The news the other day that Scotland’s devolved government is to abolish fees for children learning a musical instrument at school should be welcomed, writes the Editor.
We expect that this will cover piping and drumming tuition. As ever, the devil is in the detail. The £7m promised is for the school terms within the academic year 2021 -2022.
Thereafter the government has pledged to work with local authority leaders to develop ‘a more sustainable means of funding’.
If the cuts to local authority grants continue as outlined in the graph below I cannot see how these negotiations can be successful.
It was, after all, as a result of these cuts that many of the local authorities (they run the state schools in Scotland) cancelled music lessons or started charging for them.
One year of lessons for any child is simply not good enough. We all know how long it takes to train a young piper or drummer. There is no sense in starting lessons this September and leaving a kid in the lurch come next June.
Think of the dilemma in some less well off families. A couple of children have started school lessons on chanter and drum pad.
The talks on a ‘sustainable system of music tutition’ between the government and council have got nowhere. What do the parents do? Find a band probably. If they are lucky there will be one locally. If not?
We cannot keep relying on the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust to take up what they can of the slack. They do important work as it is, but there is a limit to their largesse.
However, let us not be too negative about this latest government initiative. The £7m is a good beginning.
Henceforth politicians and the teaching establishment must ensure that music education is inextricably woven into the fabric of our school system as it is in other countries.
It must not be seen as some adjunct, some bolt on, an afterthought. It must be treated as a core subject and the national instrument given pride of place in the music curriculum.