Education Secretary John Swinney urges all Scottish councils to provide free music lessons

Education Secretary John Swinney has urged all local authorities across Scotland to provide free music tuition for pupils.

Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 7:21 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 7:25 pm
A teacher helps a pupil play the violin.

During a debate held by Holyrood’s Education Committee yesterday, Mr Swinney said although decisions over how to deploy resources were a matter for councils, the Scottish Government was committed to maintaining free tuition in the country.

The committee published its report on the question of instrumental tuition for pupils earlier this year, concluding it should be provided free of charge.

Although some councils such as Edinburgh and Glasgow provide free tuition for pupils, others have either introduced or raised charges.

It has coincided with a decline in the number of pupils in the country opting to learn a musical instrument in schools.

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Mr Swinney said: “Participation in music and the arts can have a hugely positive effect on our children, our young people and on their families.

“Being involved in music and the arts provides children and young people with opportunities to be creative, to develop their imaginations and to experience inspiration and enjoyment.

“This can have a hugely significant positive effect on their mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing.

“Instrumental music tuition in schools is an important element of that participation in the arts.”

The Deputy First Minister said local government had been treated fairly in the financial settlements put in place by the Scottish Government and pointed to a number of local authorities, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, that have continued to provide instrumental music tuition free of charge.

He said: “Choices are made at local level by individual local authorities.

“It is up to each local authority to decide how it deploys the resources that are available to it and I would take this opportunity to encourage local authorities to provide instrumental music tuition to pupils within their locality at no cost to the pupils involved.”

He added that following discussions last year, a working group on the issue secured a commitment from local government umbrella body Cosla to set a minimum standard of eligibility criteria for access to free music tuition.

Those eligible would include those in receipt of free school meals, as well as those undertaking SQA qualifications (which is already a current standard).

Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith said: “Music in whatever capacity should be at the very heart of any curriculum, not just because of the educational and social benefits it brings but because it has the potential to transform lives.”

Scottish Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray pointed to cuts to core council budgets as a factor affecting the provision of free music tuition.

He said: “We cannot ignore simply the financial circumstances which councils find themselves.”