THE COUNTY’s music service is performing well despite severe cuts to its budget over recent years.

Pembrokeshire Music Service provides tuition for 2,100 pupils across the area, members of the schools overview and scrutiny committee was told on Thursday (January 31).

A report on the service was presented to members by head of service Ben Fields, who also oversees sports development.

A “drop off” in music participation in secondary school, where charges are sometimes made, following free access in junior schools was highlighted by committee chairman Cllr John Davies.

“We need consistency across the county, and certainly across the clusters,” he said.

Governors make decisions on whether music services are charged for in their schools and although recommendations can be made by the authority a policy cannot be enforced, said director of schools Kate Evans-Hughes.

She said that often there was “quite strong emotional feelings about the chance  for children to access free music provision.”

The report to committee adds that 25 per cent of schools request parental donations or charges to help cover costs, with 15 primary school out of 50 requesting  parental donations ranging from £50 a year to £20 per term.

Cllr Paul Rapi said the report did not reflect that “things aren’t as rosy as they could be” citing cuts, here and across Wales, and “surviving on very little money.”

“It should not become only for those that can afford it, it should be free for anyone, as it was before,” added Cllr Rapi.

Mr Field said there was evidence that the council provided an “excellent” service with one commentator saying it was “bucking the national trend.”

This was supported by Cllr Stan Hudson would called the music service the “jewel in the crown of the county’s education service” and he commended staff on succeeding on a decreasing budget.

In 2017/18, 98.3 per cent of GCSE Music students in Pembrokeshire achieved grades A* – C and 73.7 per cent of A level pupils achieved the same.

Mr Field’s report outlines a number of savings made including retirements and a reduction in staff travel with a 37 per cent reduction to core budgets since 2013/14 and a further 32 per cent cut expected over the next four years.

It adds that for every £1 received from the council core budget, the music service generates a further £3.25.

Some of the provision includes a community choir, orchestra, bi-weekly elective home educated programmes, parent and child tuition as well as weekly tuition at school and instrument loan programme.

A £3million Welsh Government fund is due to be shared across the country to assist in catering for the demand, councillors were told.