Musical Instrument Instructors

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:03 pm on 7 February 2002.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 5:03, 7 February 2002

The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S1M-2533, in the name of Donald Gorrie, on musical instrument instructors.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes with concern reports of impending changes in the contracts, status and conditions of musical instrument instructors in schools, designed to make them casual, lower grade employees; believes that giving pupils the chance to learn to play a musical instrument and to take part in orchestras and groups is an essential part of educational and cultural life, and considers that the Executive should ensure that musical instrument instructors retain the contracts and status of full teaching members of the school community.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 5:12, 7 February 2002

Many members wish to speak in the debate and I hope that you will use all your powers, Presiding Officer, to extend the debate as much as possible to encourage numbers of speakers, rather than verbosity.

I want to make two points before I get into the main argument. First, the motion is not anti-Executive—the issue has not yet come before ministers and they are in no way to blame if there is any blame to be apportioned. We are trying to set down the issue in order to emphasise the importance of music in schools and the role of music instructors; we seek assurances from the Executive. Secondly, the debate does not interfere with the Educational Institute of Scotland ballot. The EIS members are quite capable of making up their own minds. However, there are several issues related to that. I am told on good authority that more instructors belong to the Musicians Union than belong to the EIS. The Musicians Union is a respectable union, but for some reason it is not recognised for negotiating purposes by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. Many people who are not represented by the EIS have raised the issue and it is fair that Parliament should address it.

As chairman of the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra, I was approached by some of the music instructors on the board, who told me that the problem was coming up and asked whether I could do something about it. That is why I have brought the motion for debate in Parliament.

The concern of the music instructors and others is that the decoupling, in two or three years' time, of the music instructors' pay and conditions from those of class teachers is symbolic of the downgrading of music and the devaluing of music instructors. It is an issue of status and of recognition of the importance of the job. It is a question not of a few pounds here or there, but of the value that is placed on music. That is what we are talking about.

I have been approached by psychologists and advisers who are in the same boat, to a degree, as music instructors. However, I have not been briefed on that so I merely mention it to show that music instructors are not alone in having been left out since the McCrone settlement. I aim to get an assurance from the minister that the Executive values music in schools and will put its weight and its money behind music.

I will refer to a few relevant issues and I am sure that members will pick up many others. I believe that more than two thirds of Scottish councils charge for music instruction. That hits people who are not on benefits—those who are on benefits do not have to pay—but who are still relatively poor, with the effect that they are deterred from taking up music. The National Youth Orchestra of Scotland has identified that problem. The orchestra goes round the whole country auditioning people to join the orchestra and it has found a distinct falling off, not in the overall number of people who are applying but in the number of people who are applying from poorer areas. Charging fees goes against the policy of the Executive and the Parliament.

Approximately 85 per cent of the professional musicians in Scotland's professional orchestras benefited from free tuition, which shows that it is of great value.

One problem is that there is an anti-music or anti-musician prejudice in some establishments. I am afraid that that is shared by some classroom teachers. The prejudice was described to me by the principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama as "the exquisite condescension" of the establishment towards musicians. That expresses it very well. Some parts of the establishment have the wrong view, although I am sure that the minister does not.

Part of the problem is that the music instructors' qualifications do not fit in with the rules of the General Teaching Council. All the people who have come into the profession in recent years have studied for four years or so at a music college. Many of them also have other degrees. They are well-qualified people. However, their particular qualifications happen not to fit the GTC rules and we should consider that issue. Why do they not fit the GTC rules? Surely we could change the GTC rules to make them recognise good qualifications for musicians and others in the same position.

To be technical, the performance of pupils playing musical instruments counts for approximately one third of the marks to be gained in music exams. For that nit-picking reason, and setting aside the more important point of the overall value of music, musical instrument instructors should be recognised. There is also the more important issue that music should be central to our education system and music instructors are central to the school staff because they provide an essential part of education that is undervalued in some quarters.

Through a good professional system, we must attract good teachers of music. There is some indication that we are losing teachers. The NYOS has identified that more and more of its members have received private tuition. That does not mean that they have come from private schools; they go to state schools but get private tuition because the school tuition is inadequate in some way. We have to improve all that.

The Scottish Arts Council is conducting an audit of youth music, the results of which will be helpful in the future. However, we need to have recognised qualifications and a coherent system of teaching that has some sort of structure, so that it is not a case of each man and woman for him or herself.

Above all, music instructors perceive that the decision by the negotiating body devalues them and thereby devalues music. That is a harmful perception. I would like a commitment from the Minister for Education and Young People that she will devote all her energies—as well as doing other things—to helping music instruction in schools through advice, guidance and money.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party 5:20, 7 February 2002

I have apologised to the minister because I shall not be able to stay for the entire debate. I also apologise to members. I am speaking in Stonehouse this evening with Karen Gillon. As we are likely to be agreeing on the same platform, it may be standing room only.

I congratulate Donald Gorrie on the motion, which is exactly what is required to address the issue. If we were voting this evening, I would have no hesitation in voting whole-heartedly for the motion, not just on behalf of my party, but as an individual, because Mr Gorrie has got to the heart of the matter.

