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Music tuition fees stay

SHETLAND Islands Council’s former culture spokesman failed to suspend charges for music instrument tuition in schools pending a full review of the service on Thursday.
 
Councillor Rick Nickerson’s move was defeated by the casting vote of services committee chairman Gussie Angus.
 
The committee heard on Thursday that charges introduced in August would save the council just £49,000 in the current financial year rather than the £130,000 anticipated.
 
Mr Nickerson said the scheme had been “vastly unpopular”, “inefficient” and had not delivered the savings it promised.
 
Charges were introduced in May last year amid huge protests from parents and young people supported by a petition with 6,000 signatures, handed in by famous fiddler Aly Bain.
 
On Thursday education officials asked to continue the scheme and employ a part time music tuition administrator to help make better use of the available resources.

Of the 750 lessons available for learning an instrument, 108 were currently vacant. Shetland has almost 3,700 pupils, but far more music teachers per pupil than other authorities.
 
Head of schools Helen Budge said she only knew of about 10 families who had decided not to continue with instrument lessons because of the £140 per year fees.
 
Mr Nickerson said one family with four children could only afford to pay for two of their kids. “That’s not equality but discrimination,” he said.
 
Councillor Jonathan Wills argued the charges were not the main issue as islanders understood the reasons why the council had to save money.
 
Parents and teachers were more concerned with the very brief teaching periods of 25 minutes, and the instructors’ long travelling times between schools.
 
Education spokesman Bill Manson urged councillors to stick to the charging regime as it was better to have saved £49,000 than to lose it again. “It would be a bad message to write off the savings we have already made,” he said.
 
He also moved to restrict the employment of a part time administrator to six months initially.
 
Referring to the musical talent in the community, committee chairman Gussie Angus said: “We all have to remember that whatever the shortcoming of this service is, the output is excellent.”
 

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