Change of tune on Midlothian music tuition cuts

Pic Lisa Ferguson. The protest outside Midlothian House in February.
Pic Lisa Ferguson. The protest outside Midlothian House in February.

Music tuition in schools in Midlothian could not have been scrapped despite proposals to do so earlier this year, it has been claimed.

A meeting of the council heard that the proposed end to instrumental classes, which sparked public protests outside Midlothian House, was never a real option.

It is understood that councillors who attended a Business Transformation Steering Group (BTSG) meeting ahead of the public meeting had been told that the tuition move, along with a number of other proposals, was simply too difficult to push ahead with.

Hundreds of school pupils and families protested outside Midlothian Council’s headquarters during the budget meeting in February after the administration proposals included scrapping lessons for all pupils below S4. Only students who were studying for a National 5 or Higher exam would be allowed to continue.

At the meeting, the administration rejected the plans; however, at a meeting this week, it was claimed it had never really been an option.

SNP councillor Colin Cassidy asked if he had had a “senior moment” when he thought it was being proposed.

He said: “Back in February we had over 200 people outside protesting about the music tuition cuts and then yesterday at BTSG we were told that it could never have happened anyway because these teachers were all on contract, full-time contracts with Midlothian Council, so why was it ever an issue?”

Mary Smith, director of education, said: “I have made it very clear all the way along that music tutors are on teacher terms and conditions and it would be very difficult for us to either make them redundant or have a redundancy policy because we don’t have a policy for redundancy in Midlothian, certainly not for teaching staff, so it would be very difficult.

“What was put forward in February was either that we review that service to the numbers we have or put in place full cost recovery; that was the option put forward in February, so you’re right you are not having a senior moment.”

Her confirmation led Cllr Cassidy to add: “It would appear that was a kind of scaremongering, then, for the public. I actually believed and I had been told that music tuition was going to be cut.”

His claims, however, led to a response from Cllr Jim Muirhead, Labour, who described his comments as “disappointing”, accusing SNP colleagues of trying to “stir it”.

Cllr Muirhead said: “We are in a situation here where the alternative is to send teachers down the road.

“None of us want to do what we have been proposing, we have been trying to find solutions but that party there [SNP] is content to just try to stir it; that is what they are doing, they are stirring it.”

Provost Peter Smaill urged the councillors to move on from the debate, which he described as no longer being in tune with “the precious subject of classical music”.

The Provost said: “Could we just note that many of the proposals that have been flying around have been analysed as very difficult to implement?”