Music instruction ‘at risk of extinction’

Teaching union warns of impact of ‘catastrophic cuts’ in Scotland

Henry Hepburn

Music instruction ‘at risk of extinction’

The protection of music education will be at the forefront of next week’s annual gathering of the biggest education union in Scotland.

The EIS will debate “catastrophic cuts” when its three-day AGM starts in Dundee on Thursday.

A motion from its Midlothian association will call for instrumental music provision to be protected in all schools across Scotland.

The EIS fears that there is an emerging “postcode lottery” and questions why some local authorities cannot provide free music tuition for pupils while others are charging hundreds of pounds.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Our position is that the cuts that have been imposed on these services during a period of austerity budgeting, and the increase in charges levied to families for music tuition, have contributed to a significant erosion of music in schools and place them at risk of extinction.

“EIS members who teach instrumental music are now reporting catastrophic cuts and outrageous charges. We are hearing of annual charges of up to £524 per pupil being mooted, and music services losing up to 10 full-time equivalent staff in the most recent budget round.”

Changing the tune

Mr Flanagan added: “When questioned on this issue, the Scottish government is quick to cite its support for the Youth Music Initiative. This initiative, while positive, is no substitute for properly resourced local authority music services. It generally offers 12 hours of learning on one instrument, serving as a taster for music education.

“It is a travesty that children who show interest and ability during these taster sessions are being denied access to fully-funded instrumental music services in the longer term, or excluded by unaffordable charges. Why spark interest if you don’t intend to keep the fire burning?”

As part of its Change the Tune campaign to protect instrumental music in schools, the EIS is also supporting a petition lodged at the Scottish Parliament, calling for free instrumental tuition to be available to all children attending state schools in Scotland.

Tes Scotland has previously highlighted the impact of budget cuts on instrumental music instructors but has also shown that not enough secondary music teachers are being recruited.

In May, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said that local budget cuts must not stop poor pupils from learning musical instruments.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “Music tuition is of enormous benefit to young people and the Scottish government is actively providing leadership to encourage participation in music.

“Local authorities are directly responsible for spending on music tuition in schools. Overall funding to councils is increasing in real terms, despite continued UK government cuts to Scotland’s resource budget."

She added: “While respecting the autonomy of local councils, Scottish ministers have committed to working in collaboration with partners to find solutions that help ensure instrumental music remains accessible to all.”



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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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