Instrumental in the development of pupils

20th July 2001 at 01:00
THERE has and continues to be much discussion concerning the implications of the McCrone agreement. While the pressure is on to reach decisions in schools in time for the start of the new academic session, it seems to have passed unnoticed that there are sectors not included at all in McCrone, notably instrumental music teachers.

When this omission was pointed out, indications from the local authorities and the Scottish Executive were gloomier still: that instrumental staff would get a 10 per cent increase, but would lose their teachers' terms and conditions, while still being expected to fulfil the new 35-hour week.

This surely cannot be right. As things stand, instrumental teachers constitute a highly qualified body of professionals who, even if registered with the GTC, are still only paid 92.5 per cent of class teachers' salaries and do not even classify as teachers for superannuation purposes.

It says something about their general commitment and belief in the job that they have tolerated this. I can't imagine the medical profession accepting it.

The positives of learning a musical instrument are well documented: improved concentration and self-esteem, development of social skills, working in a team, learning to listen and evaluate, self-discipline of practice, learning to perform and having to meet the deadlines of performance are just some of the benefits.

Having been an instrumental teacher for 25 years I have witnessed how learning an instrument can change the lives of some pupils absolutely.

The input of instrumental staff at secondary school level is highly significant, especially at Standard grade, Higher and Advanced Higher levels, not forgetting the new " free-standing" performance and inventing units now offered to candidates not opting for the whole music course.

As a parent I am well aware of the benefits music tuition has brought to my own children.

It is astounding, but also deeply depressing that a "forward-looking" government apparently intently interested in education is prepared to undervalue, probably through sheer ignorance, the work that we do, or, worse still, to dismiss it as an unimportant extra which might, in time, be dispensed with.

V J Young 15 Joppa Road Edinburgh

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