Union calls on Scottish Government to protect school music tuition

Instrumental music tuition for school pupils could be at risk from further cuts, the EIS union says. Picture: TSPL
Instrumental music tuition for school pupils could be at risk from further cuts, the EIS union says. Picture: TSPL
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A teaching union has called on the Scottish Government to take action to protect school music tuition.

The EIS union raised fears changes to school governance could put instrumental music tuition for school pupils at risk from further cuts.

Union head Larry Flanagan has urged ministers to ring-fence funding for the service or make it a statutory entitlement for pupils.

The EIS said funding for the service has been reduced in recent years as local authorities cut back on educational sectors not protected by statutory requirements.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on major changes to education governance which would give head teachers a raft of new powers including more control over staff and funding.

Mr Flanagan said: “In recent years there has been an ever-widening postcode lottery of instrumental music provision.

“A growing number of local authorities have made substantial cuts to their instrumental music service, with the loss of instrumental music teacher posts and fewer opportunities for young people to access instrumental music tuition.

“Added to this, wide variations in charging policy have emerged across Scotland so that, in many local authority areas, it is becoming a case of ‘Who pays plays’ with regard to instrumental music.

“Currently, 22 out of 32 local authorities levy some level of charge for pupils accessing instrumental music tuition – creating a clear barrier to entry for many young people.”

He said among the councils which charge, the average yearly fee for group lessons is £212 per pupil in 2017/18, up 4.7 per cent on 2016/17.

Mr Flanagan continued: “Potential reorganisation, as a result of the governance review, could make the situation worse.

“With more decisions devolved to school level, and with increasingly scarce school resources, an even greater postcode lottery of provision may emerge within individual authorities as headteachers make increasingly difficult decisions on how to balance budgets.

“It is time for the Scottish Government to act to protect the tradition of instrumental music tuition in our schools either by providing ring-fenced funding to protect this service or introducing a statutory entitlement for young people.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Funding to local authorities – who are responsible for the delivery of education, including music services – has been very fair, in light of continued UK government cuts to Scotland’s budget, and is increasing.

“The draft budget also commits £120 million direct to head teachers to ensure all young people fulfil their potential.

“Investment of £109m since 2007 in the Youth Music Initiative has made a huge impact, helping young people across the country access opportunities. In addition, we provide £2.5m to Sistema Scotland - a charity providing opportunities for young people.”