Instrument lessons set for axe in Dumfries & Galloway schools

A Scottish council has unveiled plans to entirely axe musical instrument tuition in schools - less than a year after another authority was forced to u-turn on similar proposals after a public outcry.

No pupils - except those of S4 and above who are taking SQA exams in music - will be given instrumental tuition.
No pupils - except those of S4 and above who are taking SQA exams in music - will be given instrumental tuition.

If the proposals go ahead, Dumfries and Galloway would be the first Scottish council area to cut all lessons for school pupils - instead, it suggested, “directing” pupils to private tutors.

The local authority said it wanted to cut instrumental lessons for all pupils except those taking Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) exams such as National 5 or Higher in music in a move which would save the council £421,000 a year.

It also said that SQA pupils should be taught by music classroom teachers rather than peripatetic specialists in the future.

Experts have warned that the move would eventually lead to a lack of children taking SQA music in future - apart from those who could afford private lessons to learn an instrument from a young age and would also lead to the closure of community orchestral groups and bands.

The plans are the latest in a string of council areas looking to make budget savings by cutting back on musical instrument tuition. Many councils have increased the amount they charge parents for the lessons - or introduced charges for the first time.

In a document outlining proposed budget cuts published on the council's social media feeds, Dumfries and Galloway said: “Remodel of service to provide for essential SQA tuition only (circa 200 students) and direct non SQA students to community groups and private tutors across the region. SQA tuition to be delivered by building capacity with teachers in Music Departments and individual experts in community based music organisations.”

A spokesman for the council added: "At present, in light of the need to make substantial savings, Dumfries and Galloway Council has published a range of savings options. These options will be subject to public consultation, including community conversations, prior to elected members having to make some very tough decisions informed by public feedback.

In February, Midlothian said it planned to axe all musical instrument lessons for pupils, but was forced to back down after young musicians staged a flash mob protest outside the council’s headquarters.

Ralph Riddiough, who is leading a legal challenge against fees for instrument lessons in Scottish schools, said: “Here we go again. Last year, we saw some pretty shocking proposals from councils and then our campaigns had a huge triumph when Midlothian Council backed off. Now Dumfries and Galloway are doing the same thing.”

Lawyer Mr Riddiough, who raised £15,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to fight the fees, believes local authorities which charge for instrument tuition are in breach of the 1980 Education Scotland Act.