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Council plan to axe scheme that gives free music lessons to schoolchildren

PUBLISHED: 14:08 07 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:56 12 February 2019

Protesters brough their instruments to make their opposition heard. Picture: Assma Sheikh.

Protesters brough their instruments to make their opposition heard. Picture: Assma Sheikh.

Joe Prescott

Newham Council are planning to axe a scheme that gives free instruments and music lessons to thousands of children in the borough.

Under the proposals the Every Child a Musician programme (ECAM) will be scrapped in September to save the council £1.1million a year.

The council wants to use the savings for other programmes like Eat for Free, which gives every primary school pupil free school meals.

The previous administration, under Mayor Sir Robin Wales, had cut funding to Eat for Free.

Children, parents and teachers were at the demonstration. Picture: Assma Sheikh.Children, parents and teachers were at the demonstration. Picture: Assma Sheikh.

Around 12,500 children are involved with ECAM which gives year 3 to 6 students free music classes and free instruments to those in year 5 and 6.

If ECAM is dropped the council plan to create a cultural programme in its place, which will include music.

On Tuesday, dozens of teachers, parents and students, some playing music, protested outside East Ham Town Hall before a cabinet meeting took place where councillors discussed the plans.

Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz told the protestors: “I want to ensure that you will continue to be offered a rich programme of creative, cultural, provision in this borough in years to come.”

The demonstrators want the council to keep ECAM, which provides free music tuition and instruments. Picture: Assma Sheikh.The demonstrators want the council to keep ECAM, which provides free music tuition and instruments. Picture: Assma Sheikh.

During the meeting the mayor amended the proposal to explicitly mention music in any future cultural programme.

It was also agreed to take the public consultation into account.

Supporters of ECAM say the programme allows pupils from poor backgrounds to access music lessons and instruments.

Joe Prescott is a musician and ECAM tutor whose parents are both music teachers.

The demonstrators want the council to keep ECAM, which provides free music tuition and instruments. Picture: Assma Sheikh.The demonstrators want the council to keep ECAM, which provides free music tuition and instruments. Picture: Assma Sheikh.

The 23-year-old said at the meeting: “The fact that children can get a free musical instrument and free lessons is incredible.

“I teach about 2,500 children a week and I love it.

“Sometimes you see them grow, sometimes it’s hard and sometimes you struggle, but you go for it and you get there. Music is something that we always love to do.”

The proposals will now go through to full council for approval on February 18.

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