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Music tuition to be retained

West Lothian Council has agreed to retain instrumental music tuition across all current disciplines.

The Education Executive committee on Tuesday 29 May 2018 voted to retain tuition in strings and percussion, along with brass, woodwind and piping. Safeguards are to be put in place to ensure where possible that young people whose families cannot afford tuition costs can still get lessons..

A survey of families with children in receipt of instrumental music service tuition showed that 53% would support charging for music tuition to maintain strings and percussion lessons. Charging has been set at £354 per year, which will enable the current instrumental music service to be maintained, with concessions in place for low income families.

West Lothian Council has pledged to spend a budget of £0.5 million per year for a revised model of instrumental music provision which maintains a substantial level of tuition.  

The council is facing estimated budget savings of £65million over the next five years, and is making savings across the council to allow us to balance our budget and protect essential services. The money that the council receives from the Scottish Government is significantly less than what we need to cover the rising costs for our growing young and older populations in particular.

Executive councillor for education David Dodds said: "Our priority throughout this process has always been creating a sustainable model for the instrumental music service that protects music tuition for the greatest number of pupils.  

"Thank you to all the families who took part in the survey and engagement exercise for sharing their views and assisting the decision-making process. It is clear from our survey that a majority of West Lothian families who took part want to retain strings and percussion tuition and would be willing to pay to do so.

"Therefore we have made the difficult decision to bring in charges that would allow us to retain tuition across all current musical disciplines, and maintain the service in its current form. 

"We appreciate this may have adverse effects on the instrumental music service in the longer term, reducing the number of participants and impacting on the quality of the service, and measures will be put in place to help as many families as possible who cannot afford the costs of tuition."

Councillor Dodds added: "Instrumental music is not a statutory service, and we do not have to provide it. The vast majority of Scottish councils already charge for instrumental music lessons, with charges up to £400.

"The charge of £354 is necessary to allow us provide the current level of service and includes an allowance for the introduction of concessions, a drop in uptake and non-payment. The level of charging will be reviewed in December 2018.

"Free tuition will be provided to pupils in receipt of free school meals, looked after children and pupils whose SQA performance module is in the same instrument in which they receive tuition. A 50% reduction will also be applied for the second and each subsequent sibling who receive music tuition."

The Education Executive also instructed the Chief Executive to write to the First Minister of Scotland, the Depute First Minister of Scotland, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution and the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs with details of the decisions taken by the Education Executive on charging for instrumental music.  

The letter will state that these decisions are a direct consequence of the failure of the Scottish Government to fully fund local authorities in Scotland and call upon the Scottish Government to increase funding to all local authorities to allow all children in Scotland to have access to free instrumental music tuition as part of their education.

Notes to editors

The council sent a survey to all families of pupils who receive tuition though the instrumental music service, asking them to carefully consider and discuss the four possible revised models of instrumental music provision set out and mark their preference.

Schools also engaged with all pupils in receipt of instrumental music, asking them to come up with three comments to send to decision makers.

A total of 1,790 surveys were issued to families with one or more children in receipt of instrumental music tuition, with 667 returned, giving a response rate of 37%.  There were 658 valid responses, with nine invalid returns. 

The results were:

Option 1 - 112     (17%)
Option 2 - 56         (9%)
Option 3 - 139     (21%)
Option 4 - 351     (53%)