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Parents fight back against music cut proposals

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By Charlotte MacKay
Annan and Eskdale
Parents fight back against music cut proposals

DUMFRIES and Galloway Council could become the first local authority in Scotland to remove instrumental instruction in schools - but campaigners are fighting back

Earlier this month the local authority published a list of cost cutting proposals which had been prepared by council officers.

One of the plans would mean that only pupils studying for an SQA exam – about 200 students – would receive instrumental instruction in schools, with non SQA pupils being directed to community groups and private tutors.

SQA tuition would be delivered by “building capacity” with teachers in music departments and bringing in individual experts from community-based music organisations, leading to a saving of £292k in 2020/21 and £421k in 2021/22.

Currently pupils are given the opportunity to receive instrumental instruction from P5 onwards in a subsidised service, with parents paying £200 per child per school year.

A petition against the proposed cut, started by Dumfries mum Michelle Mcdougall, gathered more than 800 signatures in less than 24 hours, rising to 2500 in the space of five days.

Michelle said: “Our community has achieved so much musically that it would be an absolute shame to see this all disappear.

“Every child should have the same opportunity regardless of their family’s finances.”

Michelle said music has a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing and improves communication skills.

It has also been shown that children who learn a musical instrument perform better in other school subjects like English and maths.

She continued: “The impact on the wider community would mean that bands in the area would eventually fold with no new players coming through.

“We would be the only region in Scotland to do this. Midlothian stopped this from happening, we can too.”

Meanwhile, Annan mum Vicky Keir has set up a Facebook page, D&G Kids Need Instrument Tuition in Schools, to challenge any potential council decision about reducing or removal instrumental instruction.

She said: “Without early music tuition kids will not reach a sufficient standard to play an instrument for their National 5 exam.”

“As a parent I have had the immense pleasure of watching my kids reap the benefits of school music tuition and I want to see this continue for my kids and others.”

Last week council leader Elaine Murray clarified that the list of savings published are suggestions from officials and have not yet been agreed or endorsed by councillors.

She said they had been published to allow the public to comment on them prior to the political groups putting together their official budget proposals.

Nationally, lawyer and community musician Ralph Riddough is currently challenging the lawfulness of fees for musical instrument tuition in state schools via a formal complaint with the Scottish Government.


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