Let the music play on, and on

The future of the youth music initiative, which has made a lasting impression on many youngsters, may be in jeopardy

THE ENORMOUS impact of the youth music initiative, which aims to provide every child in Scotland with free instrumental music tuition by primary 6, has been tempered by widespread concern over future funding.

A study of the first three years of the scheme by researchers at the Centre for Public Policy at Northumbria University is positive about its impact, but warns it has raised expectations. It also questions whether the P6 target is appropriate, and suggests a different age group.

The report said: "Whilst this evaluation has not attempted to measure the long-term impact of young people's participation in music, there have clearly been short-term personal, social and educational benefits."

The evaluation also said the initiative would help develop all four capacities of A Curriculum for Excellence, and had particular potential to help youngsters with special educational needs, under-achievers and disruptive students.

However, concerns about future funding were widely apparent, according to the researchers: "Much of this work is unsustainable without further funding. It is important to recognise that, alongside the significant benefits achieved through YMI-funded work, expectations have also been raised."

The Scottish Executive has committed a total of pound;37.5 million to the youth music initiative until 2008, following a personal pledge to the project by Jack McConnell, the First Minister.

David McDonald, youth music manager at the Scottish Arts Council, which oversees the initiative, said they were "really positive" about the research findings. They would be holding meetings with the executive after the election to look at how the YMI was developing.

On the appropriateness of the P6 target, Mr McDonald said it had the advantage of ring-fencing money within a local authority. But, ultimately, any new target would be up to the executive. "In an ideal situation, we would like to have every single person in Scotland, whether young or old, with access to music tuition opportunities. But everything we are hearing back from our colleagues in the executive about the youth music initiative has been very positive."

Mr McDonald welcomed the report's suggestion that the Scottish Arts Council should take a greater role in monitoring the project to improve accountability. From next year, the SAC will increase the number of visits made by its specialist advisers to schools to examine how the YMI is working out in practice. He said of the report: "It is actually quite reassuring for us: it shows we are moving in the right direction."

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