Midlothian Council to be first local authority in Scotland to axe extra paid-for school music tuition

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Midlothian council is set to become the first Scottish local authority to entirely axe all extra paid for musical instrument tuition in its schools - bar for children who are studying for Higher or National Five exams in the subject.

The council spoke to its instrumental music service staff on Wednesday, telling them that nine of its 12 full time equivalent posts would be cut under new proposals aimed at filling a multi-million pound hole in the council’s budget.

It is expected that the proposals, which would see no children below S4 level at high school offered extra paid-for instrument tuition at school, will be unveiled next week ahead of the authority’s budget meeting on February 12.

Separately, Moray Council has unveiled plans to increase charges for instrumental lessons to £699 a year - the highest in Scotland.

The move comes less than two weeks after an investigation by Holyrood’s education committee told Scotland’s councils that instrument tuition should remain free.

A campaign was launched last year after many local authorities introduced fees for musical instrument tuition or increased existing fees for students, which critics said made it unaffordable for many pupils.

Midlothian - which currently charges parents £205.50 a year for instrument tuition in primary and high schools - was the only council in Scotland to charge fees for instrumental lessons for youngsters sitting SQA examinations in music, who under Scottish Government regulations, must not have to pay for their own tuition.

Campaigner Ralph Riddiough, who petitioned the Scottish Government over the introduction of music tuition fees in schools described the move as “the final blow”.

He said: “We are witnessing the withdrawal of a subject from the curriculum. This will just completely destroy music education and a lot of children will not be able to learn an instrument any other way.”

He added that without the system of music in schools, such as local bands and orchestras - usually run by council-employed music teachers - would not be able to exist, leaving youngsters who do begin an instrument in S4 without an outlet to play with other musicians.

Midlothian Council Leader, Councillor Derek Milligan said: “The proposals put forward by officers for councillors to consider do not scrap all instrumental music tuition in our schools. Pupils will still get music in schools as part of the normal curriculum. Pupils studying for Higher and Advanced Higher music will continue to receive instrumental music tuition free of charge. There will no longer be the opportunity to pay for extra lessons to learn a musical instrument. This part of the music tuition provision is non-statutory and must be seen in the context of the wider funding gap facing Midlothian Council.

“We are as devastated as parents and pupils about having to consider a cut to this service. However, this needs to be seen in the context of preserving the core educational and care services Midlothian residents depend on.”