Music is the beating heart of curriculum
There are an increasing number of local authorities across Scotland charging for music lessons, including for SQA examination tuition, raising fears that some pupils from low-income families will be completely left out.
Violinist Nicola Benedetti, who can perhaps speak with more authority on this than anyone else, made plain her views that there is not nearly enough focus on music in our schools. It is incumbent upon the rest of us to listen.
As well as pointing out the potential damage within our schools, she also said we must not ignore the wider ambition to provide greater cultural opportunities for young people in Scotland and the desire to promote the country in the wider international community.
Several contributors to this newspaper have written about why music has meant so much to them. It is clear from their stories why music should be a core part of the extra-curriculum as well as being available within the normal school timetable, and why it should be available on a universal basis.
It is also clear that music inspires a wide range of pupils, whether they are pursuing the subject as a rigorous academic discipline with a view to studying it at university, talented singers or instrumentalists, or whether they simply enjoy the fun that music can bring.
But it also has the power to change lives. The capacity of music to richly reward creative instincts, to provide a crucial focus for extra- curricular activity, and to raise self-esteem, is also important for the promotion of pupil self-discipline.
As a teacher, it struck me that the pupils who were most enthusiastic about music were often those who performed well in other subjects and who adhered to very high standards of personal behaviour. We need only look at the extraordinary success of the Big Noise in Raploch to recognise just how powerful that can be.
That is why it is of such huge concern that music tuition is no longer free in several council areas, and it is also why I asked the convener of the education committee at Holyrood to put this matter on the agenda of today’s meeting, so members can have the opportunity to question key witnesses about the reality of what is happening in our schools.
I’m pleased to say that there is cross-party agreement to look at this issue, not least because I know many MSPs have been on the receiving end of letters and e-mails from worried constituents.
I think we all understand the financial pressures on councils just now and realise that some difficult decisions have to be made. Music, however, is a priority along with many other core subjects and, if necessary, councils will have to be imaginative about finding other ways in which they can find the necessary cash.
What is to stop them, for example, extending the concept of cultural trusts and making approaches to local businesses which might – on the same basis as happens in some sports – sponsor musical activity in the local community?
Today, Holyrood’s education committee has an opportunity to hear the experts talk. Let’s hope we also have the political will to put music back at the centre of the school curriculum.
Liz Smith, MSP
Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West