Music is not an add-on to the school curriculum; it is not an optional extra. It is regrettable that in many schools we are almost getting to the stage where it is an add-on. The curriculum may include some small element of formal musical instruction or musical appreciation, but it does not include as a normal part of the curriculum learning to play an instrument or learning to participate in music.

At the risk of repeating the congratulatory double act that Ian Jenkins and I took part in earlier today, I recall that Ian Jenkins made a pertinent and important point at a committee meeting earlier this week. He talked about the need to have music, dance, theatre and other actions as the purpose of education, and to feed the soul as much as the mind. That is the phrase that he used, and it is wise. If we do not do that, we will impoverish the whole educational process and reduce the ability of young people to develop as fully rounded human beings. They may be skilled in a variety of things, but their souls will not have developed. I use that term not in a religious sense, but in the sense of an appreciation of life, an ability to interact and an ability to think sensitively. All those attributes will be missing.

Because of that, music instructors are central to what happens in schools. They need to be recognised as part of the school establishment, not regarded as something that is added on. It follows from that that their recognition, in terms of salary and pay and conditions, must be part of the overall package in schools. The difficulty with the emerging settlement—I accept that it is an emerging settlement; Donald Gorrie was right to draw attention to the fact that the matter is not concluded—is that the essential link with teaching salaries will be broken. The matter will be voted on by the music instructors, who are—as Mr Gorrie pointed out—from a number of trade unions and from none. However, the link with the teaching salary is important for many music instructors, not just for financial purposes, but because it ties in the link with the school. The link is a clear manifestation of the music instructors' involvement in the educational process, therefore to break that link, as is proposed, would make them more vulnerable as further cuts or changes take place.

We have to be realistic about what we need to achieve. We need more music instructors rather than fewer. If the link is broken, many music instructors will feel undervalued. They may not leave but it will be more difficult to recruit new ones and, as a result, the offering of music instruction in schools will become rarer. I hope that the whole chamber will unite on that point today; I suspect that it will.

Before anything is done irretrievably, let us make it clear that we understand the importance of music instructors and of treating them fairly. That is the message that I hope we can sent out from the debate.

I commend Mr Gorrie on his motion. Personally and politically, it is the right thing to say. If the chamber were to say it today, and if the minister echoed it, we would have moved forward Scottish education as profoundly as we did not do this morning.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 5:24, 7 February 2002

I will make a short speech, because I have to rush many miles up the road tonight.

I wish to say how much I appreciate the work that instrument instructors do in schools. My daughter did higher music. Her instrument was the clarinet. The dedication of her instrument instructor was paramount in helping her to get a good grade in her higher music.

Instrumental instructors play an important role in a school such as Plockton High School, which is dedicated to traditional music. I would not like people not to be willing to become instrument instructors because of anxieties over future pay structures.

I have had representations from constituents on the matter. They say that it took instrument instructors a long time to obtain a nationwide deal on their salaries. Before that, they were paid ad hoc. Only at the changeover to regional councils were their conditions of employment addressed. As Donald Gorrie said, it was mostly the Musicians Union that, by taking authorities to industrial tribunals, negotiated the agreement that provided the conditions of service and salary structure that instructors enjoy. Then the EIS took on the negotiations for instructors.

I know that the EIS is not happy about the breaking of the link between instructors and teachers, because I have had contact with it today. However, it recognises the attraction of a properly constituted negotiating forum for instructors, where agreement would be required for any future change to instructors' pay or conditions.

I have also had representations from constituents about educational psychologists. Highland Council's area is short of educational psychologists. That shortage of qualified staff has been exacerbated by the fact that there is no indication of what their salary levels will be. Educational psychologists await the publication of the Currie report, which seems to have been delayed. They do not think that it will be possible for their negotiation body to consider salaries when it meets today. I do not know what the outcome will be.

Educational psychologists are crucial in the assessment of children and their needs in schools. I hope that the minister will address the psychologists' problems.

I thank you, Presiding Officer, for the opportunity to speak, and I hope that you will excuse me as I must leave.

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat 5:27, 7 February 2002

Music is not only enriching, but an incredibly powerful communication medium. It operates across almost any barrier to communication—age, race, ability, class, status, disability and even deafness: look at Evelyn Glennie and what she has achieved. She began with music tuition at Ellon Academy, in my constituency.

The ability to make music opens up wide vistas of personal development, friendship, advancement, satisfaction, pleasure and giving pleasure. We cannot overstate the value of instrumental tuition to our young people. I know how much my children gained from their involvement in music and music making, which was made possible by tuition that was available to them through the education authority, which at that time employed a team of excellent, and even inspirational, instrument tutors. I heartily endorse Donald Gorrie's motion.

I am old enough to remember the teachers' strike, when a raft of extra-curricular activity disappeared, including drama groups, chess clubs, football teams and debating societies. Many of them were never resurrected. However, music tuition and music making continued through that difficult time. We still owe a debt of gratitude to those dedicated tutors. We should recognise the value of the contribution that they make to the development of young people as individuals and to the cultural richness of their and our lives.

