FRESH concerns have been raised about the state of music lessons in Scottish schools as a new survey reveals teachers are having to employ 'blended learning' while hit with a lack of resources and support to allow online tuition.

The survey carried out by Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS has highlighted the "serious detrimental impact" of Covid-19 on the provision of instrumental music teaching in schools across Scotland.

It comes after the Herald revealed criticism by teachers for the 'failure' of its 13-year-old Scottish schools digital network to provide teaching to children in state schools during the coronavirus lockdown.

Schools across Scotland were reopened by August 18 after the Scottish Government's previous plans for blended learning, with pupils learning at home for part of the school week, received an angry reaction from some parents and opposition politicians.

They were eventually put to one side, as it was decided to have pupils in classrooms.

READ MORE: Scotland's digital learning network 'failed' school pupils

But the EIS study reveals that just over half of instrumental music teachers are having to use 'blended learning' which is a mix of online tuition and classroom instruction.

One teacher explained that blended was needed to allow for a rolling timetable to incorporate eight schools "allowing face to face once every 3 weeks".

When asked if the local authority had provided the necessary resources to carry out online tuition, 50% said no and 50% said yes.

The study of nearly 200 teachers was asked if arrangements been put in place to ensure that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds can continue with instrumental music lessons. Over 60% said 'no'.

The survey paints what the EIS call a "worrying picture" of a service "significant short-term and long-term challenges" as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There is concerned that Covid-19 risk assessments are not taking account of the specific nature of instrumental music tuition – for example a need for ample space and well-ventilated rooms.

It talks of "inconsistent approaches to "Covid-19 mitigations" between local authorities, within authorities, and within individual schools.

It also points at a lack of resources and support provided to facilitate online instrumental music provision for pupils - as many are now having to use a 'blended learning' approach.

And it says there is a "disproportionate impact" on provision of instrumental music tuition to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

There is also concerns over an expectation that instrumental music teachers (IMTs) will deliver extra online teaching outwith school hours – creating substantial additional workload.

Scotland's education secretary vowed last month that no pupils will be "left behind" in terms of digital access, as he said blended learning "remains a necessary contingency plan should the virus get out of control again at any point".

He said access to technology will be a "fundamental aspect" of education in Scotland.

Commenting on the survey report, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said, “Instrumental music teaching has been under threat in many local authorities across Scotland for several years. From the results of our survey, it is clear that Covid-19 has, and continues to, pose many challenges for IMTs across the country, particularly for those delivering teaching in voice, wind and brass, who are still waiting to hear whether they can safely return to face-to-face teaching in schools.’ “

HeraldScotland:

Members are concerned about the damaging impact of the pandemic on young people’s access to instrumental music tuition, particularly for those currently studying for SQA [Scottish Qualifications Authority] qualifications. In addition, there are legitimate fears that reduction in provision, arising from the current crisis, could lead to fewer students learning music, with serious implications for the future of instrumental music service and for IMT jobs.”

He added: “Instrumental music is an important element of the curriculum, and one which offers a wide range of benefits for the young people in our schools and for our society as a whole.

"It is essential that the Scottish Government and local authorities are made aware of the difficulties facing IMTs and the provision of instrumental music in schools, and that they take the necessary steps to ensure that the service receives the support it requires so that our young people can receive the opportunities to learn music that they deserve.”

One teacher taking part in the survey commented: "With the cabinet secretary for education announcing that all schools should be back fully on the August 18, it is of real concern that there is no national approach to the delivery of instrumental music lessons.

"There is inequity across the country, and with some pupils having received no lessons for such a long time, this may affect their final SQA practical grade / which is 50% in some cases (guitar and bass for example) of the overall national qualifications.

"With music being one of the earliest practical exams in the academic year, it is worrying that almost one month into the term, there is still no teaching happening.

"Managers can write the lovely term ‘online blended learning’ however the reality is that this is not happening. Pupil drop off will be significant, and new pupil uptake / opportunity is being heavily restricted. The instrument music service across the country should have been far better prepared to ensure a workable plan was in place for a return at the start of term."

A Music Education Partnership Group study involving over 200 teachers and tutors, 60 students, 70 parents and carers and 25 youth music organisations in June and July found that "initial scepticism" for online teaching generally disappated amongst tutors.

But only a "very small" percentage had experienced more than a year with online lessons before the lockdown. Even though online systems had been in place for several years, the report states the evidence from the interviewees was that the use of online facilities for teaching purposes was "minimal".

There was no account from any interviewees of "sustained and systematic wide use" of technology for online teaching prior to lockdown.

And over half of all teachers, tutors and youth music organsiations (54%) did not feel adequately prepared to make the transition to online practices. It highlighted the issues of "accessibility" to online working and "technological issues".

The study also echoed concerns about a "digital divide" in access to music lessons an a "widening of the gap between the least and amost advantaged".

A Convention of Scottish Local Authorities spokesman said: “Scotland’s councils remain fully committed to music lessons in Schools, we have still got agreements in place. All aspects of education have been impacted to some degree by this pandemic and councils continue to do their best whilst putting the safety of pupils and staff first. We remain in discussions with Scottish Government on this as well as a range of other policy areas at this time.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said:“Guidance produced by Education Scotland encourages a precautionary approach to the learning and teaching of music for public health reasons. Local authorities and schools should exercise their judgement when implementing this guidance, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their children, young people and staff and taking into account local circumstances as well as the positive impact that learning a musical instrument can have on well-being and attainment.

 

“The experience of lockdown shows that access to technology and digital capability is, and will remain, a fundamental aspect of education in Scotland. We are investing £25 million to address digital exclusion in schools. Funding allocations for digital devices and connectivity solutions have now been made to all 32 local authorities, who are responsible for making arrangements to secure and distribute equipment to address local needs. In total, the programme is expected to deliver around 70,000 devices and 18,000 connectivity solutions for disadvantaged children and young people across Scotland.”