Council will not replace violin tutor who retired

Parents and pupils have been left disappointed by the council’s decision not to replace a violin tutor who retired from the schools service at Christmas, with one “desperate” 10-year-old trying to learn from a classmate.

A letter has gone to parents of children receiving violin tuition through the school, expressing “regret” that this will not continue.

When the tutor, Alan Gifford, retired the question of whether or not to replace him went before the council’s vacancy management panel – every vacant post is now scrutinised in this way. The decision was made at that time to replace him and the post was advertised in January. One person applied but was not appointed, apparently because of lack of qualifications and experience.

Schools service quality improvement officer Jerry Edwards said: “The post was approved and advertised but there were no suitable applicants.”

Although Mr Edwards had heard of several people who might have been able to do the job, he said: “If they apply they apply. We don’t headhunt.”

In any case, he explained, no appointment would now be made so close to the election of a new council, which will decide on budget savings. An instrumental review was currently under way and no permanent changes were being made meantime.

Mr Edwards said: “It wouldn’t be right to start children now with a new tutor who might [shortly] be made redundant.”

Other instrument tuition was on-going, he said. “They are all on established contracts until the council decides what it wants to do.”

Some pupils have been fortunate enough to continue lessons in a private capacity but Mr Gifford, and others, have no more vacancies.

Parent Gideon Johnston, whose 11-year-old daughter, a Bell’s Brae pupil who lost her tuition, said: “It’s getting nae better, if Orkney can do it [provide free music tuition] why can’t we. My lassie has had no lessons since before Christmas.

“It’s something that’s always been, always should be. We’re not really short of money, that’s absolute codswallop. They [the council] should be advertising in The Scotsman. They’re no trying hard enough. If it goes on any longer she’ll lose interest. It will be a year [of no tuition] by the time they decide anything.”

Parent Theresa Wyeth said her 10-year-old daughter had also had no official tuition since Christmas. But one of her daughter’s friends was having private tuition with the retired violin tutor – and after her class she came to teach Ms Wyeth’s daughter what she has learned.

Ms Wyeth said: “It [the situation] is completely desperate, but otherwise the fiddle won’t see the light of day again.”

She also feels more could be done to recruit tutors who are not necessarily highly qualified, when many pupils play mainly for enjoyment.

“What baffles me is that the island is full of competent and able players. Surely some tuition is better than no tuition. Possibly they need to lower the bar.”

Both these parents willingly paid for individual violin tuition. Although introducing charges for music tuition was, and remains, highly controversial – councillor Rick Nickerson resigned as culture and recreation spokesman in protest about the “tax on talent” – there is still a large waiting list.

Current council figures show 688 pupils throughout Shetland are receiving tuition in a wide range of instruments, with 121 on the waiting list. Pupils entitled to free school meals, clothing grants, or who are taking Standard Grade or Highers in their instrument, get tuition free of charge.

Piano and fiddle are the most popular choices, with 219 and 204 pupils respectively, with drums (49) and accordion (43) next. Other instruments on offer include cello (18), trumpet (17) cornet (11) alto sax (two) and mandolin, oboe and viola with one pupil each. However, not all schools offer the same instruments and there is only one tutor each for drums, brass and accordion.


Add Your Comment
  • Adi Ward

    • April 12th, 2012 20:37

    Hi there,

    I have just read this tweet and it breaks my heart. I am a violin teacher from yorkshire and I teach for the east riding schools music service and at Hull university and for yorkshire young musicians, ( a specialist school for talented musicians). I am an experienced teacher from beginners to undergraduates and have experience in delivering string based wider opportunities and group/ individual lessons. I have been in my current job for 7 years after 10 years playing professionally in London and have had great success as a teacher in terms of abrsm exams and conservatoire auditions.

    I am a graduate of the Royal College of Music, ( BmusRCM hons ). I am lucky to have studied with fantastic teachers and know how inspirational and important a teacher’s role is in nurturing a child’s musical development. I don’t want this tweet to come across in the wrong way but if you need the role filling this is an oppotrunity that my family and I would relish and I am sorry that – didn’t see this post advertised.
    I speak from personal experience when I express how valuable learning the violin can be to a child because the violin made me who I am. I can back up my tweet with references and my CV and I have been fully checked with CRB. If a vacancy exists I would love to get the Shetland island children playing their hearts out.

    Please get in touch,

    Adi Ward ( bmus rcm hons)


  • Ann Shuardson

    • April 13th, 2012 8:11

    Oh Shetland council what are you playing at. Shetland is known world wide for the talented fiddle players. tourist go to Shetland from around the world to hear the music. To stop the young from being able to continue their lesson in music is shooting yourselves in the foot. Its your future in the music scene. Also I do not believe the council is that poor, I read in the Times they have just moved into a multi-million pound new council building. Maybe they got their priority wrong. I do not live in Shetland but visit often and always enjoy the music.The young players are amazing and must be encourage. Regards Ann Shuardson

  • Stewart Mack

    • April 13th, 2012 9:13

    Its great to see we have a “Schools Service Quality Improvement Officer” overseeing the demise of what has long been a traditional musical instrument in Shetland – Does anyone else see the irony here? Perhaps Service Quality Improvement means something quite different within the walls of the SIC

  • Karen Stickle

    • April 13th, 2012 12:03

    My late late husbands parents both came from the Shetland Islands and though I am not muscially talented myself the Shetland Islands are known world wide for their muscially history.
    What a same these young people are not being encourged( could Aly Bain if contacted bring some pressure to help this situation).
    Does it have to be a qualified teacher in the short term could somebody in the community step in until a permanet music teacher is hopefully appointed.

