Tam Baillie: Lack of money should be no bar to playing an instrument

I’M DELIGHTED to support Scotland on Sunday’s Let The Children Play campaign on this issue, which is one that’s so important for children and young people’s learning and development.

Instrumental music tuition may present an easy target for spending cuts, but I ­believe that it would actually be a false economy. There is now hard evidence from studies in the UK and the US around the positive impact of musical ­instruction on children’s learning and attainment ­levels.

Less easy to measure, but equally important, is the increase in confidence, happiness and social skills that so many parents and music teachers report; you just need to think of the magical impact of the Sistema Scotland/Big Noise project to get the picture.

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At the heart of the Sistema project is the concept that no child should be prevented from learning or playing a musical instrument because there isn’t the opportunity or their family is too poor. This fundamental concept of equality of education and learning opportunities is one that is very important to Scottish children and young people themselves.

Two years ago, I held a wide-ranging consultation with children and young people in every local authority across Scotland, to listen to their views. I called it “A Right Blether”.

More than 74,000 young people from 534 schools and other organisations cast their votes in a Scotland-wide ballot to choose the top four issues they wanted me to take action on.

“Where we learn we should have the same chances no matter how much money our families have,” came in the top four – a powerful reminder that young people from all sorts of backgrounds believe strongly that we need to create a more equitable society in Scotland.

This newspaper’s Let The Children Play campaign obviously resonates with the messages that children and young people provided through A Right Blether.

The Scottish Government’s stated ambition is to make Scotland the “best place in the world for a child to grow up”. For me this is a Scotland which honours our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The UNCRC explicitly states that the “education of the child shall be directed to… the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential”.

The UNCRC does not yet have force in law in Scotland. However, children’s minister Aileen Campbell recently 
stated that it is the government’s intention to create “a nation where children’s rights have practical application”, adding that the UNCRC provides the “principles and values to which we all should aspire”.

So I urge the Scottish Government, local authorities and Creative Scotland to work together to ensure that there is equity of provision and charging in terms of musical instruction and instrumental tuition across Scotland, so that children from all walks of life can benefit, regardless of where they live or the wealth of their family.

• Tam Baillie is Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People