Rebel councillors ‘call in’ plans to axe free music lessons in Newham schools

PUBLISHED: 18:02 14 February 2019 | UPDATED: 18:22 14 February 2019

Campaigners held a protest outside the town hall last week about the proposals to axe ECAM. Picture: Assma Sheikh.

Campaigners held a protest outside the town hall last week about the proposals to axe ECAM. Picture: Assma Sheikh.

Joe Prescott

Rebel councillors have ‘called in’ controversial plans to axe free music lessons in schools across Newham.

Under the proposals by the council, the Every Child a Musician (ECaM) programme would save the council £1million a year.

Cllr Julianne Marriott, lead member for education, has insisted the money is better spent on the “Eat for Free” scheme, which gives free lunches to every primary school pupil.

She said that there is not enough money to fund both programmes and alternative music tuition schemes “are being explored”.

However, councillors Mariam Dawood, John Whitworth, Hanif Abdulmuhit and Tahmina Rahman are urging Newham mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, and her cabinet to rethink scrapping ECaM.

They argue that the council voted to protect the scheme at a full meeting of members last year and more than 100 people risk losing their jobs if it is discontinued.

Newham’s overview and scrutiny committee will meet tonight to discuss whether they should send the decision back to the mayor and urge her to save the project.

A council report states: “The decision was made to discontinue funding for all four parts of the Every Child Programme. This creates a large concern as it ceases funding to the Every Child Ltd company. This company employs 135 staff, who have raised major concerns over their job security.”

It adds: “There is mention in the report of the council wishing to work with all Newham schools, children and young people and other partners in designing a new creative and cultural offer. We welcome this, however there is no mention of the need to create a service which offers opportunity to all Newham children.”

There was a protest about the cuts at a full council meeting earlier this month and the campaign to save ECaM has been backed by the Musicians Union.

Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union, said: “Newham ouncil claims its aspiration is that every child and young person in the borough should have the opportunity to discover and develop their talents, to achieve personal growth and excellence. Yet there seems to be a political willingness to scrap a programme that is designed to do the very thing the council claims it wants to support.

“We are calling on mayor Fiaz and Newham council to immediately reconsider the scrapping of this key programme.”

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