Call to save music classes in Jak Trueman’s honour

A number of teenagers face losing their music lessons. Picture: Ian Rutherford
A number of teenagers face losing their music lessons. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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ANGRY parents have started a petition against cuts to free music tuition for school pupils in honour of cancer teenager Jak Trueman.

West Lothian Council voted last month to approve its budget for the next three years, which includes cuts of £275,000 to its Instrumental Music Service.

The service provides free music lessons to primary and secondary school pupils, which included West Calder High pupil Jak who took part in tuba lessons through school.

The 15-year-old played in the school band and passed his grade five with a merit before he was diagnosed with the rare form of blood cancer which claimed his life this month.

The petition has been set up by Marion Grindlay, whose son Rory played drums with a group of pupils at Jak’s funeral last week.

The mum-of-two, who lives in West Calder, said: “It is disgraceful. I can understand that they need to make cuts but it shouldn’t be targeting music and the arts. It will be affecting our kids.”

Mrs Grindlay, who runs Thistles Coffee shop in West Calder with her husband Bob, added: “It’s awful as music is so important to so many of them.

“They just lost a friend and music is a real help to them. Now that is being taken away.”

Support for the petition has poured in, with the appeal attracting more than 2100 signatures since it was set up on Monday.

One of those backing the campaign is musician Alec Dalglish, 29, who is lead singer of award-winning Celtic-rock band Skerryvore.

Alec, who grew up in Livingston, said: “I signed the petition because I think music for young people is incredibly important.

“It is always one of the first things to be cut in these situations which is a shame because it helps with development in so many areas.

“I certainly wouldn’t have got as far in music as I have, or even become a musician, if it weren’t for the teaching and encouragement I received.”

The former Deans Community High School pupil, who studied euphonium and guitar, has called for the decision to be overturned.

He added: “Music is something West Lothian really has going for it and I’d have thought they’d want to protect that.”

The plans were approved by full council as part of efforts to fill an estimated £29.4 million budget shortfall over the next three years.

A West Lothian Council spokesman said: “West Lothian has an excellent record of delivering high-quality free music tuition for our pupils, and this will continue in the future.

“We currently spend £1.175m in instrumental music each year, delivering free music tuition and ensemble groups across West Lothian.”

The council plans to save costs by increasing group teaching and reducing travel, although it has pledged the quality will remain the same.

The spokesman said: “We have an estimated budget gap of £29.4m over the next three years, as the money we receive from the Scottish Government is not enough to cover rising costs.

“Responses from local residents to our recent Delivering Better Outcomes Consultation said they would prefer to see reductions in non-statutory services, which includes instrumental music.”