Scottish teaching union won’t bow to music cuts

Free tuition for instruments such as the violin is under threat from Edinburgh city council cutbacks

Free tuition for instruments such as the violin is under threat from Edinburgh city council cutbacks

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Scotland’s biggest teaching union has vowed to fight plans to charge for music classes as it emerged more than 7,000 people have joined a campaign against the cost-cutting measure in Edinburgh.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said it is “totally opposed to plans which could force the parents of hundreds of pupils to pay for weekly music tuition for the first time in the city.

EIS officials have warned the union will resist moves to charge any pupils for access to the long-standing “world-class” provision on offer in Edinburgh.

They say the move, which would save the city council £1.7 million over four years, would be a major “backward step”. The union, which represents more than 3,500 city council staff, said the new charges would prevent pupils’ developing life-changing skills in music. The EIS’s intervention has emerged in the wake of criticism of the council’s proposed move from violinist Nicola Benedetti and saxophonist Tommy Smith, founder and director of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.

The council is proposing a 75 per cent cut to its instrumental tuition budget and the creation of a new “social enterprise” which would be able to raise funds from the private sector.

But the petition raised in response to the proposals said the move threatened the future of school orchestras, ensembles and choirs.

Alison Thornton, secretary of the Edinburgh Local Association of the EIS, said: “Edinburgh currently has a world-class instrumental music tuition provision with instrumental music teachers delivering high quality tuition to pupils across all of our primary and secondary schools.

“This provision is universally free to all pupils. The instrumental music teachers not only deliver tuition in schools but also are responsible for leading the large number of city wide orchestras, bands and ensembles.

“It is not without a certain amount of irony this proposal has been put out for public consultation at the very time of year when the commitment and expertise that instrumental music teachers share with their pupils is put on show through many performances taking place in all venues across the city.

“These performances are hugely appreciated by thousands of parents, members of the public, school based colleagues and fellow pupils.

“Edinburgh is not only the capital of Scotland but the hub of many cultural activities, not least music. Many pupils take forward activities started at school into their adult lives and any proposal that could place barriers in the way of school pupils being able to engage in such activities would be a backward step.”

Councillors are to vote on the proposals in January.