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Primary arts in 'parlous state'

The Scottish Arts Council is making a crisis out of drama, dance and visual arts teaching in primaries after a survey revealed substantial cuts in visiting specialists. Teachers' ability to deliver the expressive arts curriculum is in jeopardy.

An arts council audit of all local authorities last October points to drama and dance being in "a particularly parlous state" following the loss of many specialists and cuts in staff development budgets. Primary staff are unable to pick up the work previously done by the visiting arts teachers. Music is in slightly better tune, despite "dwindling pools of talented young musicians coming through the primary sector".

The study notes: "Even in those authorities where requests for music tuition have risen dramatically since reorganisation, demands are coming from those who can afford, not necessarily from those who can do."

In Fife, 10 per cent fewer pupils are taking up instrumental tuition after pound;40 across the board charges were introduced. Aberdeen says more pupils than ever are asking for instruction but mainly from more affluent families.

Sylvia Dow, the council's senior education officer, said: "Although we should be worried about instrumental tuition, which is being nipped away, a problem equally as large is the lack of support for primary teachers in delivering the 5-14 curriculum. They need the support of visiting specialists and in-service for themselves."

Mrs Dow said there was no consistency of service across Scotland as councils eroded the non-statutory elements of education budgets. She feared pupils were being denied the right to an arts base and that talented players would not emerge. "Over 80 per cent of professional musicians and composers in Scotland came through free one-to-one tuition, so where are they coming from in the future? If you lose your school orchestra, it is lost for ever." She added: "We are worried that services are disappearing without people really recognising it."

minister takes up baton, page 6

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