Music cuts and the growing inequalities in educational opportunities

Your report (March 13) for a musical instrument amnesty to encourage donations of unwanted musical instruments for use by others as well as the Scottish Government’s recent announcement of £1.6 million for the Youth Music Initiative (YMI) will have pleased anyone who wants to see youth music flourish in Scotland.

However, these moves are little more than headline-grabbing drops in the ocean when local authorities are cutting free or subsidised instrumental tuition because of year-on-year cuts by the Scottish Government to the block grant it gives councils.

The reasons instrumental tuition is always targeted are, first, that there is no statutory obligation on local authorities to provide it. Second, number-crunchers regard it as a minority interest and luxury extra people can pay for.

The problem is free instruments or one-off workshops or group music-making projects can have no lasting effect unless participants have access to regular professional teaching over years. This is the bread and butter of youth music, without which it cannot grow.

Already instrumental music tuition in Fife’s schools is severely rationed and beyond the means of many families.

As in so much educational and social provision these days, one-off projects may be brilliant and benefit a lucky few, but they mask what are at root Scottish Government cuts to core local authority services.

Little wonder, then, that these projects have so little impact on the growing inequalities in educational opportunity and consequent life-chances for our young people.

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