Music tuition defeat is “a lost opportunity”

Councillors missed the chance to have a “more inclusive” system of instrumental tuition by voting against proposed cuts to the service, local elected members have claimed.

Speaking at Forfar Community Council’s last meeting, Councillor Lynne Devine said the new system of instruction would have been “more exciting” and similar to the Big Noise project which operates successfully in Stirling.

Both Mrs Devine and fellow councillor Glennis Middleton said they thought the administration’s 15-14 defeat at full council was possibly due to misunderstanding on the part of some elected members.

Their comments followed an observation by chairwoman Isobel Ross who said she was pleased that tuition would continue.

The vote overturned a decision, taken at a children and learning committee meeting, to cut instrumental music staff by 36 per cent. It following an appeal Forfar Academy pupils at the full council meeting to maintain the status quo.

Addressing councillors, senior pupils Aiden Harvey and Geordie Cryle raised concerns that by targeting tuition could impede pupils going on to study music at university and alienate less well-off families who would have to seek private one-to-one tuition to compensate.

Mrs Devine said: “We did say that music instruction wouldn’t be in danger and that wasn’t being touched. This was instrumental tuition which involves a minority of young people who were going to get an opportunity for an even more inclusive system. It’s a lost opportunity to have a really exciting system of instruction.

“The ambition was to have an orchestra in each second school and out of that could come all different things so the vote went to a lesser system. Children would have learned in groups, which is more exciting and much more fun than a one-to-one situation, and once they had reached a certain level they would have been put in together.”

Mrs Middleton added that she was “hugely concerned” that the decision had been taken without regard to the authority’s restricted budget.

She said: “Some of the members who moved the amendment were speaking about music lessons while we were speaking about instrumental tuition. Piano and guitar lessons were highlighted because lessons can be had in every burgh, and it’s not hugely costly.

“Our biggest concern now is that we’re looking around for £200,000 and we don’t know where it’s coming from.”