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Scottish teaching union calls for end of instrumental tuition 'postcode lottery'

7 January 2013, Rhian Morgan

Scotland's largest teaching union has called on local authorities to end charges for instrumental music lessons in schools.

Currently, 24 of Scotland’s 32 councils charge pupils up to £340 a year. The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), which has more than 60,000 members, said some students were also being charged for sitting Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) music exams. Learning and skills minister Alasdair Allan has already announced a review into the way councils charge for lessons, saying the government wanted 'greater clarity'.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said 'the postcode lottery of provision that has emerged across Scotland - with wide variations in fee policy and the level of charges for instrumental music tuition - is causing significant damage to the availability of music education for children in some parts of the country.

'A recent EIS survey of instrumental music tuition in schools found huge variations in the level of fees that pupils are expected to pay - while some councils provide free tuition in their schools or charge only for equipment hire, others are charging pupils up to £340 a year for their tuition.

'Even more worrying is the damaging practice in some local authority areas of actually charging pupils for presentation to SQA music exams. This is simply unacceptable from both an education and equality point of view and must be one of the top priorities for the new working group to address.'

A Scottish government spokesman said 'the Instrumental Music Group, chaired by David Green, and including representation from EIS, will investigate and offer recommendations on the issues of delivering instrumental music tuition, including the question of charges for pupils sitting SQA music exams. We welcome the experience that EIS will bring to the group and look forward to working with them on this issue.'

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) has denied there is a 'postcode lottery for music tuition', while education secretary Mike Russell said that charging for music lessons in schools was 'undesirable but difficult to avoid'.

COSLA’s  education spokesman Douglas Chapman added, 'It is a fact that instrumental music tuition costs money and has to be paid for in some way. Local authorities that do not charge, or who apply lower charges, will still have to subsidise music tuition from other budgets. It is not a cost-free option not to charge for music tuition.'

Meanwhile, the Scottish government has set aside an extra £1m to buy musical instruments for schools. Professor John Wallace, principal of the Glasgow-based Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which will be working with councils to distribute the instruments, said the fund 'will support music education in Scotland and make music instruction more accessible. 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.'

More voices join criticism of English Baccalaureate

7 January 2013, Rhian Morgan

The Musicians’ Union (MU) and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain are the latest groups to oppose government proposals to introduce an English Baccalaureate (EBacc) qualification which does not include arts subjects.

The MU believes the Ebacc, which is set to replace GCSEs from 2017, would remove the incentive for schools to teach arts subjects. It has specifically called for the 'continuation of music as a statutory core subject to the end of Key Stage 3 and the opportunity to continue this at Key Stage 4 for those who want to pursue the subject at this level'. Its main concern is that all children have access to 'high quality, practical musical opportunities ... delivered by a motivated and resourced workforce which helps deliver the next generation of musicians'.

The Writers' Guild, meanwhile, says it has 'deep concerns about the exclusion of the arts as qualifying subjects in current proposals for the English Baccalaureate'. While it recognises the importance of subjects such as English, maths and science, it also wants 'core recognition' of cultural and artistic subjects, urging the government to ensure that provision for an arts option is safeguarded for the future enrichment of the nation.

Bacc for the Future, the campaign to include creative subjects in the Ebacc, is being led by the Incorporated Society of Musicians. More than 40,000 people have signed the campaign's petition. The Department for Education consultation on the EBacc closed in December, but the petition can still be signed at www.baccforthefuture.com.

2012 Queen's Medal for Music awarded to National Youth Orchestra

2 January 2013, Rhian Morgan

The 2012 Queen’s Medal for Music has been awarded to the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (NYO). The annual prize, which is awarded to an outstanding individual or group of musicians who have had a major influence on the musical life of the nation, was received by members of the NYO during the London Symphony Orchestra’s Queen's Medal for Music Gala Concert at the Barbican.

The NYO is the first ensemble to receive the award and is the eighth winner since the prize was established in 2005. Previous recipients include Bryn Terfel, Sir Colin Davis, the soprano Dame Emma Kirkby and oboist Nicholas Daniel.

Sarah Alexander, chief executive and artistic director of the NYO, said the award is a 'fantastic accolade for our teenagers who are committed ambassadors for their art form.

'This award recognises their hard work and dedication to music-making. Through their performances and projects they cascade their love of music as a life-affirming activity to thousands of other musicians and music lovers across the country.

'It is fitting that the presentation took place at a London Symphony Orchestra concert, especially as one-fifth of its current members came up through the NYO. We look forward to continuing to champion the development of young musicians and shaping the future of the orchestra.'

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies said he was 'delighted that the NYO is this year’s winner of The Queen’s Medal for Music. This award celebrates the overwhelmingly positive influence the NYO has had on the musical world as the standard-bearer for youth orchestras, both at home and abroad. When you conduct an orchestra its quality is always enhanced by a core of former NYO members and the boundless talent that they bring. The NYO is undoubtedly a worthy and deserving recipient of this year’s award.'

More than 650 teenagers were auditioned for NYO 2013 and 87 new members joined the orchestra for its Winter course. In July, the orchestra will perform at Buckingham Palace alongside a tour to Northern Ireland, and it will give its first performance - in its 64-year history - of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

www.nyo.org.uk

Whitgift School launches International Music Competition

29 November 2012

Whitgift School, an independent boys’ secondary school in South Croydon, has launched a new International Music Competition, offering music scholarships as prizes.

The International Music Competition is open to string players only, with three age categories: 12-13, 14-15 and 16-17. To apply, musicians need to submit a YouTube video of them performing a piece of their choice along with brief programme notes. The winners will be selected by a jury after a series of live performances, taking place between 29 June and 3 July 2013.

Among others, the jury will consist of Royal Academy of Music professor Remus Azoitei, cellist and former BBC Young Musician Guy Johnston and Whitgift’s director of music development, Rosanna Whitfield. Winners will be announced at a special gala concert on 3 July 2013 and will perform the first movement of their chosen concerto with the school orchestra in a public concert.

Rosanna Whitfield said she was ‘hugely proud to be part of this educational initiative, which gives us the chance to offer so many wonderful performing opportunities to talented young musicians from around the world’.

The school, which opens new boarding facilities next year, has a 300-seat concert hall, suites for percussion, guitar, brass and string instruments, eight practice rooms and a music library. One scholarship, which will comprise boarding accommodation, full fees and instrumental lessons, will be given per age category. There are also cash prizes and performance opportunities with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Winners will begin studying at Whitgift School during academic year 2013-14. The application deadline is 1 March, and application forms are available at whitgift.co.uk/WIMC.

New funding for national youth music organisations

29 November 2012

Eight national youth music organisations are to receive a total of almost £2.25m from Arts Council England (ACE) and the Department for Education (DfE) to help them run their programmes from April 2013 to March 2015.

ACE’s director of learning, Laura Gander-Howe, confirmed its continuing commitment to the projects in a speech at a Music Education Council seminar in London, saying: ‘We have exceptional talent in this country, and the national youth music organisations are crucial to ensuring that the musical stars of the future are nurtured and developed. Gaining a place in one of these orchestras is a significant achievement both for the young person concerned and for the teachers who have helped them get there.’

The organisations are: Youth Music Theatre UK (£300,000); National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (£500,000); South Asian Music Youth Orchestra (£236,280); National Youth Choirs of Great Britain (£214,800); National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain (£161,100); Music for Youth (£343,680); National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain (£236, 280); National Youth Jazz Collective (£257, 760).

ace.org.uk


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