I, too, have been approached by other groups that were not included in the McCrone deal. I received an e-mail earlier this week from an educational psychologist in my constituency. I will let her make her own case, by reading what she said. The message reads:

"I note with pleasure that your colleague Donald Gorrie has tabled a motion backing the cause of the music instructors who, along with educational advisers and educational psychologists, were omitted from the McCrone settlement.

I agree entirely with Donald Gorrie's whole argument about the great importance of music teaching in schools and I hope that you will feel able to support his motion on Thursday when it will be discussed. I should also like to draw to your attention two other small groups in the field of education also ignored by the McCrone deal. These are the education advisers and the educational psychologists. I am an educational psychologist and member of the team in Inverurie where we are working with the same increasing pupil roll as the teachers of this area and as yet there is no sign of a salary settlement for us. We have a heavy case load and we would be pleased to see recognition of the importance of our work in the general framework of the education system in the form of a pay settlement equal to that awarded to the teachers.

I hope you may be able to bring our case to the attention of the Scottish Parliament and perhaps help bring about a settlement."

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 5:30, 7 February 2002

I commend Donald Gorrie on his motion and on securing the debate. Donald will be aware that I supported his motion a week or two ago. I also commend the lobbying by instrument teachers, particularly Alistair Orr from Stirling, who is in the public gallery. Those teachers have been active in approaching members of the Parliament on the issue.

My speech will be brief because many of the points that I would like to make have been well made by others. There is general consensus in the chamber on what should be done. I oppose the proposals to sever the link between instrument teachers' pay and conditions and those of classroom teachers. Instrumental teachers play a vital part in education.

I have no particular interest to declare: I am one of the least musical people around. However, through friends, I have seen the benefits of instrumental tuition. They include the opportunity for self-expression and, in the same way as organised sports, team building. People get involved in sports and team games at school, which is important for learning life skills. Not everyone is sporty, but by joining an orchestra people can learn team-building skills. I am neither sporty nor musical, which perhaps explains why I am an MSP instead of having a proper job.

I want to mention one point about the motion. It is important that we use the term "instrument teachers" and not "music instructors". It is important that we see instrument teachers as teachers; they should be treated as teachers and their status should not be downgraded. In fact, it should be upgraded in recognition of their important function. Terminology is important, so we should avoid the term "music instructors".

Instrumental teachers should be treated in the same way as other teachers. They should have the same pay and conditions, the same access to accredited courses and the same right to GTC registration. On 26 January, The Herald quoted Alistair Orr as saying that

"the statutory link with teachers' pay is essential as it is a badge of our professionalism and gives us status with the teaching profession".

I am sure that he speaks for many of his colleagues.

Maureen Macmillan, who has now left the chamber, referred to the EIS. Members of the profession to whom I have spoken feel let down by the EIS, which is supposed to represent all teachers and not exclude instrument teachers. There is real anger among the ranks of instrument teachers about the way in which they have been abandoned by the EIS. The EIS puts great store on instrument teachers being taken under the wing of the Scottish negotiating committee for teachers. The problem is that instrument teachers have no confidence in the SNCT because it recommended severing the link with classroom teachers' pay. The EIS does not properly represent the views of instrument teachers on those issues.

As Donald Gorrie said, many instrument teachers are members of the Musicians Union, not the EIS. If the EIS wants to have credibility on the issue, it must take into account the views of all instrument teachers, not simply its members.

I commend and support Donald Gorrie's motion. I oppose the downgrading of the status of instrument teachers, which was brought about by the McCrone settlement.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 5:34, 7 February 2002

An honour that I have received, which gave me great pleasure, was being made a fellow of the EIS after 20 years' service to the union. I was proud of that, and I am proud of the record of the EIS in defending teachers' pay and working for better conditions for teachers. That work resulted in the McCrone agreement, which is clearly the best agreement that teachers have ever had.

Around 80 per cent of teachers in Scotland are members of the EIS. The union argues that it achieved the wonderful conditions for teachers because of its power. However, I feel that the EIS is pulling up the ladder behind it, and I am deeply concerned that it does not appear to be defending the conditions of music instructors. When I was a professional musician, I was a member of the Musicians Union, and I know that it struggles. Although it does its very best for its members and fights very hard to secure good agreements, it is not a big, strong union and does not have the EIS's power. I hope that EIS members read this debate and register the concerns that have been expressed so far.

Music should be right at the centre of the school curriculum. We would not have music in schools without individual tuition; it is the only way to teach people how to play instruments. As a result, music instructors are very important.

Donald Gorrie mentioned the benefits of playing music such as hand-to-eye co-ordination, the development of self-confidence and the ability to co-operate, self-fulfilment and other transferable skills. Do we want to diminish and throw away such aspects? People from Plato to Rousseau and more modern educationists such as A S Neill and R F MacKenzie have all spoken up for the place not only of music but of drama, physical education and art. Well, Plato did not have anything good to say about the last, but never mind about that.

I want to register one final concern. There has been a steady decline in the number of part-time teachers of all central subjects—including music—in our primary schools. I do not know whether that has anything to do with policy or is just the councils' usual step of making cuts in these subjects first. That is the final reason why it is so crucial to link instructors' pay to teachers' pay; we know that they are always the first to be threatened with cuts in schools and education.

