Postcode lottery of music tuition strikes a chord

28th June 2013 at 01:00
Address and family circumstances mean that some children miss out, report finds

Fees for music tuition in Scotland are subject to a postcode lottery, with some children receiving free instruction while others have to pay #163;300 a year, a government report reveals.

Location and family circumstances mean that some children are missing out on the "huge benefits" that instrumental music tuition brings, according to the report, which was published yesterday.

Students in Aberdeen pay the most, with individual tuition in the city costing #163;340 a year. Stirling charges #163;309, Moray #163;300 and Aberdeenshire #163;284. The average cost for music tuition per student, per year in Scotland is #163;166.

In many local authorities, demand for instrumental music tuition "highly outweighs" resources, with aptitude tests often used to determine the children that get to learn, the report says.

No local authority in Scotland has a universal instrumental music service that would allow any child to access tuition on any instrument, it adds.

But the report finds no correlation between uptake of a musical instrument and the charging of fees, and stops short of recommending that charges be scrapped.

Fees were only one consideration when it came to student participation, which varied from 4.5 per cent in Renfrewshire to 20 per cent Shetland. Some of the highest-charging councils had better participation rates than councils where tuition was free, it says.

Other factors that affect uptake include availability of instructors and instruments, varied approaches to aptitude testing and selection and concessions for the less well off, the report says.

It calls for the government to publish "a national vision statement" on music education to iron out differences in access across the country and for councils to review their charging policies and concessionary schemes to ensure that students are not prevented from learning a musical instrument "because of their background, location, disability or financial circumstances".

Mark Traynor, convener of the EIS teacher union's instrumental music teachers' network, welcomed the report, saying that for the first time it gave a clear picture of instrumental music provision across Scotland and highlighted the valuable contribution it made to Scottish education and culture.

But, he added: "We still would like to see some time in the future discussion of free tuition for all pupils. We can't lose sight of that."

The instrumental music group was set up by the Scottish government in December to investigate the provision of music tuition across Scotland's 32 local authorities, with a particular focus on charging, after it became apparent that instrumental music was being hit by unprecedented cuts in funding.

The report makes 17 recommendations, including that an instrumental music implementation group be set up by the Scottish government and that it should report back by December 2014.

Most local authorities that charge offer tuition free to children from low-income families. The rest offer concessions, except South Lanarkshire, which is the only authority in Scotland that provides no discount.

Students in Edinburgh, the Western Isles, East Lothian, Glasgow, Orkney, South Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire and West Lothian receive free lessons.

David Green, chair of the instrumental music group, said: "Scotland's core music education as complemented by the Youth Music Initiative and Instrumental Music Tuition - in spite of all the financial and other challenges - is a tremendous success story.

"While there is always room for improvement, there is a growing body of evidence and many anecdotes that confirm this success."

Instrumental Music Tuition in Scotland - a report by the Scottish government's instrumental music group.

emma.seith@tess.co.uk

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Across Scotland, more than 600 FTE instrumental music instructors provide instrumental music lessons to more than 55,000 students - about 8 per cent of Scottish schoolchildren.

Overall, the total financial contribution by parents to instrumental music tuition is estimated at #163;3.8 million every year; the cost is more than #163;27 million.

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