Council offers free pipes tuition after U-turn

Callum Downie, left, and Aidan Foulner descend on City Chambers to push for change. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Callum Downie, left, and Aidan Foulner descend on City Chambers to push for change. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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PUPILS studying traditional pipes and drums for their exams are to be offered free ­tuition at the Capital’s dedicated music school after a climbdown by education chiefs.

The move comes after angry families launched a campaign for dedicated tutors in city schools to serve young pipers and drummers preparing to sit music tests set by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

Parents of pupils who want to study the instruments at National and Higher level previously faced forking out for private lessons or turning to volunteers – but now their children will be able to attend the City of Edinburgh Music School at Broughton High.

The plan is likely to save parents a fortune, with many music tutors charging upwards of £20 an hour.

And performers are to get another boost after city leaders announced plans to establish an Edinburgh-wide band.

Parents have welcomed the new commitment but said teaching should be available at a pupil’s home school to avoid excessive disruption to the school day.

Mother and campaigner Fiona Maclean, who has had to pay for bagpipe lessons for her 14-year-old son, Callum, an S3 pupil at Boroughmuir High, said: “The proposal to offer free piping tuition is very welcome. However, surely it’s important this tuition is ­delivered at the home school, on a par with the other ­instruments that pupils study.”

Education leaders said the proposal to provide free tuition at Broughton could be achieved within the council’s existing music school budget as only a handful of youngsters are preparing the for SQA courses.

Parents said robust fact-finding would be crucial to ensuring all children with an active interest, who may want to study the instruments at exam level, are catered for. There needs to be a full and proper assessment of demand for the pipes, chanter and drums at primary school level to understand and prepare for the pupils coming up through that process,” said Ms Maclean.

“At South Morningside, there are 35 pupils doing the pipes and chanter, and 16 doing drums, and that’s one primary school. It’s really important to plan ahead – across all of the primary sector – to understand what that means. On the idea of a piping band for the city – wow. What a really exciting prospect.”

Education leaders said they were happy to support pupils.

But they have warned they are constrained by a “finite” financial resource and that introducing the pipes and drums into the Capital’s instrumental music service would require an additional budget of up to £400,000.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, warned: “Even if we measure demand and it was shown that there is a huge demand, you would have to accept that not all of that demand could possibly be met.”