Free music tuition hits right note among pupils

Studies have shown that learning to play an instrument can help improve pupils' general IQ. 'Picture: Neil Hanna
Studies have shown that learning to play an instrument can help improve pupils' general IQ. 'Picture: Neil Hanna
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PARENTS of budding Mozarts and rock stars will save hundreds of pounds a year under plans to scrap music tuition fees in Midlothian schools.

The dramatic proposals – set to go before the council today – would ensure music tuition is offered to all children in primary and secondary education for free by early 2016.

It has been hailed by professional musicians as a significant step in opening music up to pupils of all backgrounds.

Families living in Midlothian currently shell out £168 per year for 28 lessons – even after council subsidies – but reduced fees and exemptions are offered for low-income families. Pupils studying music to examination level receive free tuition.

There are around 1200 secondary pupils across Midlothian currently receiving school music lessons – 698 are forced to pay.

A motion lodged at today’s full council meeting by Green councillor Ian Baxter – and expected to be backed by the ruling SNP majority – will call for fees to be halved from August 2015, with a view to abolishing them by August 2016.

And if given the go-ahead, the move will bring the council into line with neighbouring authorities such as Edinburgh and East Lothian, where music lessons are provided for free.

Councillor Ian Baxter said the move towards free music lessons sought to benefit children and encourage those “put off” by high costs.

He said: “People just don’t have the money now – 
everyone is finding it difficult. If you don’t encourage children to take music tuition up when they are young, it’s often not worth it.

“Studies show children’s general level of IQ improves if they play music. So it’s about generating interest in that field – and helping students in other subjects, too.”

Award-winning musician Karine Polwart, who lives in Pathhead, insisted scrapping fees would encourage more kids to take up an instrument.

She said: “I’m a musician myself and I’m involved in music education, so it’s something I feel quite passionate about. It’s an important, symbolic thing that can be done for a relatively low cost to Midlothian Council.

“It’s about seeing music as something you can do that’s intellectually and emotionally enriching – and hanging on to that ideal that music is an essential part of life.

“Anything that makes it easier for kids to have access to music is a good thing.”

A spokeswoman for Midlothian Council said: “Midlothian Council currently offers all pupils between primary six and senior six the opportunity to be assessed for music tuition. Those who show aptitude have the opportunity to apply for lessons. Those who are studying music to examination level receive free music tuition.

“Children in receipt of clothing grants or free school meals who show aptitude are also offered the opportunity to apply for free music tuition.

“Those from low income families can apply for a hundred per cent bursary for music tuition.”