Opportunities created for pupils to play pipes and drums

The SSPDT wants to support more pupils in learning to play the pipes (Photo: John Keachie)
The SSPDT wants to support more pupils in learning to play the pipes (Photo: John Keachie)

More than 30,000 young Scots would learn to play pipes and drums if they had the chance but only 6000 are learning so far, according to a national charity.

The pipes and drums feature in many of our celebrations and traditions, but the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust (SSPDT) is warning of a threat to our musical heritage.

Opportunities to learn piping have disappeared in many communities where pipe bands have folded and tuition has stopped in schools.

In response to the issue, SSPDT – in partnership with councils, education authorities, schools and communities – is on a mission to bring the opportunity to learn pipes and drums to thousands of youngsters across the country.

By developing local and long-term models of learning from an early age, the charity aim to help bring back the pipes to communities.

Research commissioned by Creative Scotland and conducted by The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland found that more 100,000 pupils want to learn an instrument at school but are unable to.

Based on the popularity of the pipes and drums whenever SSPDT helps to introduce them to schools, it estimates between 30,000-54,000 pupils would want to learn to play but only 6000 are currently learning in state schools across Scotland.

Alexandra Duncan, chief executive of SSPDT, said: “It’s clear there is a huge unmet demand to learn pipes and drums among Scotland’s pupils.

“When bands in our towns and communities vanish quietly, and when there is no tuition in local schools either, we lose a precious cycle of teaching and learning – and it’s this silent decline that we’re trying to address with partners.”

In areas across the country – including Moffat, Girvan, Garnock Valley, Lossiemouth, Elgin, Forres, Duns, Kinross and Blairgowrie – new tuition programmes are being set up to boost community pipe bands.

Alexandra said: “Piping and being part of a band gives young people a sense of belonging and develops a wide range of life and employability skills including teamwork, individual and shared achievement, discipline, commitment and self-confidence.

“We believe it can change lots of young people’s lives for the better.”

Working together with schools and councils, the charity supports free tuition for all, or in fee-paying programmes it supports an ‘inclusion’ mechanism for pupils from less affluent families, helping to address inequalities in access to music tuition.

Alexandra added: “We believe that traditional music should be cherished and the skill to play the pipes has the potential to become one’s lifetime pleasure.

“The demand we have seen so far proves that piping and drumming is still popular but the lack of opportunities for learning puts it at risk – there is still a lot of work to be done.

“We are grateful to the parents, schools and local authorities that are working with us to overcome this disadvantage.”

The Trust has helped 47 schools pipe bands to form so far, building on tuition provided in 265 schools. For more information on SSPDT and its work, go to SSPDT website