Bid to harmonise tutors' terms

8th January 2010 at 00:00
Union calls for registration of music instructors to afford them greater protection

Music instructors should be allowed to register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland, says the Educational Institute of Scotland.

The union believes the move would protect instrumental teaching as it comes under scrutiny from financially-straitened local authorities throughout Scotland, and open up CPD to music instructors.

The call came as the EIS published a charter supporting children's right to learn music.

General secretary Ronnie Smith said: "It is also important that instrumental music teachers should receive the same level of support and continuing professional development opportunities that class teachers already have access to.

"Professional registration for all instrumental music teachers with the teachers' professional body, the General Teaching Council for Scotland, would acknowledge the status of instrumental music teachers and help to encourage continuing high standards in all music education settings across Scotland."

Mr Smith described this as a "key development" which would have "significant and long-lasting" benefits for pupils.

Graeme Barclay, assistant head of South Lanarkshire Council's music service and convener of the EIS's music instructor network, said "very positive" discussions on the issue had been held with the GTCS's chief executive, Tony Finn, and and other senior GTC figures.

But they had insisted, he added, that it would have to be an "entirely separate" type of registration, as it would be inappropriate to afford instructors the same status as classroom teachers. Mr Barclay was happy with that prospect: "We don't teach classes, that's the bottom line."

Even the mooted new form of registration, he believed, would "bring recognition as a profession and provide some parity with our teaching colleagues".

The tough financial climate made this crucial, since "probably every local authority is considering looking at music instruction".

Mr Barclay, a percussion specialist who works in three secondaries, said that music services "can be viewed as an easy target", but that, in the event of drastic cutbacks, they would take "years and years" to build up again.

Ian Smith, the Scottish Arts Council's head of music, described the EIS's move as "appropriate and responsible". He would welcome any form of additional registration giving more protection to music instructors. He knew of two local authorities in particular where music was not rated as highly as elsewhere, leaving specialist tuition vulnerable in these tough economic times.

Alan Cameron, a Dumfries and Galloway education officer with responsibility for music in schools, was concerned that classroom teachers could take a dim view of the move to seek GTC registration.

The backgrounds of music instructors varied: some were highly qualified but others, athough talented, lacked formal qualifications. Mr Cameron, while impressed by the level of support for music instructors from the EIS, feared the proposal could "devalue" the status of GTC registration in the eyes of classroom teachers who had a diploma or degree, and had been through a period of training.

He does believe that more needs to be done across Scotland to open up CPD to music instructors, and allow them more opportunities to share ideas with colleagues.

A GTC spokesman said: "This is an idea that the GTC Scotland is interested in investigating further. Indeed, we included mention of this in our recent response to the Scottish Government's consultation into independent status for the GTC Scotland.

"At present, only fully-qualified teachers can be registered, but once the Scottish Government's plans to make the GTC Scotland an independent body are completed we would be able to look at other categories of registration for individuals, such as music instructors."

The Festival of British Youth Orchestras, which has been held in Edinburgh and Glasgow for 30 years, has been cancelled. The organisers blamed lack of funds at organising body the National Association of Youth Orchestras, and the recession.

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