Holyrood recommends free music lessons “in every local authority”

The Scottish Government’s education committee has stated that music tuition should be free across the country.

The committee has stated that they respect each individual authority’s democratic right to make decisions regarding the tuition, but have stated that “in principle, music tuition should be provided free of charge in every local authority”.

Edinburgh’s local council still provides free lessons, as does the council in Glasgow. Other local authorities still charge up to three figure sums per pupil, and these fees have been increasing in recent years.

Clackmannanshire Council, for example, charged £258.50 in 2017/18. This school year (2018/19) they charge £524, more than double the previous charge and by far the highest tuition cost in Scotland.

South Ayrshire, East Lothian, West Lothian councils also only started charges this year, going from no charge to a cost of £200, £280, and £354 respectively.

West Lothian, the council with the largest price increase, saw 70% of pupils drop extracurricular music lessons after the decision was made, something the council described as “alarming”.

 

mr. and mrs. jones

Infographic by Jade du Preez for EN4News

 

Charging for music tuition, despite Holyrood’s statement, is very much the rule as opposed to the exception. 25 of Scotland’s 32 councils charge for lessons, although some are fairly reasonable (£140 per pupil per year in the Scottish Borders).

The issue with charging for music lessons is that it inevitably lowers participation in these programs (as education committee convener Clare Adamson told MSPs, the fees are “increasingly unaffordable” for “far too many young people”).

Lowered participation is a problem, not only because of young people missing opportunities due to their financial situation but because of the proven benefits of music lessons for young people.

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last year suggested that music lessons help schoolchildren learn languages and improve their language processing skills.

Another study showed how extra-curricular activities (such as music lessons) can reduce delinquency in young people. If councils continue to charge for the lessons — and children, therefore, continue to drop music tuition from their schedule — young people will not gain these small but notable benefits.

COSLA, the umbrella body representing Scottish local councils, has proposed allowing children who are entitled to free school meals to also receive music tuition free of charge.

This suggests progress on the issue. However, no single local authority lowered their tuition costs in the 2018/19 semester, which implies that unless Holyrood takes greater action, universal free music tuition could be a long way off.

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