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Issue 6077

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Warning over future of music tuition in Scotland

Monday 28 December, 2020

Instrumental music provision in Scotland is facing “stark challenges” that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s largest teaching union has warned.

Differing approaches to delivery, the damaging effect on those studying for SQA qualifications and fears that a reduction in provision could impact student numbers, in turn bringing the future of instrumental music into doubt, are among the concerns that have risen to the fore.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) surveyed instrumental music teachers across the country, with their responses incorporated into a briefing paper.

Key issues identified include: inconsistent approaches in the delivery of instrumental music tuition across Scotland, with IMTs in some areas unable to return safely to school and having to adapt and develop new approaches for practical online teaching – often with insufficient resources and support; the damaging impact of the pandemic on young people’s access to music tuition, particularly those currently studying for SQA qualifications and those from disadvantaged backgrounds; fears that any reduction in provision could lead to fewer students learning music, with serious implications for the future of instrumental music service and for IMT jobs.

There are also serious concerns that the growing practice of charging for instrumental music tuition is having a direct impact on pupil participation and on equity of provision. Twenty-seven local authorities have now introduced some form of charging regime, through the introduction of tuition fees, instrument hire charges or a combination of both, leaving only five councils across Scotland, where there are no costs associated with access to instrumental music tuition.

In some areas of Scotland, annual charges are now in excess of £300 per pupil, with charges reaching £524 per annum in one authority.

The result is that while non-charging local authorities have seen an increase in pupil numbers of 31.4 per cent since 2012/13, charging authorities have had an overall decline of 12.7 per cent in pupil numbers over the same period.

Commenting, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Scotland is rapidly moving towards a scenario where only children from well-off families can learn to play an instrument. This is unjust and unacceptable. We must reverse the trend of charging to allow free access to music education for all, particularly those for whom the poverty-related attainment gap has widened as a result of COVID-19.”