THE Scottish Government believes every child should have the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument.
And Scotland on Sunday’s excellent Let The Children Play campaign has prompted a debate on charging for instrumental music tuition.
To be clear, charges are applied to tuition provided via a council’s Instrumental Tuition Services, not for music lessons that are part of the curriculum. That said, we all know budgets are under pressure, but councils do not profit from any charges applied to instrumental music tuition. Moreover, the vast majority of them offer concessionary rates.
The fundamental point, however, is that no child should ever be denied the chance to develop musical talent and the Scottish Government is committed to working with local authorities and Cosla to find a satisfactory way forward on this.
This is a key part of Article 13 of the UN Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC) which protects a child’s right to freedom of expression.
Given the importance of this issue, I am therefore delighted we have found £1 million to buy more musical instruments for Scotland’s schools. This will help tackle the problem of too many children being put off taking up music learning because of the often prohibitive cost of purchasing an instrument.
We will work with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, local authorities, schools and the heads of Instrumental Teaching Scotland to ensure we make the most of this funding to support Scottish pupils’ access to high-quality instruments.
In discussing this issue with Cosla, I know they share our ambition for music and are committed to working with us and others to find a way forward. They will be part of the new group we plan to convene to consider how we best deliver music tuition – including the question of charges for pupils sitting SQA music exams.
And, because we have high ambitions for music, the group’s work will go beyond the immediate issue of charging. It will look at how we ensure local musical traditions are catered for, as well as what role the wider musical community can play in supporting our ambitions for Scotland’s children.