Promise of free music tuition hits a low note

2nd February 2007 at 00:00
Scotland's youth music initiative has failed to reach its target in some local authorities

NOT ALL Scottish children were offered a year's free instrumental tuition by the time they reached Primary 6, despite a pound;17.5 million three-year project and a pledge from the Scottish Executive.

A report by the Scottish Arts Council, which administers the youth music initiative, shows four of Scotland's 32 local authorities only managed to offer music tuition to children by the end of P6. Another two were accepted as having met the target by having "the mechanism in place" to offer it.

Patricia Ferguson, the Culture Minister, announced last week that every local authority had reached the target but, when the project was launched in 2003, the target was to be met by the end of P5.

Jack McConnell, the First Minister, said at the time: "We should give every child the opportunity to play a musical instrument at an early age. By offering free music tuition to all pupils by the time they reach primary six, we will ensure that money is never a barrier to letting our children's talents flourish."

A spokesman for the executive's culture department said consultation with authorities had resulted in three definitions of the target: offering free music tuition by the end of P5, by the end of P6, or by having the mechanism in place to offer it.

The SAC admitted this week that the definitions were not agreed in 2003, but after the project had begun. In its report, it describes offering free tuition by the end of P5 as the preferred target. A number of authorities also chose to interpret the voice as an instrument and delivered choral or singing workshops instead.

According to the report, Angus, Argyll and Bute, North Ayrshire and South Ayrshire councils were only able to offer free music tuition to every pupil by the end of P6. Glasgow and Renfrewshire councils were described as having met the target only by the final year of the project by "having the mechanism in place".

An SAC spokesperson said:"Glasgow has gone a step further in embracing the youth music initiative, by ensuring that music tuition now forms a routine part of the curriculum for all P3 pupils. In Renfrewshire, we have re-examined the data submitted and confirm that the authority has met the target.

"As a result of The TESS enquiry, we will be updating the Renfrewshire profile to better reflect the fact that six projects, reaching all pupils, were used to achieve the target."

Lord James Douglas-Hamil-ton, the Conser-vatives' education spokesman, called on the executive to tell the truth, claiming children have received the equivalent of just nine minutes' individual tuition. "Our children were guaranteed music tuition," he said. "An analysis of the figures shows not only that the pledge has been missed for many, but also that those pupils who do receive tuition do so infrequently or as part of large groups."

Fiona Hyslop, the SNP's education spokesperson, said: "Reducing class contact time has done as much to encourage music as this initiative. The report needs further examination to find out what has been the real experience of all pupils."

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