Piping tradition faces a ‘silent decline’ says charity

Moves to support young people wanting to learn
Moves to support young people wanting to learn

More than 30,000 young Scots would learn to play pipes and drums if they had the chance, but only 6,000 are learning so far, according to a national charity.

The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust (SSPDT) warned of the threat to our musical heritage this week.

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

In response to the issue, SSPDT - in partnership with councils, education authorities, schools and local communities - is set 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 and into further education and adulthood, the charity aim to help to bring back the pipes to communities, and to give every young person in Scotland the chance to learn.

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 6,000 are learning in state schools across Scotland.

Alexandra Duncan, Chief Executive of SSPDT, said: “It’s clear that there is a huge unmet demand to learn pipes and drums amongst 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.

“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.”

Alexandra added that even where the pipes and drums are offered to pupils after they have had the chance to take up different instruments, demand is very high.

The Trust has helped 47 schools pipe bands to form so far, building on tuition provided in 265 schools.

It also supports existing youth and school pipe bands with grants and the free loan of bagpipes. It is currently supporting projects in 22 local authority areas. For more information on SSPDT visit: https://sspdt.org.uk/