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Education / Instrument tuition funding commitment a ‘step in the right direction’

THERE will be no cost to parents for instrument tuition in schools this year after the Scottish Government stepped in with funding.

More than £7 million will be given to councils across Scotland to cover parents’ fees for the 2021/22 academic year.

The move has been described by the chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s (SIC) education and families committee George Smith as “really good news for parents”.

The councillor said the SIC is being allocated £24,000 for the year ahead, which is markedly less than the £70,000-plus it receives in fees from parents. However, it is expected that the government will top-up the payment.

Smith said the council spends several hundreds of thousands pounds on delivering instrument tuition – “what the government is paying is just the fees, they’re not meeting the full cost of the service”.

SIC education and families committee chairman George Smith.
Councillor George Smith.

He hopes the funding will be continuous, and not just for one year.

The charge for individual tuition through Shetland’s schools is £210 per instrument, and for group lessons it is £160.

The council provides instruction in 20 different instruments, from guitar, drums and piano to voice, brass, fiddle and woodwind.

Fees were introduced locally in 2010/11, and other local authorities in Scotland charge too – sometimes at a much greater cost.

Smith added that he felt there is an equalities issue with the local authorities having to charge for tuition to cover their costs. “Some folk will be able to afford fees more than other folk, so this is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Shetland families are normally exempt from charges if the pupil has an entitlement for free school meals and/or a clothing grant, or they are in secondary four or above and are completing their SQA national qualification in music.

Each pupil should receive a minimum 750 minutes, equivalent to 30 lessons at 25 minutes each, of instruction during the school year.

This optional service – open to children from primary five upwards – is on top of the music lessons pupils in Shetland receive each week as part of the curriculum.

Meanwhile Scottish councils will also receive £6 million to waive “core curriculum charges” levied on families for things like materials for home economics.

Scottish education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “My priority is to ensure the best possible outcomes for all of Scotland’s children and young people, whatever their background. All children should have the best start in life and the ability to take part in core elements of education should never be limited by a child’s ability to pay.

“Today’s announcement means families will not see bills for musical tuition or core curriculum activities in the new school year. I will continue to work with COSLA and local authorities to develop a sustainable and funded model for future years.”

COSLA’s children and young people spokesperson councillor Stephen McCabe said: “Councils recognise the importance of instrumental music tuition for the learning and development of our children and young people. Where fees were in place for tuition this is due to a range of local pressures on core council budgets.”