It is great that Donald Gorrie has secured the debate, and I hope that it has some effect.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party 5:37, 7 February 2002

When I was listening to Donald Gorrie, I was struck by a question that I would like to ask the minister. There are around 670 or 680 instrument instructors in schools, some of whom have teaching contracts, and I would like to know whether removing the link applies across the board or only to instructors without teaching contracts.

I fully support Mr Gorrie's motion. When I first considered the issue, what came to mind was the Executive's national cultural strategy document, "Creating our future ... minding our past", which was one of the Executive's flagship documents some time ago. It puts great emphasis on participation in Scotland's culture and seeks to increase such participation among children. In fact, the document specifically states that, as well as instrumental tuition within the class, many children

"can choose to receive additional specialist tuition".


"Pupils who choose to study music at S3 and beyond" can

"receive specialist tuition in one or more instruments".

The strategy document makes a commitment to

"Produce guidance on best practice for local authorities on the provision of instrumental tuition services".

Has that been done?

The strategy document also refers to the

"disparity in the provision of instrumental tuition across ... local authorities" and the variation in tuition rates. Indeed, the document appears to recognise that there is a problem in that respect and states that the Executive will

"work with education authorities to maximise opportunities for instrumental tuition in schools, free to those unable to pay".

What steps have been taken towards such fine objectives?

I was worried at first about the introduction of tuition fees in some schools; now we have this latest move to break the statutory link with teachers' pay. I feel very much that if that goes ahead, it will reduce the status of the instructor and the musician within the profession. We have to consider whether those people will want to continue working with such a reduced status. The situation seems to be completely at odds with the national cultural strategy's emphasis on the importance of tuition. Steps are now being taken to undermine the position of these folk who are doing such a good job.

Like other members, I draw attention to the position of education advisers. More than a decade ago, music had its own specialist advisers in each education authority, providing support for teachers and instructors alike. Music now forms part of a group of subjects that are covered by one adviser who is not necessarily a music specialist. Naturally, that must have a negative effect on the provision of in-service guidance for teachers and instructors. Instrumental instructors are not the only ones to face a reduction in status; the advisory service is much reduced, grossly overburdened and faces a similar demoralising situation, which is compounded by the fact that advisers do not come under the McCrone settlement either, and are waiting to see what will happen to their salaries.

The encouraging aims of the national cultural strategy, which was broadly welcomed when it was introduced a long time ago, cannot be achieved without enthusiastic support from the profession. The actions that are now being contemplated do not encourage that.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat 5:41, 7 February 2002

I, too, offer my congratulations to Donald Gorrie on securing this appropriate debate. As members have said, instrument teachers out there are mightily relieved that we are airing the subject. The e-mails and letters that I have received have been warmly supportive of Donald Gorrie for what he has done today.

Like Murdo Fraser, I was not the most sporty kid in my day. To avoid playing football at Tain Academy, I took up the fiddle, under Miss Macrae, on a Thursday morning. It was great. It got me off playing football and I learned to play the fiddle. If I was to play the fiddle in the chamber today, it would bring tears to members' eyes—and not tears of joy. Although I am not much cop at the fiddle these days, learning to play it gave me a gift for life, as I now appreciate music and find it a way in which to relax.

As Robin Harper hinted, it is generally recognised that achievement in music is closely linked to achievement in other academic subjects. It is about the rigour of practice, hand-to-eye co-ordination and broadening the mind and expanding brain cells at a time of life when someone can learn fastest, before they start to go downhill—which I am told is from 24 onwards. For those reasons, if nothing else, it is important that the status and remuneration of instrument teachers is underpinned and not allowed to fall behind.

I want to touch on the subject of free instrument tuition. John Farquhar Munro and I share the scars of some mighty battles that we had in our Highland Council days, when we found ourselves on the opposite side from, for example, Mr Peacock—although we are friends now. We lost the debate, and it was only people on benefits who got free tuition. The people just above the benefits line were caught by that decision. When push came to shove—when people were not receiving benefits but were short of cash and had to decide between buying bread or paying bills—the kids' money went. I hope that we can revisit that issue on a national and cross-party basis. It is fundamentally wrong that a child of rich parents will get lessons but a child of parents who are not rich but not on benefits will not.

Some members will recall that I brought a traditional music group, the Gizzen Briggs, down from Tain Academy a year and a bit ago. The refreshments were provided by a certain whisky company that is not unassociated with the 16 men of Tain. That was the flower of a musical renaissance that has grown in the Highlands since I was a child and since John Farquhar Munro was a child. It would be too bad if that renaissance, which has taken place over the past 10 to 15 years, was seen to wind back. It is the flower of our achievement in this country and I hope that members from all quarters of the chamber can play from the same sheet.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 5:45, 7 February 2002

I congratulate Donald Gorrie on securing the debate and on giving us more than lengthy notice that he would bring this debate to the chamber. During last month's members' debate on Dr Colin O'Riordan we were given sufficient notice of this issue so that we could all think about it and speak to people about it.

