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”The furore over instrumental tuition cuts comes as Scotland’s biggest teaching union this week warned that state education in Scotland is no longer free, with many pupils “missing out” on key choices because of the costs they face in subjects such as home economics, art and design and technical studies – as well as in music.The EIS said charging parents for course materials, equipment and school trips undermines the principle of “equal opportunity for all” in Scotland’s schools.“The instrument tuition is one thing, but it is playing in the orchestras, where they are all together, making that big noise, where he really gets the enjoyment.Even if he continues learning the violin privately, there will be no ensemble for him to take part in.”John Wallace, chair of the Scottish Government’s Music Education Partnership Group and the former head of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, is behind a campaign to end the erosion of music tuition across Scotland.I consider myself fortunate to be able to afford this, however, Clackmannanshire is not an affluent area and many other families will not be able to justify this kind of expense, especially in the early stages when children are still exploring their strengths and weaknesses.“It will not take long for the effects of children dropping out due to financial strains to show on the council’s balance sheet and provision will again be up on the list to be cut.
Gornall’s 17-year-old daughter, Abby, who is due to leave school in the summer and also plays the violin, has benefitted from years performing in local orchestras, but her brother will no longer have the same opportunity.“He plays in the Bathgate Junior Strings and Linlithgow Symphonic, but they are both run by the council tutors, who will no longer be in place, so they are to be closed down,” says Gornall.He says the number of instrumental music teachers employed by councils in Scotland has dropped from around 1,150 to 640 over the past decade.Meanwhile, the cuts in West Lothian alone will see between 600 and 800 fewer children taking instrumental lessons in the next academic year.“It is a little bit of a lottery at the moment,” he says.“[The YMI] has made a huge impact, helping young people in all 32 local authorities access music-making opportunities and helping to ensure every pupil is offered a year’s free music tuition by the end of primary school.”Campaigner Ralph Riddiough, from Ayr, who plays in local brass ensembles and has three children who learn various instruments at school, says the government’s investment, alongside other centrally funded projects, is not enough.Ironically, some campaigners believe it is the centrally funded projects, flagships of the Scottish Government, which are detracting from the basic music tuition for youngsters from ordinary backgrounds.
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“If the rate of the actual instrument teaching keeps on eroding at the current rate, we won’t have many left in a few years.” campaign in 2012, Let The Children Play, lobbied for free instrumental tuition in schools.