49 Balhousie Street
Perth, PH1 5HJ
4th February 2015
PROPOSED CUTS FROM PERTH AND KINROSS CULTURAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICES
We are writing on behalf of the charity, Perth and Kinross Music Foundation, (PKMF), to express our concern about a Cultural and Community Services Instrumental Music Service review which is currently looking for an annual £75,000 budget saving. We believe this is going to have a serious impact upon the instrumental tuition of school children within Perth and Kinross as well as on the wider achievements of these children.
It is a proportionately high savings figure for a service whose running cost is largely made up of staff salaries that are already offset by a generated fee income. How was this figure identified and what was was the rationale behind agreeing to make this specific amount?
We are aware that the staff were notified in May last year about this possible saving and that they had been informed that the review would be set up ‘almost immediately’. We do not understand why it has taken until January 2015 to begin the review. A very small number of meetings have been timetabled into such a short space of time considering the importance of these matters to the young people of Perth and Kinross and their families.
No time has been scheduled to meet with the parents’ organisations and other local trusts that are deeply committed in their support for instrumental tuition. Their tireless fund raising and many thousands of hours of voluntary support are witness to more than 50 years of successful partnership with the local authority. It is deeply disappointing that these groups appear to have been excluded from the current review.
It is also our understanding that Education Services is exploring the option of moving the whole instrumental tuition service into a Trust. This will create new challenges for the instrumental staff that currently work closely with the teachers to deliver a service appropriate to the needs of individual pupils, departments and schools. It is difficult to imagine how the excellent inclusion policies to be found within schools can serve children better under these proposals. It seems to us that rather than moving the instrumental music service to a new Trust it would be much more appropriate to re-integrate it back into the Education Department. There is no other music service in Scotland that operates from outwith its education department. Instrumental tutors are already playing an integral part in contributing to Curriculum for Excellence with their colleagues in schools.
Another of our concerns arises from evidence that tuition fees are considerably higher when delivered by Trusts. When tuition fees were introduced by Perth and Kinross Council to offset costs in 1996 it was a controversial and divisive policy. At the time these fees were first introduced it became obvious that a number of families could not afford the costs and our charitable trust, Perth and Kinross Music Foundation (PKMF), was established in 1998 in order to help young instrumental musicians in the Perth and Kinross area. Currently the fees are £245.85 per annum/pupil plus £81.05 for Central groups.
All those who have attended the annual Childline Concert or Central Group concerts will be aware of the depth of talent to be found in Perth and Kinross, as well as the dedicated work of its instrumental tutors. An increase in tuition fees that impacted on pupil numbers will empty these platforms and serve only to make raise the accusation that the service has become elitist.
Currently, PKMF’s trust income is achieved through grants and fund raising events. The money raised is used to pay the fees of the least well off families; between 50-75 families each year. Any further sharp increase in fees will mean that even fewer pupils will be able to afford the tuition and there will be an increase in the number of applications being made for assistance through our charity.
Although we are aware that these options are only being explored at this time, this move, should it happen, seems to be working in totally the opposite direction to the ‘National Strategy for Instrumental Music in Scotland’ that was recently published by the Scottish government.
Key among Perth’s cultural assets, Perth Youth Orchestra was frequently quoted as instrumental in recovering Perth city status in 2012. It seems its young musicians are now being discounted in a proposal that could undo much of the hard work of previous generations.
We are aware of the constraints that Perth and Kinross Council are being asked to work within and are eager to help find a practical solution to these issues. Councillors will shortly be asked to vote on the reported outcome of this review. We believe that the case for these proposed ‘savings’ has not yet been made and that the review process has been flawed by its failure to engage with many of the interested parties.
For the reasons set out above we are asking councillors to vote against this proposed ‘saving’ and we invite those engaged in the review process to widen its scope to include the Perth and Kinross Music Foundation, the Young Musicians Parents Association and Perth Youth Orchestra
George Annan (snr)