Acceptable solutions to the problem of instrumental lesson fees

31st March 1995 at 01:00
With reference to the article on the legality of charging for music tuition (TES, March 17), I should like to clarify the position. The law is quite clearly stated in the School Governors' Guide to the Law 1994. The relevant sections are as follows: "Charges may be made for teaching either an individual pupil, or pupils in a group of up to four, to play a musical instrument, if the teaching is not an essential part of either the national curriculum or a public examination syllabus being followed by the pupil."

(Section 18.2, musical instrument tuition) "Although schools cannot charge for school-time activities, they may still invite parents and others to make voluntary contributions (in cash or in kind) to make school funds go further. . . The essential point is that no pupil may be left out of an activity because his or her parents cannot or will not make a contribution of any kind." (Section 18.3, voluntary contributions) "Parents can only be charged for activities that happen outside school hours when these activities are not a necessary part of the national curriculum or religious education. No charge can be made for activities that are an essential part of the syllabus for an approved examination." (Section 18.5, education outside school hours).

"The LEA or governing body may not charge for anything unless it has drawn up a statement of general policy on charging." (Section 18.7, charging policies).

In addition, the GCSE criteria document states that having instrumental tuition is not an essential entry requirement.

Thus the following is clear.

* A school may levy a charge for instrumental tuition as long as it is clearly stated in the governors' charging policy.

* A school may not make instrumental tuition an entry requirement for an examination course.

The "grey area", which I highlighted to your reporter, is where a child has had instrumental lessons for which the parents have paid, up to Year 9 and then the child opts for a GCSE course in Year 10. The question is then: "Should the parents still continue to pay for the lessons, which will inevitably increase the likelihood of the child achieving a better grade?" There are various acceptable solutions. Many schools have decided that they will pay for the tuition of those pupils who are following exam courses out of school funds. Some ask for a voluntary contribution from parents. Some schools fund additional time from instrumental teachers to service the exam groups quite separate from regular instrumental lessons.

JOAN K ARNOLD, chair

Music advisers' national association Oxton, Notts

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