Angus Council’s Survey Suggests More Cuts to Music Could Be on the Way

By Amy Louise Grant

More cuts to music education could be expected throughout Angus it has been announced. A recent survey published by the council asks the public whether they should cut the number of specialist visiting teachers to primary schools.

Music tuition in schools is often seen as an excellent way to engage pupils by allowing them to learn a new skill, meet new friends and participate in local bands, orchestras and concerts. However, when it comes to budget cuts, music is often hit the hardest with the expensive tuition and instruments required.

In the past five years, Angus Council has increased the cost of music tuition fees by 38% from £126 for the 2007/2008 school year to £174 for 2011/2012 academic year. These fees cover the cost of teaching the child, providing an instrument on loan and transport to-and-from various bands or orchestras that they will be required to participate in.

Angus Council is currently challenged with decreasing annual spending by £23 million by the year 2014 and is exploring the option of cutting the amount of time visiting teachers have to primary schools as a way to save money.

If there is to be a reduction in music tuition for younger pupils in Angus then it is feared that the exceptionally high standards these pupils are performing at could be lost.

Music tuition is often thought of as just a way for a child to spend their leisure time. However, some feel that the benefits of music are much greater than allowing a child to enjoy learning to play an instrument. A retired music teacher, who wishes not to be named said:

“It (music) teaches coordination, helps concentration and stimulates awareness of rhythm.”

She continued saying: “It encourages self-discipline and teaches pupils how to work together as a team to achieve the best result… (It) encourages children to have confidence to perform.”

However, many teachers often feel that music is not as important as other subjects when it comes to learning the basic life skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic. And with an average class size of 23 in Angus, many teachers are daunted with the prospect of young children and instruments. The music teacher acknowledged this and said:

“Teachers in Infant Schools generally use music as a regular part of everyday activities and they know very well what an important aid to learning it can be.”

“Primary staff are generally much more wary – so much to get through in the curriculum it’s difficult for some to make time.”

Therefore, with class teachers cautious when it comes to teaching their pupils music, many pupils rely solely on the tuition of specialist teachers to educate them about music.

In Angus, music teachers are highly respected, with school brass teacher Michael Robertson recently receiving the Mortimer Medal in recognition of his services to the teaching of young people in brass bands. Mr Robertson started the award winning Carnoustie and District Youth Brass Band in 2008 and it is made up of young adults from across Angus, many of whom receive music tuition in school. The band is currently British Champions for the third year running and is renowned in the brass community.

 

Laura Burdin is a member of the CDYBB and has been receiving music tuition since primary five. When asked what she remembered about her experience of being a local primary school pupil receiving music tuition she replied:

“We didn’t get much time with Mr Robertson, he had one morning at Carlogie Primary a week and he had to fit all the pupils that played brass there in that one morning. It was really difficult and you ended up having to share your lesson with someone else so you didn’t get one-to-one tuition.”

It is apparent that even ten years ago shortages in music staff were noticeable, with most pupils sharing a lesson between up to five others, who may be playing different instruments. Miss Burdin then went on to comment on what she felt would happen if these proposed cuts went ahead, she said:

“I think it really depends on child’s determination to be good, but getting a kid to be determined at primary age is hard and I think Mr Robertson brings out that determination to be good. I think less time with him or any tutor would definitely have a negative effect on the high standards of music in Angus.”

However, Angus Council is faced with the tough task of decreasing their annual spending and all sectors are expected to embrace any cutbacks that will come as a result. When asked about the cuts to the number of specialist music teachers, Angus Council replied:

“The question regarding specialist teachers is only one of a variety of options outlined within the survey, and no decision will be made on this until next year’s budget setting.”

They declined to comment on the 38% rise in tuition fees over the last five years.

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One Response

  1. I think this is idea ridiculous. My boyfriend is an English teacher and I know he gets wound up by government and council plans to cut ‘non-academic’ subjects to save on budgets. What is interesting is that as a teacher of English, a subject regarded as very important over many others, he has taken up sports coaching in the last year which has had a huge impact on the way the kids work in his classes. He has been pushing to get departments such as art and music to collaborate with the English department because no matter how good a kid is at the subject or how much they like it, it’s these arts departments that can help engage those pupils that are struggling. This is just one of many problems in the education sector in regards to the government and one main concern is that the people that control the country do not know as much about the topics within as they should. Maybe if those in charge were previously teachers it would be different.

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