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Aberdeen's cuts strike a sour musical note

Funding for the #163;10m Youth Music Initiative - which guarantees that all pupils will receive a year's music tuition by P6 - is to continue for another year, Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop announced this week.

But that good news has been overshadowed in local authorities where extensive cuts to music programmes are being proposed under next year's budget.

The most drastic cuts to date have been tabled by Aberdeen City Council, which will next month decide whether to end all instrumental music tuition. The move by Aberdeen, which may also close its acclaimed music school, would save #163;450,000 a year as part of the authority's five-year plan to make #163;127m of savings.

Some 3,000 people have signed an online petition and hundreds of pupils and university students will take part in a protest on November 30, two days before councillors vote on the proposal.

Instructors could be made compulsorily redundant and re-hired on a self-employed basis. An even more drastic possibility is not to use the instructors at all, and sell off the council's musical instruments.

"The city's councillors should be ashamed to promulgate this approach that leaves key service-deliverers without contractual rights, pension rights or sick-pay entitlement," said Aberdeen EIS secretary Grant Bruce.

Aberdeen's 39 music instructors teach 15.3 per cent of the school population, believed to be the highest proportion in the UK. Mr Bruce stressed that the service cost less than 1 per cent of the education budget.

Mark Traynor, convener of the EIS's national music instructors' network, said the news had come "from left field", as Aberdeen already charged families the highest rates in Scotland for music instruction: #163;10 per lesson, or about #163;400 a year.

It was ironic, he added, that the Westminster Education Secretary, Michael Gove, had realised that scrapping a number of music instructors a decade ago had been a "disaster", and had now ordered a review of music education and declared that more state-school pupils should receive instruction in England.

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