Parents opt for musical instrument charging to save strings in West Lothian

Evelyn Glennie is among a number of high profile supporters of the Save Our Strings campaign.
Evelyn Glennie is among a number of high profile supporters of the Save Our Strings campaign.
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Parents in West Lothian have voted to save string and percussion tuition even if it means bringing in charges for all youngsters learning instruments.

The local authority recently proposed to axe the two types of musical instruments, saying it was the only way they could keep lessons free.

However, a survey of families carried out following the intervention of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, who had expressed concern that children’s human rights had been breached and urged the council to carry out a consultation, has found 53.3 per cent voted in favour of introducing charges across all disciplines to save strings and percussion tuition.

The campaign to retain full instrument provision in West Lothian has been supported by famous names, including percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, composer John Rutter and violinist Nicola Benedetti.

West Lothian is one of many Scottish councils that are cutting back – or charging higher prices – on instrument tuition amid widespread budget cuts for local authorities.

Yvonne Hall, spokeswoman for the Save Our Strings campaign, said: “We are absolutely thrilled by this result. This shows just how important IMS (Instrumental Music Service) is to families in West Lothian and it is a clear message to the council to not cut our strings and percussion tuition.”

Ms Hall added: “However, this still needs to be accepted and voted on by the Education Executive next Tuesday. As a campaign team, we will be pressing for the Education Executive to respect the vote by the affected families and work towards minimising the required charges.

“We will also be encouraging them to work with us to develop a charitable trust for the management of the Instrumental Music Service going forward because we believe this model will give us the best opportunity to develop, not dismantle, music tuition in West Lothian.”

Plans to axe strings and percussion was introduced as part of a drive to save £493,000 from a budget of £993,000 for music lessons. The proposal would affect 562 pupils – 189 percussion students and 373 strings students – including violinists, guitarists and cellists.

A West Lothian Council spokesman said: “Thank you to all the young people and their families who took part in the survey and engagement exercise. Your views are important and will be considered by the members of the education executive.

“We are one of very few local authorities in Scotland, who still offer free instrumental music tuition, with the majority of councils now charging for lessons. Instrumental music is not a statutory service, therefore does not have to be provided by the council, and we do not currently provide tuition in every musical discipline.”

The results of the survey will now be presented at the council’s education executive meeting on Tuesday when it is expected a final decision will be made.