Commenting on ASPIRE Music, Art and Drama Project in Nine Primary Schools and Reduction in Music Fees

On the Education Committee's agenda next Monday (24 June 2013) are reports about the Aspire Project and Music Fees. 

The Aspire report outlines a potential Music, Art and Drama programme which would operate in a quarter of our Primary Schools in Dundee. Each of the nine primary schools selected would  be involved in either the Music, Art or Drama programme over the next two years. In each of these schools they would have some input from a professional musician, artist or actor. I hope that the funding bids to four external sources are successful so that the Aspire programme can go ahead and begin in August when the schools go back after the summer holidays. If Aspire is judged a success in the future, I hope it will be made available in every primary school in the city and not just the nine initially selected. 

I also welcome the separate proposal to reduce the cost of learning a musical instrument in the Council's Music Education programme which offers pupils opportunities to learn to play musical instruments and to take part in a variety of musical activities. In this proposal before us next Monday, the Education Committee will be asked to approve the removal of fees for individual tuition, currently £132 per pupil per year, but the retention of hire charges for musical instruments currently £78 per year. This latter charge is for personal use of a musical instrument such as a violin or trumpet so that the pupil can receive their small group tuition as well as practise on the instrument at home. I think this proposed cut in fees for pupils learning a musical instrument may help reduce one of the barriers to children taking part in learning to play a musical instrument and perform in the citywide bands and orchestras.

But I think we need to know that both of these proposals can really be afforded without sacrificing something else which parents and carers, pupils and teachers might more highly value in our schools. I have contacted the Education Directorate about a number of issues on which I am seeking clarification before the Education Committee meeting next week.

Councillor Kevin Kennan said:
"I am a supporter of the development of music art and drama in our schools. But there is no getting away from the fact that the Council is operating in a challenging financial climate so each spending decision is a tough choice between more of this and less of that. The fact that I have identified that does not mean I am against the potential widening of participation in music tuition in our schools. I am pointing out what this will likely have a cost elsewhere in schools and asking if this is a price worth paying?"