On Thursday last week, it emerged that a single budget line in a paper that was to form the basis of public consultation on the city council’s budget next year disguised a hugely controversial proposal to close the City of Edinburgh Music School at Flora Stevenson Primary and Broughton High School.
In an unpublished internal paper, it is clear that the proposals involve merging the city-wide music tuition budget of £2.3 million with the Music School budget of £452,000 and then cutting the total by £550,000 to create a Citywide Equity and Excellence Music Service. Quite how cutting the combined budget by 20 per cent can deliver equity and excellence is not explained.
Over the weekend, I have spoken to parents, former pupils and teachers at the school and have encountered disbelief, incredulity and anger that such a proposal would be considered and developed in such an underhand fashion.
The Music School is unique in Europe in providing a centre of excellence across primary and secondary with no fees payable by students. It forms part of a national network of centres at Dyce Academy, Douglas Academy and Plockton High School where students receive specialist tuition within a mainstream school.
The school attracts pupils from across the UK and Europe to study and has produced musicians of world class such as the composer Helen Grime, Celtic music legend Martyn Bennett and world-renowned saxophonist Tommy Smith.
The idea that such a centre can be split up and still be a centre of excellence has no educational foundation. As a parent of a former student, I can testify to the benefits of younger pupils being inspired by older ones, by the confidence to share and explore different musical traditions and to form part of a community of young people committed to their passion.
I am utterly opposed to this proposal which lacks any educational or economic justification. Funding for these centres forms part of the local government settlement voted for by the Scottish Parliament and any proposal to close them risks cutting off the funding that is designed to support a national network.
Parents, teachers and former pupils are united in their opposition. With a decision on issuing the budget proposals for consultation now delayed until November 7, there is time to ensure that this proposal is ditched now. The City of Edinburgh should be rightly proud of the achievements of its own music school and drop this idiotic proposal.
Andy Wightman is a Green MSP for Lothian