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‘Not music to my ears'
THE “jewel in the crown” of Oxfordshire’s education service could be run by a private company as the council tries to save £60m.
Plans to outsource the county’s music service have been called “appalling” as concerns are raised about its future.
Martin Sheldon, 92, left, of Headington Quarry, ran the council’s service from 1974-1981.
He said: “When I sniffed this business of outsourcing I thought it was absolutely appalling because there no managing organisation in the country which has a clue how to run a music service.
“The trouble is a lot of management gurus will look at the way the music service works and immediately say this costs too much money we have got to stop that.
If they did it would stop the whole thing dead from the bottom up. That’s why I’m so very cross indeed.
“I feel it is the jewel in the crown of Oxfordshire’s education for many years and for some reason it’s being ditched by the county council.
“We have got to have control of the music service because it’s something that on the face of it looks expensive, but in the end it gives value for money.”
Oxfordshire County Council is looking at a number of services it could outsource in a bid to make £25m of savings a year.
Earlier this month the authority revealed it may have to cut a further £60m on top of £200m of cuts already made or committed to.
The music service is one of the education services it is looking at outsourcing.
The others include human resources, ICT and finance departments relating to education support services and the county’s outdoor centres.
The council owns three outdoor centres – Kilvrough, Woodlands and Yenworthy – which are used by more than 170 schools in Oxfordshire.
It could affect up to 500 posts in total, which could be transferred over to the new companies.
The council said the proposals were at an early stage and there were no details about how much they would save.
A decision could be made by the council’s cabinet as early as next month.
Established in 1958, the music service has gone from strength to strength, with former students performing with national and European youth orchestras.
The County Music Service works with about 11,000 youngsters each week across the county’s schools, providing tuition, concerts and events.
Penny Dwyer, who co-ordinates music and instrument tuition at Windmill Primary School in Headington, said she had concerns.
She said: “I have been working here for 20 years and we have always used the county music service. We use several of their teachers, and I know I can liaise with one office.
The admin load on the school would be enormous without them.
“The work of the service raises the quality of education in Oxfordshire, and I think it would be a dreadful thing if anything changed.”
Rodney Rose, deputy leader of the council said the move was in response to cuts in its funding from the Government, and said outsourcing was “not a new concept”.
He said: “We want to explore every single option available in terms of making savings to back-office services.
“Delivering those services in a different way, by commissioning them to external organisations rather than directly delivering the services ourselves, is one possible way.”
He said the council would press for services provided by external organisations to be based locally and employ local people.
MUSIC SERVICE FACTFILE
- THE music service’s budget is £2.5m, of which £360,000 is paid for by the county council and the rest is finance from contracts with the Government through Arts Council England or other agencies, or direct work with individual parents or children and schools.
- The service employs 94 members of staff, 76 of whom are teachers. A large number of those are part-time.
- The music service runs musical instrument tuition in schools, orchestras for young people, Saturday morning music centres and other groups.
ALSO PROPOSED FOR OUTSOURCING
- Schools support and back office services for:
- Foundation Years 0-5
- School improvement and development services 5-19
- Inclusion services and Special Needs Advisory Teachers
- Equality Diversity and Achievement Service (EDAS)
- Governor Services
- Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT)
- Standards Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE)
- Leadership and strategic projects
- Oxfordshire International Education
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