Since 1890, Dublin's municipal school of music, known as the College of Music since 1963 and the Dublin Institute of Technology Conservatory of Music and Drama since 1993, has provided musical instruction at moderate charges for up and coming musicians from Dublin and its catchment areas. It has served the people well over the years and many or Ireland's most renowned musicians received tuition there.
The college has a proud tradition of service to the people of Dublin and to music education generally. The value of the college to the development of music has been confirmed in studies over the years. It caters for a wide mix of abilities for children from four years of age upwards by providing an affordable and accessible education in music. This includes the development of the performing aspect of music education for children, which cannot be adequately catered for in the school curriculum.
Notwithstanding the 1% increase in the pay budget, there will be a shortfall of up to €3 million due to the cost of the introduction of new European social legislation and the fact that the budget does not provide for pay commitments in the national pay agreement. Parents are deeply concerned at the implications of potential cuts already planned, including a possible cut of 150 hours out of 300 teaching hours per week across the part-time area, the cancelling of pre-instrumental and junior workshop classes, affecting up to 100 students, the reduction of the duration of musicianship classes from one hour to 45 minutes and the possible 100% increase in part-time student fees from €353 to €706.
The teaching of music is the second oldest discipline in Dublin Institute of Technology. Enshrined in its introduction was the stated principle of the three As – availability, accessibility and affordability. This legacy, and its associated responsibility, is as valid today as when the college was first established.
Parents and teachers are concerned at the direction in which the college is heading, particularly at first and second level. This has not been helped by the fact that enrolment figures in the college have decreased from 2,600 in 1994 to 1,400 in the current year. The proposed cuts, if implemented, could change the ethos of the college, make it unaffordable for the majority of students and make it elitist, and that is not the intention of the president of the college.
Parents make huge sacrifices to bring children to music classes. Any change in policy will deprive their children of access to first class music teaching. Limiting access for talented young students will, in the long run, have a negative impact on the number of musicians in Ireland. Fees must be pitched at an affordable level. If fees are doubled it would deal an unsustainable body-blow to the education budgets of many and put music education beyond the means of the children of working class families.
Dublin Institute of Technology is one of the primary third level institutes in the State and its conservatory is Dublin's equivalent to those conservatories in Europe and the US that nurture young talent.
The Minister is aware that the PCW agreement includes protective clauses that state there are schools of music in Cork, Dublin and Waterford Institutes of Technology and that those schools should include the provision of music education at a wide range of proficiency levels. It proposed the establishment of a special working group with representation from all relevant parties to make recommendations on the most suitable arrangements for the future delivery of this course. What progress has been made with this working group? Notwithstanding recommendations made, the Minister has an obligation to ring-fence finance for the further development of the college, particularly at first and second level.
As a Dublin TD I am appealing for full consultation with all relevant parties. I hope that teachers, parents, the principal and the Dublin Institute of Technology can reach a sensible agreement to their mutual benefit. The Conservatory of Music and Drama is part of the history and tradition of Dublin. It is up to all of us to protect and maintain our heritage. That is the Minister's responsibility as much as that of the Dublin Institute of Technology. We cannot afford to lose this and should get together to ensure its future.