School piping championship comes to the capital

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A SCHOOL bagpiping championship will take place in Edinburgh next year – despite the council not funding bagpipe tuition for secondary pupils.

More than 60 schools will gather in the capital in March for the 2014 Scottish School Pipe Band Championships in a bid to be crowned the best.

But the organisers are hoping that following the success of their first competition, next year’s event will be “astounding” enough to change officials minds.

Organisers hope the success of last year's event will influence Edinburgh Council
Organisers hope the success of last year’s event will influence Edinburgh Council

Outrage was expressed this week over funding policies by Edinburgh City Council which mean high school students can learn other instruments but not the pipes or the chanter.

Piping championship chairman, David Johnston, has labelled the policy a “disgrace” but is hopeful the event will “prove the bagpipes are a viable and worthwhile option for all school children.”

Council chiefs have defended the controversial policy however saying that due to the current financial climate there is no funding available.

David Johnston says the interest in school piping is “gaining momentum” and that councils need to recognise this when budgeting.

He said: “I think it’s an absolute disgrace that some councils are not providing any funding for secondary pupils to learn the bagpipes.

“Why can they learn the glockenspiel or the recorder but not the bagpipes which are Scotland’s national instrument?

“Interest in school piping has been gaining great momentum in the past 10 years, partly because piping has gradually become quite fashionable.

“Our aim is to encourage as many young people as possible to get into piping and drumming.

He added: “Many pupils are trying out pipes and drums for the first time and we hope the Championships plays its part in ensuring this interest in our musical heritage continues to grow and thrive in all Scottish schools.”

The first ever Championships took place in March this year and saw 40 primary and secondary schools enter.

And although the deadline for entries closes in January, 64 have already registered so far.

It will be judged by some of the biggest names in the piping world including Craig Munro from the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Council chiefs have defended the cost cutting policy however.

Education convener Paul Godzik said: ““Music is an important part of the curriculum and unlike many local authorities Edinburgh continues to offer free tuition in all our schools.

“However, due to the financial climate facing all local authorities, there is no funding available to expand the service.

“To include drumming and the chanter to the city’s Instrumental Music Service without additional resources, as suggested by the Greens, would have an effect on current provision and could mean significantly cutting tuition currently available in other instruments.”

He added: “Discussions on this matter are well advanced and we are seeking to bring a report to Committee in the New Year outlining our plans in this area.”

Schools expected to take part this year include Boroughmuir High School and Craigmount High were pupils have had to pay private tutors to learn the skill.

Some of the schools that have already confirmed their attendance include George Watson’s College, George Heriot’s School and Merchiston Castle School.

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