Young musician flashmob protests against instrumental tuition fees

Musicians gathered to protest over councils's charging policies for musical instrument lessons.
Musicians gathered to protest over councils's charging policies for musical instrument lessons.
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A flashmob of young musicians gathered in Glasgow on Saturday ahead of a Holyrood debate on the issue of instrumental tuition fees in Scotland’s schools.

Instrumental pupils gathered outside of the city’s Royal Concert Hall to create an impromptu orchestra to highlight the problems of councils charging tuition fees ahead of Tuesday’s debate.

The issue is set to be debated on Tuesday, led by the education and skills committee, which last year recommended that music tuition be free in state schools following an inquiry to find out the extent to which charging for instrumental music tuition as part of the school curriculum acts as a barrier to participation by pupils.

Parents and young musicians have campaigned against local authority cuts for the past year. Some councils have raised existing tuition fees for instruments - some to as high as £524 a year - while others have introduced them for the first time or started charging for the hire of local authority instruments. Others, like Midlothian, unveiled plans to axe instrument tuition entirely for those not taking a Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) exam in the subject - but made a u-turn following strong opposition.

Critics say that fees prevent many children from learning an instrument, excluding youngsters whose parents cannot pay.

Ralph Riddiough, a community musician from Ayrshire, last month launched a crowdfunding bid to pay for a judicial review of the lawfulness of fees charged to children learning a musical instrument with a local authority-employed teacher. Mr Riddiough says councils are breaking the law that requires state schools to provide education without charging fees.

Alastair Orr, a campaigner and contributor to the Holyrood inquiry, said: "Instrumental and vocal education in Scotland's schools must take its place in the curriculum, alongside mainstream music teaching.

The evidence gathered by the Education and Skills Committee, academic research and the experience of pupils and parents, strongly support

this view.

"In this way music tuition would be freely available to all and its proven benefits would enhance Scotland's cultural reputation around the world."

It emerged in November that 1,200 fewer children were learning an instrument in Scotland than a year earlier. According to figures from the Improvement Service, the national organisation tasked with driving up standards in local authorities, there were 60,326 pupils learning an instrument in Scotland in 2017/18, down from 61,615 the previous year.

The crowdfunder is available here at:

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/changethetune/