1,200 fewer Scots pupils learn musical instruments

Picture: Greg Macvean
Picture: Greg Macvean
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Scotland has seen a fall in the number of children taking up music tuition in schools across the country for the first time on record after years of soaring charges.

There was a fall of more than 1,000 in the number of youngsters learning an instrument last year amid widespread anger over charges.

It has prompted warnings that the future of music tuition in Scotland is now at a “cliff edge” with tuition chiefs voicing fears of a “lost generation” of musicians north of the Border. School music tuition remains free in some council areas, while others charge more than £500 a year.

MSPs on Holyrood’s education committee are currently conducting an inquiry into the issue. They will hear from the leading figures in Scotland tomorrow including Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Kenny Christie, who chairs the Heads of Instrumental Teaching Scotland (HITS).

“In my time as chair of this network as it comes into its 21st year it would be fair to say that never before has the concern and fear for the future of instrumental music education been so profound,” Mr Christie said in a submission to MSPs.

“With local authorities facing such challenging financial situations some have proposed or have now adopted policies which threaten the future of access to instrumental music education for children and young people in Scotland for a generation.”

It has emerged there were 60,326 pupils learning an instrument in Scotland in 2017/18, down from 61,615 the previous year, according to figures from the Improvement Service, the national organisation tasked with driving up standards in local authorities.

Fewer than a third (ten) of Scotland’s 32 councils still provide free music tuition - with Clackmannanshire voting to double the cost of lessons to £524 a year for most pupils.

Four councils have also introduced charges this year, with West Lothian bringing in rates of £354, while neighbouring East Lothian now charges £280. Midlothian has charges of £205.50, while in South Ayrshire the costs are £200. Eight other have increased fees this year, including Perth and Kinross, Stirling and Aberdeenshire.

Local government body Cosla is working with Scottish Government the Music Education in Partnership Group to address concerns.

But a spokesman added: “Since 2011/12 our core funding has been reduced, in real terms, by £1.674bn. At the same time, demands on the essential services provided by local authorities have continued to grow meaning that difficult decisions have to be made about the funding of services, including charging to ensure a service can continue.”