  • Ron Stronach

    • April 13th, 2012 12:11

    Shetland without “Fiddles” would be unthinkable, as Ann Shuardson has already said, its one of the things we are known for.

  • Linda Tait

    • April 13th, 2012 13:29

    I feel it is truly short sited of the SIC to consider the cuts to music education again. I was lucky enough to enjoy free music education during my schooling in Shetland. I feel it helped me develop self discipline and a strong work ethic. It was easy to see the rewards of my own hard work. In these times when the Curriculum iFor Excellence is being thrust upon us I feel this is a no brainer. Do our School quality improvement officers really understand the overwhelming benefits to our young people receiving individual music education?

    Responsible Citizen’s – young person is required to look after the instrument, attend a lesson without prompting from the class teacher, Successful Learners – Tuition + Practice = ability to do something new. Effective contributors – young people can participate with other learners and the wider community. Confident Individuals – learning a new skill builds confidence and any opportunity to share that with others by getting up on stage is a truly uniques opportunity I have not found through my education to be replicated by any other activity.

    I would also like to comment on the dedication of our music tutors who showcase their pupils (outwith their working hours without additional pay or TOIL) at performances at anything from the Local Music Festival down to individual performances at charity concerts, old peoples homes, local competitions etc. . Will our QIOs etc be giving up their time for nothing during yet another consultation for the good of our future generations. I think not.

    If you need to save money then maybe we should be scrutinizing exactly how each minute of the working day is spent by those making the decisions about this, to see if we are really getting value for money as that is what happens in music Tuition.

    Each day their are negative reports in the media about young people in relation to work ethic, self- discipline and attitude to authority; should we not be embracing music education and celebrating the fact that our young people are queuing up to learn to play an instrument and interact with the shetland community.

  • Sandra Brooks

    • April 13th, 2012 17:37

    I was disappointed and amazed to read that SIC should even consider stopping violin lessons in school. Shetland is noted for it’s excellence in the violin as well as other musicle instruments. The one thing I tell people about Shetland is the amazing talent of the young people in music and also knitting, both of which will be lost to future generations with the loss of tuition in schools.

    It would have made far more sense for the council to forgo the building of new offices, and used the money saved to continue the teaching of music and knitting free to all pupils, and to continue the excellent care of the elderly which is also in jeopardy.

    S Brooks

    13th April, 2012

  • Geordie Pottinger

    • April 13th, 2012 17:51

    Following the comment from Stewart Mack, what exactly is a ‘Schools Service Quality Improvement Officer’ and how many have we got in the education department?

    More than one, I expect!

    Maybe we should get rid of a few fancy titled employees like this and retain our music tutors!

    I’m sure Shetland education standards would be improved by so doing,

  • Susan Bowie

    • April 13th, 2012 22:09

    Shetland is famous the world over for its fiddling and wonderful knitting, both supported in the past by SIC education.
    To short sightedly curtail this invaluable teaching on the basis of cost , is to put Shetland’s long term heritage at risk.
    The teaching of both made our education unique.Why try and destroy part of what makes Shetland so special.
    COI, 3 children who have benefited from Shetland’s wonderful education system, two very skilled musicians and two knitters, one who does lace as a result.

  • Ivor Johnson

    • April 15th, 2012 20:13


    Schools service quality improvement officer Jerry Edwards said: “The post was approved and advertised but there were no suitable applicants.”

    The Council has wasted tons of money on very silly decisions – but come on, the post was approved and advertised nationally! What more do you all need? It’s a sensationalist headline for stirring the pot.

  • Marina Thomason

    • April 15th, 2012 21:30

    @Geordie Pottinger. Good question. There is now 3 Quality Improvement Officers and 2 Quality Improvement Managers employed. There used to be 6 Quality Improvement Officers but because of the Blueprint Review of Education the number has been reduced, so they have been brought more into line with what is required.

  • Thelma Pointer

    • April 16th, 2012 19:19

    I always wanted to learn an instrument, but attended the Anderson Institute in the sixties before the days of school instrument tuition.
    Okay, you can learn at any age, but by the time I got round to taking piano lessons in my fifties, (and an evening class GCSE at 57), my wrist succumbed to Repetitive Strain Injury because, I believe, the muscles were not strengthened when young.
    Like great sports people, you have to start young.

  • Sandy McMillan

    • April 18th, 2012 13:56

    No Fiddle Tutor. but £Millions to Viking Energy, surely our Heritage is priority, not monstrosities destroying the Landscape


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