and a bit more of direct contact with classical music consumers is what’s needed? Audience could not care less what classical musicians need (income, applause, social security). One thing is for sure: the plain “quality” of actual performances will not guarantee the survival of classical music as a market musicians can live on. And as long as we shall not measure classical music “quality” mainly by (paying) customer growth and retention this form of art is doomed. Even when agony can be protracted and profitable, it’s still agony.

  12. Sadly, it’s nothing new in Wales. Our county, Powys, has no music service at all.

  13. Hannah Marie says:

    It disappoints me deeply that children are being short changed of the education and opportunities that were available to me at comprehensive school. Now only high earners will be able to pay for music lessons for their already privileged children and yet another channel for the children of low earning members of society to find their passion / future career / natural talent will be denied. Music will once again become the domain of those with the money to afford it, those who already have access to so many other opportunities due to the money they earn. Just because people are low earners doesn’t mean their jobs are any less valuable to the community and the workforce. In many cases they are more important yet sadly undervalued. Please think of the future of Wales and what that should look like. I for one would like the arts to be accessible to everyone, not just those who have the spare cash to pay for it.

    • Kenneth Griffin says:

      No! The budget proposal linked to Norman’s blog explains that the Music Service charges its fees for individual tuition to each pupil’s individual school. These fees would likely rise by around 11% if the Council completely cuts its subsidy. The charge to the pupil’s parent or guardian is dependant on each individual school’s policy. Some schools pass on the cost in full to the pupil; other schools subsidise the lessons and pass on a reduced charge; and some schools absorb the full cost in their school budget and charge nothing.

      It worries me that much of the public doesn’t understand either the current funding and charging situation or the budget proposal. This is not nitpicking because any protest which is based on a misunderstanding or an incorrect assumption is a wasted protest which can be ignored as just plain rubbish. On the other hand, people would be able to protest effectively if they understood the issue.

      It seems to me that the threat to accessibility may come if some individual schools revise their individual policies on absorbing all or part of the cost of these fees.

    • “Music will once again become the domain of those with the money to afford it, those who already have access to so many other opportunities due to the money they earn”
      Very well put.
      Already we are seeing the results of the Thatcher government alterations of Local Music Services, with a disproportionate number of students at the music conservatoires from the private sector.

  14. I can’t play anything for shit, but I used to love playing the cornet. We need cuts all over the place but music really isn’t one of them.

  15. Again lets hit out at The Arts and cut funding of something that is supposed to be such an integral part of “The Land of Song” . The Arts should be accessible to all and with the impact of music on society – don’t let the dreams of the young suffer by financial issues. Wake up wales

  16. Schools are bankrupted by socialist Wales shocker, oh, no, wait, its not a surprise. Funding per child per year in schools is already several hundreds of pounds less than in England. But Labour has to pay for the vanity of a national airport, flights from Anglesey, free prescriptions etc etc. I live in Cardiff and it only takes me 20 minutes longer to get to Bristol, where there is a good airport. Wales is on its ar*e. If they get to set their own tax levels, I’m leaving.
    Free prescriptions cost more than the claim ‘they don’t cost as much as you’d think – just £600m’. Taking a doctors time, secretaries time, running costs and not just the cost of cheap tablets into account. I’ve heard of appointments to ask for a 30p pack of paracetamol. Doesn’t cost as much as youd think… Doctors also get their questionnaires for revalidation paid for by Wales, everywhere else in the UK it comes out of the £300 they get to complete the revalidation, not here. When will socialist wales stop throwing their money away on vanity projects.

    • Rhys, Music budgets were cut back in times when the Tories were in charge. I seem to recall John Redwood sending funding back to Westminster that was unspent, yet some services were cut. Don’t turn it into a political argument or you’ll make yourself look silly.

  17. Public education is only about a hundred years old. It is a mistake to trust in it in any way. No “first-world” country is betting the farm on it, except perhaps the ever-foolish United States. England has its backup to public schools, France has its religious schools, Germany has it technical schools, etc. In the United States public schools have degenerated into baby sitting services whose curricula are mere catechisms.

    Except for the Soviet Union, no society has made enough progress in music education with the youngest part of its population to merit international attention. In the past, music was taught privately to the young, in conservatories (not public schools, which scarcely existed) to the slightly older, and the only thing approximating classroom learning was actual choruses and orchestras.

    No pre-Twentieth-century composers or ensembles arose due to any public school system, and few or no important ones since. However they arose, the non-public-school approach seems to be the reliable way.

    I would be interested to know how much of the Soviet public school music making remains in Russia.

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