Page last updated at 05:43 GMT, Friday, 4 September 2009 06:43 UK

Youth music review after concerns

Catrin Finch
Catrin Finch - playing harp as a schoolgirl on Blue Peter (left) and today

Music education in Wales is to be reviewed following concerns about patchy access for children.

Last year, Welsh composer Karl Jenkins accused the assembly government of "abdicating its responsibility" to young music makers.

A panel of experts will be put together with a brief to examine the areas for improvement in music education.

The assembly government said the expert group would first meet in September to look at the issue.

The panel will provide an overview of the current state of music education from within the curriculum and the out-of-hours provision for children aged three to 19.

It will also map the current support being given by local authorities identifying best practice and assessing where there are gaps and overlaps.

The extent of how music is used to improve learners' health and well-being will also be assessed by the group.

The Welsh assembly government is to review music lesson provision following concerns about patchy access for children

But it- will be told by the assembly government that any recommendations will need to take into account the present constraints on public finances.

Between 1999 and 2005 the assembly government-backed Music Development Fund provided £17m, financing a growth in musical activities by 60,000 young people through workshops and master classes.

Since then, however, funding for music is no longer "ring-fenced". Now it comes out of general funding for Wales' 22 local authorities.

Three years ago former music advisor Helena Braithwaite organised a letter to First Minister Rhodri Morgan signed by Karl Jenkins and more than 30 other Welsh music stars, including Bryn Terfel, conductor Owain Arwel Hughes, harpist Catrin Finch and indie rock group Super Furry Animals.

The musicians called on the assembly government to write a "music manifesto" for Wales and said they could not stand by "while youth music in Wales stagnates and declines".

They were told their concerns were a matter for local authorities, not the assembly government.

Ms Finch said she was not surprised the assembly government had taken three years to act on their concerns.

"Music and the arts tend to be the last on the list, it is a constant battle," she said.

"But it's never too late. It shows that (Education Minister) Jane Hutt is giving consideration to music and that they consider it to be important in the curriculum."

Ms Finch, the former royal harpist to the Prince of Wales, said she felt music education was vital for children.

"It's a very social thing and it's very creative. It's different from sitting in a classroom," she said.

'Expert group'

"Especially today with computers and television, our lives are not very social. It's so important that young people have a chance to create something together.

"Playing music as part of an orchestra or for school performances was one of the most enjoyable things about my childhood."

A spokesman for the assembly government said it was in the process of finalising membership of the expert group.

"We anticipate that the first meeting of the group will take place before the end of September," he added.

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