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House of Lords

Wednesday, 21st May 2003.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Hereford.

Music Standards Fund

2.36 p.m.

Lord Lloyd-Webber asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the funds from the Standards Fund For Music are being administered for the purposes for which they were intended.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, the Music Standards Fund was set up to protect and expand the local education authority music service provision. The Government are putting nearly 60 million per annum into their Music Standards Fund, which can be spent in any way to increase opportunities for pupils to access music education of a high quality.

In June 2002, Ofsted reported that the fund had been "well used" by music services which had,

    "responded quickly to opportunities to expand and protect their work"

Lord Lloyd-Webber: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her response. But is she aware that the situation as outlined is far from satisfactory, partly due to the very wide remit of the Music Standards Fund? The fund was indeed created to protect and expand existing local authority music services that employ teachers who provide instrumental music lessons in schools, not to replace them. However, we have seen many local authorities using their allocation from the Music Standards Fund to do exactly that. As there is no statutory obligation to maintain their contributions, the LEAs inevitably reduce or remove these in order to make savings.

Noble Lords: Question!

Lord Lloyd-Webber: My Lords, my question was: is the Minister aware of this? As a specific example, in the five years since the introduction of the standards fund, the Berkshire Young Musicians Trust has seen its total funding reduced by 200,000. The trust is now totally dependent on the Education Department's Music Standards Fund. The service is clearly in danger of going into reverse. Will the Minister look again at this issue? Is there not some way of looking again at the requirements for providing musical instrument tuition in schools and of considering how to press local

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authorities with regard to their contributions to ensure that this aspect of music education is given its proper place within the curriculum?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, who has the widest experience and expertise on this subject in your Lordships' House. I have some points to make in response to his Question. First, we have performance indicators for the music service, which we have developed in the past year. We are looking at the issues of access, breadth, quality and wider opportunities, particularly at key stage 2 for seven to 11 year-olds—critical years, I would argue, in terms of developing that experience.

Secondly, about 253,000 pupils at key stage 2—about 10 per cent—receive regular instrumental lessons; more than 92,000 attend music service ensembles; and 18,500 schools—83 per cent—receive music support. I agree with the noble Lord that this is not perfect, but I believe that we have good services to build on. We are specifically looking at the issue of musical instruments, the point the noble Lord raised. We are looking in 12 areas at wider opportunities, making provision for 100 advanced music school teachers and carrying out a survey of the services that are available between different local authorities so we have a baseline upon which to develop.

Baroness Warnock: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in the past 30 or 40 years we have gone back a very long way in the provision of advanced instrumental teaching for children at school? There was a time when there was an embarrassment of people from this country joining, or seeking to join, the European Youth Orchestra, but those numbers have fallen. There is real cause for concern, not for the breadth of provision, which I believe the Government are really trying to ensure, but that the intense study of musical instruments for really talented children in the maintained sector is falling off. This is an area where we cannot fall victim to the fear of elitism. I would like the Minister to answer that question.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, there is no doubt that preparing musicians for what we might call a top professional career is not necessarily a priority for individual LEA music services. We accept that we need to do more to support them. We have within the gifted and talented programme and the music and dance scheme ways of providing that additional support. Indeed, we are looking at what more we can do to ensure that we continue to have high quality musicians and other performers in this country.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, the Minister will be aware of how important music is to the wider curriculum, particularly in the primary schools, as she said. We are delighted that there has been some resurgence, although there is a long way still to go from the depths that we reached during the period when the Conservatives were in power. There is considerable variation across the country from LEA to LEA. Can

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the Minister reassure us that there will be some levelling to make sure that every child has the opportunity which the standards fund is supposed to provide?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the noble Baroness is correct: not only did we start from a position of having very little resource but there is variation across the country. Within the resources we have, we are very keen to develop all services to be as good as the best. Noble Lords will know about individual services. I believe that the new specialist schools programme has a massive contribution to make in terms of developing its services with other secondary schools and, of course, primary schools in the locality. As more schools specialise in music and the arts, increasing numbers of them will be able to do that.

I referred earlier to the national baseline. We are looking to ensure that we have a very clear view of what we would consider to be a good music service. My honourable friend David Miliband is holding a seminar with those involved in the music industry, professional musicians and others involved in education to look more fully at how we can develop a wider strategy on music to ensure consistency across the country.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords—

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, could we hear from the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, first?

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, thank you. Is my noble friend aware that some cathedrals find it very difficult to recruit choirboys because of the lack of teaching in schools?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Yes, my Lords, I have heard the reports that, I believe, my noble friend refers to. That will be an aspect of the attempt to develop how schools can support the different kinds of musical teaching and training that will be available.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, does the noble Baroness accept that there are particular difficulties, now that the Learning and Skills Council has come into play? It has confused the funding streams. A perfectly marvellous music school in Huntingdon is now vulnerable to going out of business altogether because, by law, the Learning and Skills Council cannot support extra-curricular music to school-age children in that school. It seems that an historically very good music school may now be vulnerable simply because the law prevents it from being funded properly.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I do not know about the particular case that the noble Baroness cites. I undertake to look into the matter and

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to write to her about it. We do not intend, in any of the ways in which we set up funding, to prevent the high-quality services that one would expect in schools of the quality to which the noble Baroness refers. I shall address the matter.

Samuel Pepys: Tercentenary of Death

2.44 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they are celebrating the life and achievement of Samuel Pepys, founder of the professional navy, on the tercentenary of his death on 26th May 1703.

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, I am delighted that the British Library, the Public Record Office, the National Maritime Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of London, all bodies sponsored by government, are running exhibitions and other events this year to commemorate the life and achievements of Samuel Pepys.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I am delighted to hear that Answer. I declare a family connection and a special interest as president of the Samuel Pepys Club, which celebrates its own centenary this coming week. Does the Minister agree that Samuel Pepys was not just a great and talented literary and historical figure; he was a founder of our modern Civil Service through his work in the professional navy? Does she further agree that his acumen, intelligence, eye for detail and, I might add, joie de vivre can be said to be qualities found in the modern Civil Service?

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