When councillors voted in favour of fees for instrumental tuition they also voted for lessons to be 25 minutes and for instructors to be strictly timetabled to follow this. The length of the lessons and the way in which they are timetabled cause huge problems for instructors all the way through pupils’ musical education.
This new restriction causes problems right from the beginning of a pupil’s musical education. When most pupils begin to learn an instrument at school they tend to do so in groups of three of four. Twenty five minutes is simply not long enough to get four instruments out and tuned and then have a decent amount of time to play. This alone can be challenging for instructors but with back to back lessons timetabled groups of children as young as eight have to find their own way to lessons, which is cutting minutes off the already shortened lessons.
Parents are therefore paying pounds of money every week for their children to walk from their class room to their music lesson. It also puts the responsibility of getting children to and from their lessons from the instructor to the class teacher, taking time away from their teaching. Such short lessons do not create a dedicated attitude for the pupils. They will struggle to find motivation to practice at home for a shared 20 minute lesson a week.
Once children get to secondary school instrumental tuition takes on more of a purpose – examinations. Many do this through the SQA doing Standard Grades, Highers and Advanced Highers. The Advanced Higher practical exam requires 15 minutes of playing. The 25 minute lesson pupils are entitled to every week gives enough time for the pupil to tune up their instrument, warm up with scales and play through their pieces perfectly once. This makes it impossible to pick apart pieces and bring it up to the high standards expected by examiners. Other students sitting grades, concert exams, etc. also face the same problems. Pupils who are sitting both an SQA exam and a grade in the same year will find this near enough, if not, impossible. The main effect this will have is on older pupils who have a time restriction in which to sit music exams. Many will need to sit exams before they leave school so that they can use it to go onto further musical education. It also makes it hard to pupils who are in their last year or two of education who have aspirations to pass
grades and SQA examinations before they leave.
The musical education which the tutors offer will be majorly cut back, if not totally disappear because of the 25 minute lessons. Currently tutors teach pupils about music, the concepts and offer a better musical understanding than simply playing a tune. Pupils who are preparing pieces for examinations will only receive instruction on how to simply play the tunes in a way in which they are required. The instructors will not be able to give them a better understanding of the music they are playing.
A hugely important part of the music tuition is the groups and bands which the instructors voluntarily run at lunchtimes and after school. The chance for pupils to play alongside other pupils and perform for an audience is hugely valuable and important. However, if instructors are being paid per lesson how can it be expected of them to continue the extra groups. Festivals such as the Folk Festival and the Accordion and Fiddle Festival will then have no bands to fill up their very popular youth concerts.
It was inevitable that the tuition fees were going to be introduced. Although at the time many people objected they must accept that music tuition is an extra-curricular activity and therefore they are going to have to pay for it. But many do not know the consequences of the 25 minute lessons to the pupils. The approximate 6.3 hours lost per year per pupil is going to seriously lesson the musical education which they receive through Shetland Islands Council.
Music pupils at
Anderson High School