Lottery loser for music tuition

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
Scottish schools will not benefit from a share of the Pounds 30 million lottery money for music tuition announced last week by Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary.

The TES Scotland understands that Seona Reid, the Scottish Arts Council's director, wrote to Mr Smith when the proposal was first raised, expressing concerns about having such a scheme in Scotland. The SAC's view is that education authorities should be bound by their statutory obligation to fund music education.

Sylvia Dow, the council's senior education officer, said: "We recognise the financial constraints facing local authorities in Scotland. However, as the bodies with statutory responsibility for education they should retain responsibility for music as they do for other subjects."

An annual Pounds 10 million for three years is to go towards instrumental tuition in England, where it is considered to be in a more parlous state than in Scotland. Tuition charges in Scotland vary from zero to Pounds 185 a year but more than a third of children still receive free tuition. In England, there is far less free instrumental teaching and one in five primary schools is cutting down on music.

The lottery money will be disbursed by a new Youth Music Trust in England, backed by key figures such as Sir Simon Rattle and Sir Elton John. It will help pay for instruments, extracurricular activities and better in-service training for music teachers, in an attempt to reverse years of cuts.

But the Government has "no plans" to set up a similar trust in Scotland. A Scottish Office spokeswoman said: "This would in the first instance be for the Scottish Arts Council to decide. The position of instrumental tuition is a matter for the education authorities. The Government is monitoring the position and will consider it further in due course in the light of the English experience."

The SAC, however, is pinning its hopes on Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, who at a forum organised by the Scottish Office and Musicians' Union in April called for a debate about best practice to ensure no pupils are denied music tuition.

An SAC audit published in March found that where authorities have started to charge there has been a change in the social mix of children taking tuition, with an increasing percentage coming from middle-class homes. An initial drop in uptake was followed by a surge, but those hardest hit have been children on the fringes, whose parents do not qualify for subsidies and cannot raise the additional money.

The Scottish Council for Research in Education is now carrying out a survey of existing provision for Mr Wilson. The SAC would like the Scottish Office to set up a new body along the lines of the Government's task force on culture and creativity in education south of the border.

The Department for Education and Employment in England is also proposing to take over responsibility for funding music from local authorities, guaranteeing existing services for three years

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