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High note for music tuition

EVEN those with difficulty distinguishing their arpeggios from their adagios enjoyed the harmony of the latest event to highlight the Scottish Executive's new-found enthusiasm for music tuition.

Pipers from Dundee, a string quartet from Glasgow, a rock group from Newarthill in Lanarkshire, traditional musicians from Wester Ross and Shetland, primary string players from East Renfrewshire and a children's choir from West Lothian, set off by a swinging big band from host authority South Lanarkshire, combined to show the new initiatives are starting from a sound platform.

The occasion was a "national showcase" in Hamilton to launch the latest plans to improve access to instrumental and vocal tuition in schools.

Produced jointly with the Heads of Instrumental Teachers Scotland (HITS), Guidelines for Instrumental Music Teaching in Scottish Schools is intended to help improve pupil achievement and teacher effectiveness.

The key components include developing a "challenging and progressive course of study", clarifying the roles of all participants in the instrumental music programme and ensuring the evaluation of effective teaching and learning.

In the wake of last month's announcement that ministers are putting up pound;17.5 million over three years to offer every primary pupil at least one year's free tuition before they reach primary 6, the initial reaction suggested all is gradevole (pleasant or agreeable).

But comments by Nicol Stephen, Deputy Education Minister, that the scheme would be "as bureaucracy-free as possible" and easy to access produced some evidence of disharmony. One development officer from a central belt authority, who did not wish to be named, told The TES Scotland that "form-filling and bidding" should be reduced and called for authorities to be allowed to implement their own arrangements as they saw fit.

Bob Tate, the secretary of HITS, was worried about the role of the Scottish Arts Council, which will oversee the initiative. "When you put in checks and balances, then people have to bid and fill in forms. They are already overstretched in the administration and management of instrumental tuition and to add yet another bidding process would, I suspect, be very difficult under present circumstances," Mr Tate said.

He wants authorities to appoint a designated person with specific responsibility for music tuition rather than, as many have at the moment, "generic" personnel whose remits cover other areas of the expressive arts.

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