In theory, the traditionalist emphasis on “academic” subjects should no longer exist in Scotland. Curriculum for Excellence lauds all types of learning and banishes any idea of a subjects hierarchy.
But growing pressure on local budgets has put that to the test – and the evidence suggests that the arts remain vulnerable in Scottish schools.
The EIS union has said instrumental music lessons could become “extinct” in Scottish schools, amid cuts and rising charges.
And earlier this month, campaigners warned that the introduction of charges for music lessons in Scotland had led to a huge fall in the number of pupils learning to play instruments this school year, to about 20 per cent of the level recorded last year – although councils protested that numbers would rise as the term went on.
That claim has done little to quell the fears of campaigners, with some councils – such as East Lothian and West Lothian – introducing charges for tuition this year of several hundred pounds.
While some councils do not charge at all, families elsewhere may have to pay more than £500 per year if they want their child to learn an instrument.
Meanwhile, the publication this month of a new national strategy for Scotland’s school libraries – a UK first – aims to address concerns about cuts to services and the removal of librarians.
A Tes Scotland investigation in 2016 revealed that access to qualified school librarians varied wildly between councils and even within them. In June this year, plans for pupils to replace school librarians in Scottish Borders Council were described as “the first step in getting rid of school libraries altogether”.