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Caithness News Bulletins June 2005

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The Highland Council is moving ahead with innovative provision of musical skills in all of its 187 primary schools.

Under the auspices of the Youth Music Initiative (YMI), next session will see an increase in the provision of music tuition to a large number of primary pupils with the introduction of two additional YMI initiatives.

Five vocal Tutors will visit all Highland primaries on a rotational basis, to work with Primary 3 pupils. The tutors will use materials supplied by the National Youth Choir of Scotland, which are based on the tried and tested musical techniques of the Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly. The materials allow pupils, and staff to build vocal confidence and gather other musical skills in an active and enjoyable way.

It is hoped that through time, these visits will lead to a surge of enthusiasm for singing and the formation of area choirs.

The other new YMI scheme being planned at present is to be called ~Music on the Move~. This is a unique initiative which will see around 80 Primaries having visits from two new mobile units which will be equipped with digital guitars, drumkits and laptops.

Tutors will work with upper Primary age groups using interactive teaching software from a company called "Gigajam". The attractive and user-friendly software takes pupils through carefully graded work and alerts them to areas where further study is required before moving on. It can also be accessed online if parents decide to purchase the specially priced license and appropriate equipment.

Gigajam is so enthusiastic about this Highland scheme, that they have been busy making amendments to the software after discussion with the Highland Council Music Development Officer, Norman Bolton. One of these new developments is the inclusion of an audio file which will allow each instruction to be read to the pupil if required. This will ensure that pupils at all levels can access the correct information to encourage progress.

At the moment, music education is delivered by a small team of dedicated visiting specialist teachers and enhanced by a variety of initiatives ~ many of which are arranged by individual schools or delivered by classroom teachers.

The Youth Music Initiative was set up with Scottish Executive funding, administered by the Scottish Arts Council, with the aim of "..ensuring that by 2006, every primary school pupil should have access to at least one year's free music tuition by the time they reach Primary 6".

As Highland Council has already met this aim through its successful partnership with Feisean nan Gaidheal in the first two years of the scheme, it is now in a position to lay strong foundations for an extension of the established music education delivered to its pupils and to ensure that Primary school staffs are given an opportunity to develop new skills and confidence in this area.

Norman Bolton said: "It is hoped that through time all these skills will enable pupils to build a high level of musical understanding as they move into Secondary education and that staff working in the Council's Instrumental Tuition Scheme will also reap the benefit of the knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm generated by all these aspects of Primary Music Education.