CHILDREN from poor families will not be able to afford to learn a musical instrument, teachers fear.

The head of the EIS teaching union has claimed that only children from well-off families will soon be able to pay for music tuition, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey of the union’s instrumental music teacher members found that some were “unable” to return to work safely at schools and members said they were not helped enough to adapt to online teaching.

EIS’s general secretary, Larry Flanagan, said: “Scotland is rapidly moving towards a scenario where only children from well-off families can learn to play an instrument. This is unjust and unacceptable. We must reverse the trend of charging to allow free access to music education for all, particularly those for whom the poverty-related attainment gap has widened as a result of Covid-19.”

The union said that 27 local authorities were now charging music pupils in some form, with costs reaching as high as £524 in one area.

Scotland’s five non-charging authorities saw an increase in pupil numbers of 31.4% since 2012/13 while numbers dropped in areas which charged.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: “We know that Covid-19 has brought additional challenges for music tuition in schools. Guidance on music tuition, produced by Education Scotland and drawing on expert advice from the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues, has been designed to mitigate the risks of Covid-19 in schools while encouraging creative solutions so that young people can continue to benefit from music education.

“Education Scotland has worked with teachers across the country to collect and share emerging practical examples of how teachers are managing music learning under Covid-19. Creative ideas include the use of music technology apps on smartphones, running online masterclasses with professional musicians, and using technological solutions to facilitate rich and rewarding physically distanced lessons.

“The experience of lockdown shows that access to technology and digital capability is, and will remain, a fundamental aspect of education in Scotland. That is why we are investing £25 million to address digital exclusion in schools.”