MUSIC LESSONS: Extra cash for schools to fund free music tuition

Pictured above: Nicola Benedetti, one of Scotland’s most accomplished musicians.

By Lucy Ashton

Councils are to be given an extra £7m to fund free music tuition for pupils in the coming school year.

Schools in some council areas give pupils individual instrument tuition for free, but others had introduced fees due to budget shortages.

The Scottish government has now agreed a one-year deal with council umbrella body Cosla to waive charges to parents.

Cash will also be provided to pay for core materials for classes like home economics and drama trips to theatres.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, pictured left,  said the chance for young people to have the best start in life “should never be limited by a child’s ability to pay”.

Some councils had introduced three-figure charges for individual music tuition in recent years due to budget shortages – and the number of pupils taking lessons dropped as a result.

Holyrood’s education committee called for fees to be scrapped across Scotland after hearing from young people during an inquiry into the topic.

The Scottish government has committed £7m for the 2021-22 school year to waive charges, following a manifesto commitment from the SNP in the campaign for May’s election.

They will also provide a further £6m to cover “core curriculum” costs – things like home economics materials and theatre trips associated with drama qualifications, which some schools were charging parents for.

Councils are free to decide how cash should be spent, and councillors told MSPs during the Holyrood inquiry that they were generally not in favour of ring-fencing funds and have a “democratic right” to allocate their own budgets.

However, ministers have now agreed a deal with Cosla for specific funding for the coming school year, with the education secretary committing to further talks about how to develop “a sustainable and funded model for future years”.

Stephen McCabe, Cosla’s children and young people spokesman, said councils recognised the importance of music tuition but had faced “a range of local pressure on core budgets”.

He welcomed Ms Somerville’s promise to work with local authorities to develop a long-term solution, saying this “must include sustainable funding arrangements for all councils”.

 

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