£1m endowment fund for children to take up music

Pupil at Woodlands Primary School, Cwmbran
Image caption Drumming up support - ministers want the private sector to add to the endowment fund

A new £1m fund to encourage children to become musicians has been announced by the Welsh Government.

The National Endowment for Music aims to support pupils' musical ability.

Ministers hope public and private sector bodies will contribute to the fund, which would begin making payments to support young musicians by 2020.

The £1m is being given to Arts Council Wales to kick start the fund after schools music services were affected by cuts.

Education Secretary Kirsty Williams said: "I hope this will show other people both in the public sector and the private sector that we're serious about this and they too will want to contribute to the endowment."

It is a joint initiative between Ms Williams and Economy Secretary Ken Skates, who said he hoped it would act as a "catalyst".

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Media captionPupils from Woodland Primary School in Cwmbran explain what playing music means to them

Jaci Bates, the head teacher of Woodlands Community School in Cwmbran, said learning to play an instrument has huge benefits for children.

"There's such an emphasis on literacy and numeracy that we in schools are in danger of narrowing the curriculum and forgetting the benefits that the wider curriculum can bring," she said.

"I think music broadens horizons and children enjoy it, they love it. It gives them a sense of achievement.

"I think it improves their memory and concentration, their social skills and their self esteem, they develop patience and perseverance and those skills can be applied to everything in life."

Since 2008 most Welsh councils have cut budgets for music services as front line areas such as social care take priority.

Last year the National Youth Orchestra of Wales recorded its lowest ever number of applications from young hopefuls.

Image caption Kirsty Williams has joined with cabinet colleague Ken Skates to launch the initiative

Last month, leading conductor and founder of the Welsh Proms Owain Arwel Hughes warned the assembly's culture committee Wales would no longer be a musical nation unless it tackled a crisis in funding for school music lessons.

He told AMs it was not just a matter of playing music for enjoyment or a career, but claimed it was vital to children's development and should not depend on their families being able to afford lessons and instruments.

Phil George, chairman of Arts Council of Wales said: "Challenging times call for determined action. It's more important than ever that we provide opportunities for young people to enrich their lives through artistic expression."

At Woodlands Community School in Cwmbran, the children learn to play instruments including the guitar and the drums and enjoy performing.

Leo, 10, said. "I like music because it's an easy way to express your feelings and it's easy to do it."

Holly, also 10, said she enjoys playing the guitar.

"When you're playing in front of people you feel so proud of yourself and it's a really good feeling."

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