Music cuts shelved after pupils’ appeal

Piano and guitar tuition would have been hit by the council's proposed cuts.
Piano and guitar tuition would have been hit by the council's proposed cuts.

Angus councillors have reversed plans to cut instrumental tuition across the county after being addressed by a delegation of Forfar Academy pupils.

The authority’s children and learning committee had previously agreed to implement a 36 per cent cut to instrumental music staff, which would have saved £198,500 per year, but that was defeated by a 15-14 vote when the matter came up at the recent full council meeting.

Pupils who attended the meeting, and presented councillors with an 80-signature petition, particularly challenged the decision to concentrate cuts on piano and guitar tuition.

Collectively, they expressed “sadness and disgust” at the proposal which they felt could “have a large detrimental effect” on the number of pupils passing SQA exams but effect the equal opportunities all pupils have to learn or refine their talents.

Addressing the meeting, S5 pupil Aiden Harvey also said the decision to cut guitar and piano tuition was “extremely alarming.”

He said: “For those who wish to further their learning at university level, they are often required to play piano at a high level before gaining a place on a course. By removing this service, the number of pupils that would require to seek private, possibly not as good but often more expensive lessons would increase massively.

“If your cuts were to go ahead, we fear that many of the instrumental extracurricular activities such as orchestras and other instrumental ensembles, which often benefit the local community through performances at various events, could suffer.”

Geordie Cryle, head boy, also claimed that the proposals would deprive young people of skills which develop confidence through performance and allow them to contribute effectively to other academic subjects.

He added that cuts would also impact on less well-off families as the service currently cushions the cost of private tuition.

Councillor Sheena Welsh pointed out that school music department would not be affected and that all stakeholders and other authorities had been consulted during a four-month review period. This was backed by Forfar councillor Glennis Middleton who said she had no reason to doubt the report’s conclusion.

The amendment to find alternative savings, tabled by Arbroath councillor David Fairweather and seconded by Councillor Margaret Thomson, was supported by Forfar councillor Colin Brown.