HUNDREDS of people, young and old, have backed a fight to protect a popular music service.

Tees Valley Music Service (TVMS), which provides instrument tuition for 11,000 youngsters across the Tees Valley, is waiting for the renewal of its grant from central Government and 52 members of staff have been told their jobs are at risk. More than 500 pupils and parents have signed an online petition against the potential end of the service.

Yesterday, nearly 200 parents and pupils protested at Egglescliffe School, in Eaglescliffe , near Stockton.

Matthew Haworth, head of music at Egglescliffe School, said: “Many parents cannot afford private instrumental lessons, and certainly the cost of instruments such as bassoon, French horn, or double bass are completely out of the reach of most.

“We rely on the TVMS to give young people the opportunity to learn an instrument. If it goes, so will the music-making of all but a handful of young people in our region.”

James Wharton, the Conservative MP for Stockton South, said: “This is being presented as a planned cut. It’s not. We simply do not know what the ultimate decision will be and things need to be kept in perspective.

“We do not know what is going to happen, but the review is being undertaken by someone who is passionate about music.”

A decision is expected by March 31.