Let The Children Play: £1m will let youngsters follow their dreams

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THE £1 million musical instrument fund to be set up in response to the Let The Children Play campaign is a landmark initiative that will allow thousands of Scottish school children access to playing a musical instrument.

It will be run by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which has been tasked with working alongside local councils to make sure instruments are placed where they are needed most.

A number of local authorities in Scotland charge an annual fee of up to £83 for the hire of an instrument, and in those that don’t, there are often not enough instruments to go around, with the ones available frequently of poor quality. It means that for many children who wish to take lessons, there simply aren’t the instruments available. The fund will go some way to changing this.

Professor John Wallace, principal of the Glasgow-based RCS, said: “The fund will support music education in Scotland and make music instruction more accessible through the provision of these instruments. One of the biggest problems in music education is that there aren’t enough instruments to go around. They’re very expensive, and often unaffordable for local authorities.”

Wallace hopes that by buying instruments in bulk, as the fund will allow the RCS to do, prices will be lowered. “If you buy instruments in bulk you can beat down prices by as much as 50 per cent,” he said.

The plan will be to purchase instruments, which will range from strings to brass to woodwind, and then work with local authorities to make sure they go to the right places.

Scotland on Sunday’s campaign had highlighted the vast differences in the numbers of children learning instruments in affluent areas compared to those in more deprived communities.

In Dundee, for example, children are charged £132 per year to learn an instrument, and then face an additional £83 fee for instrument hire. Our report in October revealed that in the city’s affluent Broughty Ferry, where just 1 per cent of the population is classed as ­income-deprived, 83 children are receiving instrumental music lessons, whereas in the city’s Kirkton area, where 32 per cent of the population are classed as income-deprived, only four children learn an instrument.

Scotland on Sunday’s coverage has shown that provision is quite patchy,” Wallace said. “If you’re in Broughty Ferry you’re OK, but if you’re in a deprived area it’s a different story. It’s something we really have to talk to local authorities about to make sure the instruments get to the parts where they’re really needed.

“We’ll be looking at getting these instruments in to primary schools across Scotland, and giving as many children as possible the opportunity to learn. If we can get a child playing a musical instrument that they otherwise couldn’t afford, then that’s brilliant.”