Camden schools agree to pay annual membership fee to save council music service

David Walliams, patron of Camden Music Trust, during a visit to Camden School for Girls in March. Pi

David Walliams, patron of Camden Music Trust, during a visit to Camden School for Girls in March. Picture: Polly Hancock. - Credit: Archant

More than 25 Camden schools have pledged to help plug an annual funding gap of over £75,000 a year to save a cherished council music service hit by government cuts.

Primary schools and secondary schools across the borough have agreed to pay the council an annual membership fee to ensure services provided by Camden Music Hub stay at current levels - in light of cuts to Arts Council funding for the service.

The service currently provides a range of lessons in schools throughout the borough as well as holiday courses and weekend ensembles and orchestras to 5,000 Camden children.

In March, Camden Music Trust - a charity set up to raise money to support the service - launched its fundraising campaign, unveiling comedian David Walliams as its patron.

Over the next two years, the council has calculated a budget gap for the music service of £207,000 which it plans to tackle in various ways, including internal cost reductions and fundraising from Camden Music Trust.

But even after the trust’s fundraising, council projections show there will still be a gap of £76,000 which it hopes to close with the help of Camden schools.

In April, the council sent out a consultation document to all 57 Camden schools to gauge their reaction to the prospect of paying an annual membership fee to support the music service - receiving responses from 26 schools.

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Every school which responded to the consultation - which included 19 primary schools, six secondary schools and Frank Barnes special school - agreed to pay an annual membership fee.

These fees require £2,400 a year from secondary schools, while two-form entry primary schools are required to pay £1,800 annually and one-form entry primary schools must pay £1,200.

Stephen Jackman, head of music at William Ellis secondary school in Parliament Hill, said the membership fee was a price worth paying.

“The service facilitates so many partnerships and creates so many opportunities,” said Mr Jackman. “It provides great performance opportunities, such as concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.

“It leads music education in primary schools - without it you would have one teacher doing their best.”

Karyn Ray, headteacher at New End Primary School in Hampstead, said: “All the children have learned a musical instrument and without tutors from the service coming in to support that, we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

John Hayes, headteacher at Gospel Oak Primary School, added: “Children won’t necessarily remember the day they did long division but they will certainly remember the day they polished up their trumpet and played to a thousand people at the Royal Albert Hall.

“For some children, it’s something like the music service which makes school memorable.”