Protests widen over cuts to free music tuition in Scotland

Written by: Sam Phipps | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Threats to the survival of a world champion pipe band have focused attention on further planned cuts to free music tuition in Scottish schools.

By late February, more than 10,000 people had signed a petition demanding North Lanarkshire council scrap proposals to either make some instrumental teachers redundant and end ensembles by children or to axe the entire in-school music service.

The area’s Schools Novice A Pipe Band is the current holder of Scottish, British, European and world championship titles, and featured at the Tartan Day celebrations in New York last spring, led by Sir Billy Connolly.

Councillors, who were due to discuss these “difficult decisions” as SecEd went to press, have been aiming to find about £35 million in savings this year alone.

Lynda McIntyre, of Save North Lanarkshire Instrumental Services, said: “These proposals will have a devastating impact on hundreds of children – and they have so far come without any consultation. That’s not right, and not fair.

“For many of the children, some of whom come from deprived backgrounds, the experiences and opportunities they’ve had from being part of the music groups has been life-changing. Continuing to invest in these services is good for the future of North Lanarkshire.”

The Scottish government classes instrumental music tuition as a non-core part of the curriculum, meaning local authorities must find the money to pay for it themselves.

Campaigners are now demanding music be classed as a core subject since numbers have plunged where councils have introduced fees, with some areas down by 45 per cent.

Six councils still provide free lessons but the other 26 pass this cost on to parents, with prices ranging from £120 a year in Inverclyde to £524 in Clackmannanshire.

In its most recent report the government-funded Improvement Service showed the impact of introducing or increasing fees. In West Lothian, which ended free provision last year in favour of a £354 annual fee, pupil numbers fell by 45 per cent year-on-year while in Clackmannanshire, where fees doubled to their current level from £258 in 2017/18, they dropped by 28 per cent.


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