Outcry over proposals to cut East Sussex music service

Nathan (left) and Brendan Harris have both benefited from the service
Nathan (left) and Brendan Harris have both benefited from the service

‘Think again Bob.’

That’s what parents are calling on the county council education boss Bob Standley to do after it was announced the East Sussex Music Instrumental Service could be cut.

Councillor Bob Standley is Lead Member for Education and Inclusion at East Sussex County Council

Councillor Bob Standley is Lead Member for Education and Inclusion at East Sussex County Council

Eastbourne 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.”

She said when Brendan started playing trombone it transformed his life, “I could see the change in my son he was like a different child, it was the sense of achievement I think. He became a lot more confident.

Students from East Sussex Music Service with famed piano teacher Dame Fanny Waterman

Students from East Sussex Music Service with famed piano teacher Dame Fanny Waterman

“Music changes lives, it really does. It’s a way of helping with mental health issues, it’s a stress buster. You learn self discipline, listening skills, and make great friends.”

But the mother, and others like her, are concerned the cuts to the music service will take this away – particularly from disadvantaged children.

Mrs Harris said of the proposed loss of instrumental teaching, “To cut out that vital middle bit seems a ridiculous proposition. Where are those children going to come from if there’s that missing link?

“If you are disabled or have special needs or your family is on a lower income the music service does not discriminate.

Max Salisbury playing his double bass

Max Salisbury playing his double bass

“Music should be for everybody. Imagine being told ‘sorry you can’t learn an instrument, your parents don’t earn enough’.”

The mother is part of a group called Save East Sussex Music which is rapidly building momentum in its opposition to the cuts.

She said, “It’s appalling. We have got to say enough is enough. It’s cuts after cuts after cuts.

“Music transforms lives. It would be such a shame for it to just disappear.

“It’s so damaging. Where are our future artists going to come from if they are throttling it at the source?

“We want the councillors to sit back and think about it again, there could be an alternative way to find savings.”

And Lavinia Salisbury shared her son Max’s success story with the service.

She said, “Seven years ago my son was feeling lost and like he did not fit in. He was a ‘bedroom ‘ bass guitarist.

“After contacting Marcus Plant he was giving a place in the Concert band. They encouraged and supported him so much over the next few years.

“We got him double bass lessons through the service and after only three years of playing classical double bass, my son has achieved an unconditional place at Guildhall Conservatoire in a four year BA course.

“My son’s dream is now a reality thanks to the service. The teachers are incredible. They spent their own time assisting him in his personal statement, lending him equipment.

“What a tragedy it would be if future dreams were just that due to no opportunities.”

The county council announced it is considering cutting the service last week.

A spokesperson said, “This is not a decision we want to take but, at a time when the council is having to make cuts to services such as libraries and adult social care, we just can’t afford to continue to provide the music service in its current format.”

The future of East Sussex Music Service will be determined by Bob Standley, Lead Member for Education and Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disability on Monday (April 30).

Lib Dem Opposition councillor Alan Shuttleworth is opposing the plans.

He said, “It is appalling one Conservative councillor can take this decision on his own with no democratic accountability and no reference to a budget committee of the Council. No other councillor can vote on this draconian proposal.

“As a teacher and parent I recognise the importance of music teaching for young people. The council can make savings in the management and administrative structure but should protect the direct music service to children.”

A petition against the proposals on the ESCC website has surpassed 5,000 signatures.

Click here or search Save East Sussex Music on Facebook to find out more about the group opposing the cuts.

And to read more on this issue, click here.