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Last post for free music tuition

Schools are less and less likely to be alive with the sound of music. The Scottish Parent Teacher Council claims this week that the onset of charges and cuts in music tuition could have serious economic as well as educational repercussions.

Judith Gillespie, the council's convener, said: "It's the start of pay-as-you-go education and means that music, and the opportunity for jobs in music, will only be available to those who can afford to pay extra."

The SPTC highlights what it regards as worrying trends, such as the Pounds 80 per year charge for instrumental tuition in many of the 12 new authorities that have taken over from Strathclyde and in Dumfries and Galloway the restriction of tuition to secondary schools. Previously only pupils in Central, Tayside and Grampian had to pay.

The 1990 census showed that 28,900 people in Scotland are in cultural occupations, more than the number of primary teachers and greater than the combined workforces of the oil and gas industries and twice the number of employees in the whisky industry.

North Lanarkshire has defended its move to introduce charges as the only alternative to cuts. Michael O'Neill, the council's director of education, has written to parents stating that the council is subsidising tuition to the tune of 75 per cent. Pupils receiving footwear or clothing grants and free school meals will be exempt. All pupils studying Standard grade, Higher or Scotvec music courses will continue free tuition for the rest of this session.

The Musicians' Union hopes to arrange meetings with all 32 education authorities. Ian Smith, the union's Scottish organiser, says the threat to music teaching has come at a point when the subject is taking off in schools. The number of Standard grade candidates has more than trebled in 10 years with a fourfold rise in Higher presentations in the past five years.

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