A PRE-ELECTION pledge by the First Minister to give all primary pupils the chance to play an instrument by 2006 is already running into difficulties.
Councillors in Moray this week questioned whether the scheme promised by Jack McConnell can go ahead in a largely rural area with a shortage of music instructors. It has around 13 instructors, full and part-time, working flat out and would need another five full-time equivalents. A full-time post remains unfilled.
Meanwhile, there are claims that more than 150 extra instructors will be needed across the country and that number may be impossible to find.
Currently there are 700 instructors employed.
Colin Bowen, chairman of Heads of Instrumental Teachers in Scotland (Hits), said there was "great concern" over the detail of the pound;17.5 million youth music initiative when representatives from 30 authorities met in June.
"The staffing implications over the three years are quite immense. It's the quality of staff as well. In South Lanarkshire we have 40 instructors across primary and secondary and we do not have enough staff to cover all the primaries," Mr Bowen said.
There would be knock-on effects once primary pupils are given the chance to play an instrument, Mr Bowen, a music adviser, said. At the moment, 600 primary pupils in the authority take instrumental lessons and that number would be expected to double. Pupils would move into secondary school and expect to continue their tuition.
South Lanarkshire is planning to offer 40-minute music lessons for P6 pupils with all the class taught at once. Anyone with an aptitude will then be offered further work with specialists.
In Moray, Alistair Farquhar, head of educational resources, said recruitment was a major difficulty. "To attract someone to come to Moray is sometimes difficult. To attract them for a temporary pilot scheme is even more difficult."
Neither the current instruction service nor the visiting teachers of music could take on the additional workload.
Mr Farquhar told councillors: "While any additional music instruction is to be welcomed, there are inherent dangers in such a time-limited scheme, given that it will lead to an increased demand for instrumental instruction from children consequent upon their 'free' year. This will inevitably create even more unfulfilled demand than is currently the case in Moray."
Ministers had established the scheme for an initial three years without committing themselves to funding for further years.
Mr Farquhar said that pupils would probably be offered group lessons on top of the music lessons all pupils presently receive.
"This will inevitably have implications for accommodation within primary schools and will create timetabling issues and varying degrees of disruption to the current curriculum programmes," he said.
Leader, page 12