As an EIS member, I should probably declare an interest in the debate. However, I was in the higher education section of the EIS, so I have no idea of how the schools bit of the union worked. That used to mystify me. I do not want to indulge in what came close to being a bit of union bashing from Murdo Fraser in the chamber tonight. It is important that people are involved in trade unions, but that does not make the issues easy. It is highly appropriate that we are having this debate and bringing to life an issue that is discussed across the country.

It is important that we record gratitude for the work of music teachers and instructors. Colleagues in the chamber have done that eloquently. It is also important that we do not regard music tuition as an add-on extra. Music is important, as members have said, for young people's personal development, for team building and confidence building and for the sheer enjoyment of the subject at school. I am sure that Robin Harper will agree with me that to find young people enjoying themselves at school is such a gift that we should nurture it when we have it.

I was struck with the tone of the correspondence that I had. That correspondence motivated me to speak today. We might not be able to solve the issue in this debate, but a particular plea came through in the letters and the correspondence from the people who are involved. There is a worry and a perception that music tuition and instrument instruction will be downgraded and will not be given the recognition and acknowledgement that they deserve.

I would like the minister to take time in her closing speech to give us a flavour of the Executive's policy on music in schools, to affirm the importance of music and to give us some commitments.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I think that this has been choreographed.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

It was not prearranged, honest.

I thank Sarah Boyack for giving way. This is a tremendous opportunity to debate the question of music and I want to make a short contribution.

When I was 12, I taught myself to play the piano at the local church hall. I feel that if my school had provided free tuition, I could have been a much more talented piano player today. There is a serious point in that remark, which is that I would like as much emphasis as possible to be given to the issue of the universal provision of free music teaching and free instrument teaching.

I know that many talented children are out there who will miss an opportunity. We agree across all parties that we have a lot of raw talent in Scotland. Music is important to this country. If we miss the opportunity to create universal provision, it will be to the detriment of music in Scotland.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I thought that Pauline McNeill was going to talk about the importance of musical tuition in Glasgow. That was the only reason that I allowed her to intervene. She did not press her request-to-speak button when the Presiding Officer asked members to do so.

It is important that we support the cause of music in our schools. One thing that was touched on is the importance of orchestras in our schools not just at the individual school level, but at the level of the development of regional and national orchestras. I know that Donald Gorrie is an active supporter of orchestras in Edinburgh.

It is also important to put on the record Nora Radcliffe's comments about the work that is done outwith the school day. Many school orchestras do not meet within the school timetable—for example, the regional orchestras meet in the evening and at weekends. There is much individual and personal commitment from teachers and pupils to enable those orchestras to keep going.

For the long-term future of music in Scotland, which must be part of this debate, young people need to develop skills and enthusiasm so that they can learn to become musicians. As professional musicians, they can keep our national orchestras going or go abroad and join international orchestras. It is important also that we encourage gifted, talented amateurs who keep music going in informal situations such as local music societies or groups. That is a talent, skill and enthusiasm that a young person can gain for a lifetime.

It is highly appropriate that we acknowledge the patience, enthusiasm and professionalism that instructors bring to the work that is going on in our schools. That sentiment was put extremely interestingly—and I use that phrase advisedly—by the director of the National Association of Youth Orchestras when she wrote to me. She said:

"Without the extremely dedicated and high calibre instrumental teachers nourishing the seedlings in the potting-sheds of music classrooms in schools up and down the country, we are in danger of ... losing" some of our high-quality Scottish orchestras. It was a nice bit of imagery to think of instrument teachers in potting sheds instead of in classrooms.

At school, I campaigned to play the clarinet or the flute. One of my most exciting days was the day on which the music teacher interrupted our sports class to say that he had got me an instrument. I wondered whether it was going to be a flute or a clarinet. He said, "I have got you a trumpet." I was delighted, as musical instruments were not available to all. We had to wait for them to become available. The excitement of being allowed to play a musical instrument was one of the moments that I will remember always from my school days. It made me enthusiastic.

If we do anything in the Parliament, we should enable young people in our schools to have the opportunity—regardless of background and even regardless of talent—to develop their experience of music. It is highly appropriate that we are debating this subject, as I understand that the Festival of British Youth Orchestras is coming to Edinburgh this summer. I am sure that that will be debated again, if not in the chamber, at a local level.

We need to attract more and not fewer people to become involved in music. As other members have said, the importance of musical instrument teachers is absolutely vital. I ask the minister to do all she can to support the superb work that is done by instructors across the country.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat

May I move a motion to extend the business?

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative


Motion moved,

That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended until 6.15 pm.— [Donald Gorrie.]

Motion agreed to.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative 5:52, 7 February 2002

I congratulate Donald Gorrie on securing the debate, which I welcome. I have followed the issue closely, as I have been concerned from the beginning about why the link between the pay and conditions of music instructors and teachers should be broken. The link currently puts instructors on 92.5 per cent of teachers' pay scales. The McCrone agreement has, in general terms, improved the pay and conditions of teachers. Why should that agreement make a difference to the link between music instructors and teachers? If the link remains in place, music instructors will get 92.5 per cent of the new McCrone deal. Surely that is what the link is in place to achieve.

