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Scotland’s music tradition 'under threat from school cuts’

Teaching union warns that instrumental music tuition is increasingly inaccessible for less affluent pupils

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Teaching union warns that instrumental music tuition is increasingly inaccessible for less affluent pupils

Scotland’s “proud cultural tradition” in music is under serious threat from budget cuts and changes to school governance, according to the country’s biggest teaching union.

The EIS has warned that poorer pupils will be less likely to learn an instrument as growing numbers of local authorities are charging for tuition, and after instrumental music suffered overall cuts of £1 million in a year.

The union said instrumental music tuition had been severely hit in recent years, as local authorities cut back on elements of education not protected by statutory requirements. It fears the situation may grow even worse amid governance changes and continuing budget cuts.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “We would urge the Scottish government to take steps to protect instrumental music in our schools. In recent years, there has been an ever-widening postcode lottery of instrumental music provision.”

This was essential, he said, to preserve “Scotland’s proud cultural tradition of excellence in all types of instrumental music and song”.

Fewer music instructors

There are now fewer instructors and fewer opportunities to learn an instrument, he said, and “wide variations in charging policy” mean that access often comes down to “‘who pays, plays”.

Some 22 out of 32 local authorities levy charges for pupils taking instrumental music tuition, the EIS said, “creating a clear barrier to entry for many young people”.

Among local authorities that charge for tuition, the average fee for group lessons in 2017-18 of £212 per pupil, per year had increased by around 4.7 per cent on 2016-17.

Mr Flanagan said that with Scotland’s Education Governance Review paving the way for schools to make more decisions at a local level, the situation could deteriorate further.

He added that learning an instrument is “invaluable” in increasing self-confidence and developing pupils' ability to work collectively with others.

Last year, Tes Scotland revealed that instrumental music tuition in schools was facing a "fight for survival" and might disappear from some areas, with combined local budgets for the service in Scotland cut by almost £1 million in 2016-17.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “Funding to local authorities – who are responsible for the delivery of education, including music services – has been very fair, in light of continued UK government cuts to Scotland’s budget, and is increasing. The [recent] draft budget also commits £120 million direct to head teachers to ensure all young people fulfil their potential.

“Investment of £109 million since 2007 in the Youth Music Initiative has made a huge impact, helping young people across the country access opportunities. In addition, we provide £2.5 million to Sistema Scotland – a charity providing opportunities for young people to get involved in their Big Noise orchestras, which reaches 2,000 children weekly.”

Cuts to music education have been an issue in England, too, with one former director of music at a school in London describing the impact as potentially “calamitous”.

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