Music tuition in schools should be provided free of charge, according to a new report.
The finding by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee comes after predictions that instrumental music is in danger of becoming “extinct” in some parts of the country.
During an inquiry into the issue, the committee heard about the impact that charging for tuition can have: one local authority saw nearly 70 per cent of music students dropping out following the introduction of charges.
Across Scotland’s 32 local authorities, the annual charge for tuition varies between zero and over £500. Several councils have recently introduced charges after previously offering free tuition, although every authority says it offers some sort of help to families who find it difficult to meet costs.
The committee recommends a review of funding for music tuition, as well as the extension of Scottish government support for programmes such as the Youth Music Initiative.
Convener Clare Adamson said: “There is little doubt about the positive benefits that music can have on us as individuals, as communities and indeed to the wider Scottish culture and economy. However, for too many young people, these opportunities are being lost because of increasingly unaffordable fees.
“This is why our committee believes in the principle that music tuition should be free.”
She added: “Local authorities must work harder to make sure that those who can afford it the least do not lose out the most. This is why we have recommended that the funding for these services is re-examined and that more is done to extend concessions and discounts where possible."
The EIS teaching union’s general secretary, Larry Flanagan, said that “whilst we welcome this intervention from the Scottish Parliament, we need to stop the buck-passing between the Scottish government and local authorities over whose responsibility this is – ring-fenced funding would ensure an even playing field across Scotland”.
He added: “Learning how to play an instrument is invaluable to individual pupils including in terms of increased self-confidence and in the ability to work collectively with others.
"Action to guarantee free provision would preserve, also, Scotland’s proud cultural tradition of excellence in all types of instrumental music and song.”