Head to Head

Piper and Drummer in Residence

Primary schools in Glasgow and East Lothian are set to welcome a Piper and Drummer in Residence

Co-funded with the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust and Pupil Equity Funds, tutors will visit the schools  one day each week, starting with lessons and weekly group practice and leading to the formation of a schools pipe band.  The SSPDT has resources to support more primary schools in Scotland in this way.  

SSPDT Chief Executive Alex Duncan said, ‘We’re really pleased to help bring this initiative to Windygoul and Dunbar schools in East Lothian, and to the John Paul Academy and its associated primary schools in Glasgow.  Pupils start learning in P4 or P5 on a practice chanter or drum pads; when learners transition to the pipes - this can take from between six months up to two years - SSPDT will lend pipes free of charge if needed.  The SSPDT will be able to help schools to buy pipe band drums as well.’  

Chris Shanks, head of Expressive Arts at John Paul Academy commented:  

‘We are bursting with enthusiasm to be finally beginning our Pipes and Drums journey. We cannot wait to see what this journey has in store for the Summerston and Maryhill community. The potential impact on the lives and wellbeing of our children within our community is immeasurable and we firmly believe our Pipes and Drums project will become a major asset to the wider achievement of all schools involved. We are indebted to SSPDT for their support and willingness to believe in our project and for their continued and guidance in this project.’  

The impact on attainment from playing an instrument and group music making are well documented; research studies concur that learners make improvements in literacy and numeracy.   There are wider achievements too, relating to wellbeing, self-esteem, widened social networks and a sense of belonging.  The pipes and drums have the added advantage of building links with the community through performances.  A  regional and national network of opportunities for pupils lies in competition, events and even travel to overseas festivals.   

The SSPDT organises the Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships in March of each year, which attracts over 60 school bands as well as piping quartets for beginners and a freestyle event that encourages the playing of the pipes and drums with other instruments.

Alex Duncan comments, ‘The pipes are a fantastic addition to ceilidh and traditional groups as well as other contemporary mainstream music groups.  The Trust ran a competition in the summer of 2020 during lockdown with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and a separate online freestyle event in March of this year.  The groups taking part were impressive and can be watched on Pipe Bands for Pupils facebook page https://us02web.zoom.us/j/8893...  or the Chilli’s facebook page.’  

There is an accredited SQA pathway for pipers and snare drummers that leads up through the Curriculum for Excellence – both instruments are eligible for music syllabi from Nat 5 to Advanced Higher.  There is also an SQA accredited pathway to SCQF Level 6, similar to ABRSM, called the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Framework, PDQB for short. Many of the younger piping and snare drumming tutors now teaching in schools are graduates of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Traditional Music degree course.  

The SSPDT supports many different piping and drumming programmes in Scotland’s state schools and has the funds to support more primary schools.  Teachers interested in bringing piping and/or drumming to their school are invited to contact SSPDT Chief Executive Alex Duncan on alex.duncan@sspdt.org.uk .  More information can be found at www.sspdt.org.uk