We know that the EIS is to hold a consultative ballot. It is only proper for a ballot to be held, but two things strike me as odd. Why are the sole negotiating rights with the EIS? As has been said by others members, instructors are more likely to be members of the Musicians Union or not to be unionised. Surely the negotiations and the ballot could have been arranged jointly. That would have given a better picture of what music instructors think about the negotiations.

The letter that the EIS sent to its members lists a number of benefits of the McCrone deal. The letter is not entirely convincing. It states that:

"There can be no assumption that future awards will be different for different groups."

That is right but, on the other hand, they might be. If there is no link, there is no guarantee. Music instructors will be concerned that, at some point, they may be treated differently.

The letter goes on to say that:

"Your negotiators believe that acceptance of the proposals offers the best prospect for maintaining the close links between the pay and conditions of teachers and Music Instructors."

Surely the best possible link is the link itself. I cannot see a cogent argument in the letter for breaking the link.

Even odder is another letter from Ronnie Smith, the general secretary of the EIS, who, in responding to a member's inquiries about the ballot, said:

"The EIS has decided to consult its Music Instructor members, through the mechanism of a consultative ballot, on their attitude to the offer which is on the table. The ballot is, of course, an internal matter and of no concern to Donald Gorrie or any of the other non-EIS members".

Is that the same EIS that wanted a Scottish Parliament and contributed so handsomely to the yes-yes campaign? Of course it is the same EIS.

The ballot is a matter of concern for others. It is a matter of concern for MSPs. That is not to say that we should dictate, but we should certainly take up such interests—and are doing so tonight, thanks to Donald Gorrie—especially if the negotiations result in the loss of the link between teachers' and music instructors' pay, a downgrading of music instructors and less music instruction. If I had heard full and convincing arguments from COSLA and the EIS, I would have been minded to listen and possibly to accept them, but I have not. I have heard only arguments that suggest to me that efforts are being made to make savings. Because the full arguments clearly do not exist, I can only conclude that there is no argument.

Let us not downgrade music instructors. As other members have said, let us upgrade them. Let us find ways of making them instrument teachers and of giving them the necessary professional development and in-service training. Let us find ways of meeting the GTC requirements that will allow us to call music instructors teachers and to ensure that we have what we want: flourishing music teaching in Scotland.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat 5:56, 7 February 2002

I endorse the sentiments behind Donald Gorrie's motion and the comments that members from all parties have made. The debate is surely about a civilised Scotland in which we value instrument teachers and in which Government, Parliament, education authorities, unions and society value those who provide so much for our young people and give so much of their time. It is about a Scotland in which we value those people as full teaching members of the school community.

Like Sarah Boyack, I received representations from—and was therefore encouraged to take part in this brief debate by—a constituent. In my case, the constituent teaches classical violin in schools throughout Shetland. Members should bear in mind the fact that that involves jumping on planes and inter-island ferries. I will quote from his letter, which raises an issue that Brian Monteith mentioned. The letter says:

"Historically Instructors have been paid on a scale 92.5% of the corresponding teachers scale. As numerically we are very much in the minority compared with teachers, we would have equally low clout in pay negotiations and therefore this 92.5% link has been of great value to all Instructors."

That is an important point. I hope that the minister will reflect on it in her closing speech.

My constituent is a member of the EIS. As he states in his communication, instructors are being invited to accept a new salary and conditions package. The recommendation that they received at the end of last year to accept the deal said:

"This agreement deletes the current contractual entitlement of Music Instructors to be paid 92.5% of all corresponding scale points for teachers."

The constituents who have approached me on the matter are certainly concerned about how they are being represented. That is important and that is why this debate is important. I hope that the minister will act on that matter.

I value the role that instrument teachers play in Scottish schools, especially in my constituency. Music is in the blood of communities such as Shetland—especially after Up-Helly-Aa last week. Last Tuesday afternoon, during the Up-Helly-Aa festival, an excellent concert, organised by Shetland Arts Trust and entitled "Fiery Sessions", took place in one of our local theatre halls. The concert brought together young and old, as well as new and traditional forms of music. It was performed with verve and dash. I hope that the minister will have the chance in future years to observe or perhaps take part in the festival for herself.

Up-Helly-Aa is a part of my community's future, history and culture. It is very much about music.

That is why the development of and investment in core music provision—brass, woodwind and classical violin—and non-core provision, which for Shetland schools means traditional fiddle, accordion and percussion, is so important.

The number of children receiving non-core music provision in schools in Shetland is rising thanks to the pioneering work of David Gardner and others in Shetland Arts Trust. My daughter now plays the piano—rather well, I may say. My son would rather play left back for Rangers, much to the chagrin of his parents, but there we go.

There must be a purpose to such investment—and there is. Linda Fabiani made a good point about the cultural strategy. Shetland's cultural strategy, which feeds into the Executive's, heavily emphasises the role that musical tradition can play. That is important for building and enhancing the experience that I believe we should make available to all children, irrespective of background, in a civilised society.

At the heart of the programme are the instrument teachers. They are dedicated to raising standards and to stretching our young people's minds and imaginations. Their creative talents should be rewarded and considered fairly in the context of the teaching profession. I hope that, in winding up, the minister will respond positively to the principle that many members have advocated in the debate.

