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Council Rethinks Practice Ban

Following Monday’s report in VoxCarnyx of a practice ban facing wind and brass players and young singers at Douglas Academy’s specialist music unit, East Dunbartonshire Council has written to parents reassuring them that urgent action is underway to resolve the situation.

The ban, which applied to individual practice rooms at the Milngavie school and its pupil residence in Knightswood (which falls under Glasgow Council Council jurisdiction), meant that the affected boarders – most of whom are in the process of preparing for A level and SQA practical music exams and conservatoire auditions due to take place with the next few months – were left with nowhere to practise other than their family homes during weekends.

A letter sent by parents on Monday to the Scottish Government and relevant local authorities calling for a reversal of the ruling, claimed that the ban “disadvantaged their children in the competitive field of music and also for other careers, as their preparation for SQA Music exams is being adversely affected”.When approached on Monday by VoxCarnyx, East Dunbartonshire’s Depute Chief Executive, Education, People & Business, Ann Davie said that “a comprehensive risk assessment for the provision of music within the Music School” was under way. “The risk assessment also includes provision for pupils who stay in the residence and require to practice in school,” she added.

On Tuesday, relieved parents received an email from the Council stating that measures will now be put in place to allow students to practice again in school. The issue affecting the pupil residence has still to be resolved, but East Dunbartonshire has told the parents it is now in discussions with Glasgow City Council to seek a positive outcome.

Practice Ban for Music Students

Parents of music students at Douglas Academy in Milngavie are petitioning a local authority over a ban on practice by young singers, wind and brass players that they say is harming their children’s education.
 
The ruling will particularly affect weekday boarders at the specialist music unit, some of whom are set to sit their Grade 8 Associated Board exams or undertake music college auditions in the coming months. These are critical, having a bearing on college and university applications to study music, to which the majority aspire. 

Senior pupils will also be gearing up for A level performance submissions, and for Higher and Advanced Higher practical exams, which normally take place in Feb/March for Higher and May/June for Advanced Higher, and account for 60% of the overall subject marks.

The pupils express deep concern for their future prospects. ”Many of us have come to Douglas hoping to become professional musicians but this is impossible if we can’t practise.”

Now parents have stepped up the campaign with a letter today to the Scottish Government and respective local authorities – the student residence falls under Glasgow City – calling for a creative solution that would especially allow the small number of boarders access to the individual practice rooms at both Douglas Academy and the Knightswood residence.

They believe such a solution need not infringe the most recent Scottish Government COVID-19 guidance, which, they say, states: “Young people should not engage in […] singing or playing wind or brass instruments with other people […] However, this does not mean that these activities cannot take place at all, it simply means that a more creative approach should be taken to providing such lessons.”

Parents of affected children claim that failure to allow their children to practise will deeply impact their future prospects. “These young people have mostly joined the Music School in order to try to become professional musicians.  They should be practising for up to three hours a day, yet they are now banned from practising at all, from Sunday evening to Friday evening”.  

“Several of them are auditioning for conservatoires this year, as well as studying for AH and Higher Music and this is impossible if they can only practise for two days a week,” the letter continues. “ These pupils are being disadvantaged both in the competitive field of music and also for other careers, as their preparation for SQA Music exams is being adversely affected.”

As for the pupils, their petition sums up their frustrations. “Lots of kids don’t want to do their music practice. But we really do. Please help us!”

In request to a statement from East Dunbartonshire Council, Depute Chief Executive, Education, People & Business, Ann Davie told VoxCarnyx: “The Director of the Music School has been working with officers from the Education Service and the Council’s Health and Safety Officer to agree a comprehensive risk assessment for the provision of music within the Music School.

“This includes provision for brass, woodwind and singing and takes account of the Education Scotland Guidance. The risk assessment also includes provision for pupils who stay in the residence and require to practice in school.

“We understand this has been a particularly difficult time for the pupils at the Music School due to the Infection Control arrangements that are required for the playing and teaching of certain musical instruments.

“The risk assessment will support pupils to continue to study music with the appropriate Infection Control arrangements in place.” 

Read the full petition here.