Let the children play case study: Mother of twins faced with agonising choice
WHEN Louise Burns’ twin boys started high school this year she was keen that they both start learning an instrument. As a clarinetist herself who played in local school groups and the Tayside Wind Orchestra, she knew the benefits, and wanted both her sons to experience them as well.
So when she discovered that her sons would be charged £246 each for instrumental music lessons at Crieff High School in Perth and Kinross – a local authority which has the sixth highest charging figures in the country – she was dismayed.
“It’s the amount,” she says. “Families on benefits get their lessons for free, but it’s the people stuck in the middle who don’t have a big budget that get squeezed.”
Her son Ewan started clarinet lessons, and when Jamie came home and said he was considering percussion lessons, she started to worry.
“It would be a struggle to meet the costs of the two of them playing,” she says.
“I think it’s shocking because already stretched household budgets will not cover this sort of thing. It’s very sad that some children will not even get the chance to even try a musical instrument due to the costs involved.”
Last week, after just a couple of weeks of lessons, Ewan handed back his clarinet to the school saying it wasn’t for him. Although disappointing for Ewan, it means the family can now afford for Jamie to get the percussion lessons that he wants without putting too tight a squeeze on family finances.
“To have had both of them learning would have worked out very expensive, but I know the enjoyment you can get out of it, so I wouldn’t have wanted to deny either of them,” she says.
“If both of them had wanted to continue we would have struggled and tried our best to sort something out to cover the cost.”
Louise says she knows of a number of parents who just don’t entertain the idea because of the prohibitive costs involved.
“Quite a lot of them just say no from the start. They don’t even look at the instrument costs or speak to the tutors, they just say no on the grounds of cost,” she says.
Louise says she wishes the charges were fairer, and there was more room for children to try things out before families make such a huge financial commitment.
“At the very least I’d like to see the first term free as a taster,” she says. “That way they can have the chance to see if they’re going to like it or not.”
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Friday 24 May 2013
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