Parents slam lack of schools piper tuition

Picture: Toby Williams
Picture: Toby Williams
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PARENTS have slammed the “shameful and absurd” absence of traditional piping and drumming tutors in the ­Capital’s schools.

The city council provides no funding for piping or drumming tuition in schools, and it has been warned that without dedicated tutors, the families of “hundreds” of children playing in parent and volunteer-led bands would have to fork out for private lessons if youngsters decide to study pipes and drums at exam level.

Now the situation is to be challenged by the city’s Green group, which is calling for pipe and drumming tuition to be properly funded in Edinburgh schools.

Mum-of-two Fiona Maclean, 51, who is paying for bagpipe lessons for her 14-year-old son, Callum, ahead of his National exams in music at Boroughmuir High, said: “It’s an anomaly – in Scotland’s capital there should be a presumption in favour of our national instruments being taught in school.

“If pupils want to study ­percussion, they can be taught the glockenspiel and they can be taught French horn, but not the pipes and drums.”

Parents and campaigners said the situation contrasted with that in many other ­Scottish local authorities, which already provide pipe and drumming tuition.

Midlothian does not offer school-based lessons but ­education chiefs in East Lothian said piping classes had been held there for “a number of years” thanks to a peripatetic tutor.

And in West Lothian, council leaders have hired a full-time bagpipe teacher, who works with 146 pupils.

Ms Maclean praised the overall standard of music teaching at Boroughmuir but said lack of tuition had caused a huge headache when her son chose to study the pipes for his S4 exams. “He said he didn’t know if he would be able to study pipes,” she said. “I said, ‘of course you will’. But he was right – that was the exact ­situation.”

Councillor Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for Edinburgh’s Greens, called the situation “astonishing” and said: “As the hundreds of primary pupils now learning pipes and drumming move into secondary school and make exams choices, surely we should provide them with the option to study what many consider to be our national instruments?”

But city education bosses said campaigners had failed to spell out how tuition would be funded.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Due to the financial climate facing all local authorities, there is no funding available to expand the service.

“To include drumming and the chanter to the city’s Instrumental Music Service without additional resources, as suggested by the Greens, would have an effect on current provision and could mean significantly cutting tuition currently available in other instruments.”

Callum’s hopes suffer a low blow

CALLUM Downie, 14, a member of Morningside Youth Pipe Band, said he was “disappointed and annoyed” at not being able to access specialist bagpipe tuition at Boroughmuir High while preparing for National 5 exams in music.

The piper, who took up the chanter six years ago before moving on to the pipes, said being told he would not be given tuition at school came as a blow.

He said: “I don’t think it’s right that the capital city of Scotland doesn’t even provide one school bagpipe tutor – there are so many other instruments I could be taught and tutored in, but not our national instrument.

“Getting the tuition at school would have been a lot easier for me but my parents are having to fund it privately.”