School music lessons in Scotland to be free of charge after Scottish Government pledges £7m

School music lessons will be free for all youngsters from the start of the new term, thanks to more than £7 million of Scottish Government cash.

As well as making the money available to councils to scrap the charges, ministers are providing a further £6 million to get rid of charges in “core curriculum” courses – removing the need for families to pay for items such as ingredients for home economics classes or theatre trips for drama studies.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the cash – which fulfils pledges made in the SNP’s election manifesto – meant that youngsters’ education would no longer be limited by their family’s ability to pay.

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It comes after a high-profile campaign for charges for music lessons to be scrapped, which was backed by the leading violinist Nicola Benedetti, amongst others.

Many local councils had introduced – or increased – charges for group instrument lessons held in schools in recent years, with some local authorities charging parents up to £300 a year.

Ms Somerville said: “My priority is to ensure the best possible outcomes for all of Scotland’s children and young people, whatever their background.

School music lessons will be free for all youngsters from the start of the new term, thanks to more than £7 million of Scottish Government cash.

“All children should have the best start in life and the ability to take part in core elements of education should never be limited by a child’s ability to pay.

“Today’s announcement means families will not see bills for musical tuition or core curriculum activities in the new school year.”

The funding announced will cover these costs for the 2021-22 academic year, with Ms Somerville promising to work with local authority leaders in the councils’ organisation Cosla to “develop a sustainable and funded model for future years”.

Stephen McCabe, Cosla’s spokesman for children and young people, said: “Councils recognise the importance of instrumental music tuition for the learning and development of our children and young people.

“Where fees were in place for tuition this is due to a range of local pressures on core council budgets. The one-year funding package agreed between Cosla leaders and Scottish Government will allow for the removal of fees in the coming academic year and the maintenance of existing levels of provision, so that fees and charges are not a barrier to learning an instrument.”

The Scottish Government’s education committee held an inquiry into musical instrument tuition in schools in 2018. The inquiry heard evidence from people affected by the charges, including music students, who gave an impassioned plea for charges to be cut.

However, while it recognised the benefits of music lessons for all in schools, the committee said it recognised councils’ funding was stretched. It urged local authorities to “work harder to make sure that those who can afford it the least do not lose out the most” and recommended the funding for these services was re-examined by the government.

A report published in 2018 – after some councils had already introduced fees – by the Improvement Service, the national organisation tasked with driving up standards in local authorities, found 1,200 fewer children were learning an instrument in Scotland than a year earlier.

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