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Musicians win ear of minister over fees

The Musicians' Union has voiced further concern about the future for instrumental music tuition in schools, as one council plans to put up charges by a third. Only 15 of 32 councils have no charges at present, but many are keeping the position under review as they anticipate budget cuts next year.

A survey found that Perth and Kinross intends raising charges from Pounds 46.80 a year to Pounds 180, and pupils would have to pay another Pounds 60 to attend group sessions. This would be the highest fees in Scotland and the Musicians' Union is to meet council officials on September 19 to discuss the possible formation of a trust fund.

Ian Smith, the union's Scottish organiser, said: "Charging is on everyone's agenda, even in authorities where tuition is free. There is still the prospect that parents will not be prepared to keep paying or will not be able to afford it. And if we have any other excesses like Perth and Kinross, the service will simply disappear."

After being briefed on the survey, the Education Minister hit out at the increases by Nationalist-controlled Perth and Kinross. "I reject utterly any notion that instrumental tuition should be the preserve of a financial elite," Brian Wilson said.

Mr Wilson added that he was considering whether a national event should be held to celebrate the work of young musicians in Scotland and to bring education authorities together to discuss best practice and the huge disparities across Scotland.

The Musicians' Union is calling on councils to give instrumental tuition greater priority. As an essential component of the Standard grade and Higher courses, pupils had to be exposed to musical instruments at a much younger age, Mr Smith said. There was also evidence that playing an instrument improved general skills such as hand and eye co-ordination.

Glasgow, meanwhile, is considering scrapping its Pounds 80 annual charge for students because the council says the costs of collection do not justify the revenue raised.

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