Photo of Colin Campbell Colin Campbell Scottish National Party 6:01, 7 February 2002

I can play no musical instrument whatever. In second year in school, I and about half the other boys in the class were thrown out of the school choir, which was to sing a chunk of the "Messiah" on the radio. I do not, therefore, have a good record on this subject. However, there were no music instructors then, which may have been part of the problem—although the fact that I could not sing might have had something to do with it, but that is another issue.

My older and younger sons both learned to play the trombone in their primary school. Thereafter, they had to make the huge decision between Saturday morning orchestral work and Saturday morning rugby. They went for rugby. Councils should consider the organisational aspect of that. I have a granddaughter who is learning the French horn and a grandson who is learning the violin, both in local authority schools. It does them no end of good.

As has been said, the social advantages of learning to play musical instruments are enormous. It teaches children discipline, to work together and to produce a joyous noise, for want of a better way of putting it. I recently attended the East Renfrewshire Holocaust memorial event, which was held at St Ninian's High School in Eastwood. The most touching parts of the event were those that involved music: children singing solo and in choirs and the East Renfrewshire ensemble playing, at balcony height, a moving piece by Sibelius. Whether those children had been taught by primary school teachers, music teachers or music instructors is of no matter: their music had the effect of touching the soul. The more ways that we can find to touch the soul, the better.

Part of the problem that instructors face when arguing their case is that their qualifications are different from those of other teachers, but I recall how pleased they were to be awarded 92.5 per cent of teachers' salaries. It is essential that that link be kept on a statutory basis, as that would benefit those people who give so much to children in our schools.

I will finish with a brief anecdote about the day my school shut. Fred Morrison, the piper, played "Colin Campbell's Farewell to Westwood Secondary". I owe all music instructors that.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour 6:03, 7 February 2002

I, too, am grateful to Donald Gorrie not only for giving us the opportunity to discuss pay and conditions for musical instrument instructors in schools, but for giving us an opportunity to show how much we value the work that is done in schools by music instructors and by the other teachers who are involved, and the value of that teaching to young people.

I know from visiting schools and from the work that I see in my constituency and throughout Scotland that the benefits for young people who are involved in musical activities are not easily measurable. However, if we talk to young people, they tell us just how much they value those activities. I want to confirm that the Executive values the excellent service and the commitment that is given both by music teachers and by musical instrument instructors in schools and elsewhere.

I will not be able to make reference to every member who spoke in the debate, but I will try to sum up on the points that have been raised.

A number of members commented on the support that pupils would be denied if musical instrument instructors were not in schools. They commented on the effect that that would have of not allowing pupils to be part of orchestras and bands. A number of members stressed how valuable those opportunities are to pupils in developing their confidence and to schools' broader curriculums.

The debate confirmed—Brian Monteith and others mentioned this—that the existing contractual arrangements for musical instrument instructors allow them to receive 92.5 per cent of the corresponding scale point for classroom teachers. That is a long-standing agreement that goes back to March 1988. A number of things have happened to move us on from then. The recent agreement on "A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century" has provided a framework in which to build a modern and progressive education service. We have all welcomed the progress that has been made on that.

I acknowledge and understand that the root of the problem—which is that many of the people who are involved with musical instrument instruction believe that they are undervalued and do not have the same status as classroom teachers—stems from the time when the McCrone committee was set up. Its remit at that stage did not include musical instrument instructors and I acknowledge that people had some issues with that.

However, it is important to acknowledge that the implementation group that was given responsibility for analysing the recommendations that the McCrone report made picked that up quickly. Subsequently, the Scottish negotiating committee for teachers was asked to consider the position of musical instrument instructors.

A number of members mentioned educational advisors and psychologists. I know that Maureen Macmillan has not been able to wait to hear the whole debate, but we are awaiting the publication of the Currie report, which will consider psychologists. There is continuing work on considering the position of advisers. That work is in hand and we hope to be able to make progress on it by the end of the month.

I return to musical instrument instructors. The SNCT conditions of service working group took their case forward. Musical instrument instructors are not classified in the same way as classroom teachers have been classified. The rationale for that relates to the fact that instructors do not operate in the same classroom setting as teachers. In many instances they are employed primarily to teach small groups of pupils on particular musical instruments and they do not have responsibility for curriculum development in the way that classroom teachers do.

However, following careful consideration of the duties of musical instrument instructors and their role compared to that of the teaching profession, the SNCT conditions of service working group recommended that an offer should be made, which was endorsed on 5 December. That paved the way for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to make an offer to the musical instrument instructors.

It is important that we spell out what that means and how it relates to the McCrone settlement. The offer, as it stands, is that musical instrument instructors will receive, as follows, a minimum of the four salary increases. They will receive 10 per cent from 1 April 2001. The award is backdated until then. They will receive another 4 per cent from 1 April 2002, 3.5 per cent from 1 January 2003 and 4 per cent from 1 August 2003. All that is in line with the settlement that has been given to classroom teachers.

