Move to scrap music tuition is ‘ridiculously short-sighted’

Midlothian Council castigated for ‘shameful decision’, which would see it become first authority in Scotland to axe tuition

Henry Hepburn

Move to scrap music tuition is ‘ridiculously short-sighted’

A local authority has been attacked for its move to become the first in Scotland to scrap instrumental music tuition in its schools.

The EIS teaching union said the plan by Midlothian Council was “ridiculously short-sighted”.

Pupils studying for Higher and Advanced Higher music will continue to receive instrumental music tuition free of charge, and children will get music in schools as part of the normal curriculum. However, there will no longer be the opportunity to pay for extra lessons to learn a musical instrument.

The council is understood to have spoken to its instrumental music service staff on Wednesday, telling them that nine of 12 full-time equivalent posts would be cut under proposals to address the huge budget pressures that it, like many Scottish local authorities, are facing this year.

The move confirms the fears of campaigners that instrumental music tuition could become “extinct” in parts of Scotland.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “This penny-pinching move will rob young people in Midlothian of an invaluable opportunity to develop their musical abilities, and deny them the many added benefits that instrumental instruction can offer.

Learning music benefits young people in terms of their self-confidence, and in their ability to work both independently or as part of a larger group.”

He added: “It is a bitter irony that, shortly after the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee has recommended that instrumental music tuition should be provided free by all local authorities, the response of Midlothian Council is to scrap music tuition altogether.

“Midlothian Council must reconsider this shameful decision as a matter of urgency.”

Council leader Derek Milligan said that its proposed savings measures, including the cut to music tuition, would “decimate” local services.

Councillors will consider the savings at the full council meeting on 12 February, as it seeks ways of making up a £9.7 million shortfall in its finances.

Mr Milligan said that the council has not been helped by the Scottish government, explaining: “What is being sold as an increase of £90 million in funding for local government simply means the huge cut in local authority budgets is slightly less huge.”

He added: “Given the severity of the grant settlement announced last December officers have had to bring forward a set of measures which are, quite frankly, catastrophic, including cutting instrumental tuition.”

Mr Milligan said: “If councillors decide to save instrumental tuition, it just means we have to find the money by stopping something else. So while we are as devastated as parents and pupils about having to consider such a drastic cut to this service, this needs to be seen in the context of preserving the core educational and care services Midlothian residents depend on.”

Councillors will also consider:

  • Cutting the school crossing service
  • Stopping the Active Schools service
  • Consulting on the future of Glencorse Primary School
  • Reducing creative arts provision in schools

More details can be found online, in the council’s financial strategy report (8.3).

The Scottish government has been approached for comment.

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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