A SERVICE which provides instrumental and vocal tuition to pupils in local authority schools throughout North Yorkshire has turned around a £680,000 loss in funding to become viable again.

The County Music Service - which also operates Saturday morning Music Centres in Skipton, Harrogate, Northallerton, Scarborough, Selby and Whitby - is on course to make a profit of up to £90,000, despite a 3.5 per cent pay rise agreed for teachers and a proposed increase in pension contributions for teachers from September.

The financial turnaround follows a decision by North Yorkshire County Council to retain music tuition in the face of budgetary cuts and restructure the service.

Councillor Janet Sanderson, North Yorkshire’s executive member for children’s services, said she understood the importance of the music service, having worked for it for 22 years as a woodwind and singing teacher.

She said music lessons helped students achieve success in other walks of life, while developing concentration, confidence and creating team players.

Cllr Sanderson said: “Music is about much more than teaching children to put their fingers in the right places and so we are doing everything we can to keep the County Music Service going.

“It is on the right track at the moment, but it’s never far away from the wrong track.”

A meeting of leaders of the council’s children’s and young people’s service heard that to keep the service viable, a 3 per cent rise in fees has been proposed at the music centres and a two per cent increase in tuition fees at schools from September.

While it is proposed children receiving free school meals should continue to get free lessons to “ensure the most vulnerable children still have access to tuition”, officers have highlighted the cost of the policy may increase over time.

The Department for Education has estimated that by 2022 around 50,000 more pupils will benefit from a free school meal compared to the previous benefits system.

An officers’ report to the meeting states funding from the Department for Education is guaranteed until 2020, but it was unclear what Government funding would be after then. It states the music service is expecting a similar, profitable, situation next financial year but this would depend on maintained levels of grant funding.

The report states: “In January the Government announced an uplift of £1.4m to Music Hubs to support rising costs. We are therefore expecting an uplift in grant funding next financial year.”