The working year for the instructors will be 195 days, of which five will be used for in-service training. That is also in line with the teaching profession. They will do a 35-hour working week—the same as teachers—including a maximum of 27.5 hours of pupil contact in any week. For instructors who must travel, the travelling times between assignments will be included in pupil contact time. They will have a minimum of two and a half hours a week for preparation and instrument maintenance and another five hours for an appropriate and agreed balance of other activities, such as orchestras. An additional contractual 35 hours will be introduced for all music instructors to take on personal and professional development—attendance at courses and so on—just as has been offered to teachers.

The offer that has been made provides exactly the same percentage increase that was offered to and accepted by the teaching profession last year. The offer to the teaching profession also involved significant changes to teachers' professional conditions of service, in exchange for the increases in salary to which I referred. For that reason, the SNCT is also seeking changes to the conditions of service of musical instrument instructors. That is the reason for the proposal to delete musical instrument instructors' current contractual entitlement to 92.5 per cent of teachers' earnings.

I understand that musical instrument instructors have expressed concerns about that proposal, but the SNCT considers that the offer that has been made is fair and takes account of the valuable role that musical instrument instructors play. The SNCT feels that the position that has been adopted by the EIS and its other partners does not suggest that musical instrument instructors are being downgraded to the position of casual, underpaid or undervalued employees.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative

I understand that the pay settlement in the McCrone deal was negotiated in return for the conditions that were agreed. Musical instrument instructors are getting the pay settlement that was agreed under the McCrone deal, but in order to conform to those aspects of the deal that relate to conditions, they must give up the link between their pay and teachers' earnings. I do not see the logic in that. Musical instrument instructors will get 92.5 per cent of the pay settlement that has been agreed in return for a change in their conditions. Why should they still have to give up the link with teachers' earnings? The recognition that will be given to musical instrument instructors is recognition of their trade union, rather than of the musical instrument instructors themselves.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

The EIS, which is balloting its members on the issue, takes the view that the deal has the benefit of ensuring that, for the first time, musical instrument instructors as a group will be included in national and local negotiations. It is recognised that the instructors' trade union is actively involved in that process. Mr Monteith referred earlier to the letter that that trade union circulated today. It is important to acknowledge that, although the EIS has in the past expressed concerns about the issue that we are debating, it feels overall that the offer benefits musical instrument instructors more than it disadvantages them, particularly on pay.

It is important to note that a ballot is currently under way. I feel—along with many colleagues who are trade unionists—that although trade union members are being balloted on an offer that has been made, it is inappropriate for us to go into much more detail about what might happen in future years. I do not want to continue to discuss that at the moment. It is important to acknowledge that the offer that has been made was endorsed by all partners in the SNCT. Today the EIS has concluded that the offer is in the best interests of its members.

I want to pick up a number of points that I have not yet had the opportunity to pursue. Linda Fabiani asked how we would continue to promote culture in schools. Since I was appointed as the Minister for Education and Young People, I have had discussions with the new Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport about that. It is our view that a range of cultural activities—including music, traditional music, arts and drama—are vital. We want those activities to continue in schools and we are considering how best to promote them.

Overall, the debate has been worth while. It has illustrated that all members recognise and value the work that has been done and the benefits of young people's involvement in music. I want to put my support for that work on record. However, I stress again that, because a ballot is taking place, it would be entirely inappropriate of me to make any further comment until we receive the outcome of that ballot which, I understand, will be in the near future.

I hope that members acknowledge that the Executive supports the principle of continuing with the instruction of music in schools. I also hope that members have listened to what I have said about the offer that has been made and that they now understand the position.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative

I am grateful to you, Presiding Officer, and apologise for the fact that my point of order is in no way linked to this evening's members' business debate.

Some time has passed since Jack McConnell was appointed as First Minister and created his new front-bench team. Lord Watson was included in that new team and it was widely reported that he was to drop the stewardship of, or his lead role in, the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill. Only a few days are left before the bill is debated at stage 3, but we have yet to learn who is to take over as member in charge of the bill. I have looked at standing orders and have heard comments by the Executive's lawyers, but I still believe that a member needs to be in charge of the bill at stage 3. Therefore, I urge you to press upon Lord Watson the need to make it clear as soon as possible which member is to take over stewardship of the bill.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I appreciate your point, Mr Wallace, but I do not think that it is a point of order. It is not for the Presiding Officers to designate who is to be the member in charge of a bill. That responsibility lies with the member who introduced the bill. Perhaps we will discover who is to be so designated between now and next week.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative

I take your point on board, Presiding Officer. However, can you give members an idea of when it would be appropriate for us to learn who is to be the member in charge of the bill? Is there a time limit, or are we to find out one minute before the debate begins?

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

There is no time limit. I do not think that there is anything that I can usefully add, but I will reflect on what you have said and if there is any further pertinent information, I will so advise.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I am sorry to raise another point of order, Presiding Officer. I understand that the purpose of members' business debates is to give members an opportunity to debate an issue of importance and to allow back benchers to question ministers and gain answers. That is what happened this evening and I am conscious that people are in the gallery to hear the debate. I ask you to examine the position of members who raise points of order that bear no relation to the debate, and to give members guidance on the matter.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I am afraid that it is absolutely in order for members to raise points of order at any time, although we ask members to be sparing in their use of the practice. The fact that the point of order has no bearing on the debate is irrelevant.

Meeting closed at 18:17.