Fees to learn a musical instrument in school have been scrapped by the Scottish Government, following in the footsteps of Dundee’s example.
The government has committed more than £7 million funding over the next academic year, meaning schoolchildren can receive free music tuition when lessons resume after summer.
Before the announcement, Dundee was the only council in our area to offer free music lessons in schools – Angus Council, Fife Council and Perth and Kinross Council all charged.
Susan Kennedy, secretary of the Arbroath Music Festival, says the decision is the “best news” she has heard in a long time.
She said: “There will be lots of children out there who are musically gifted and have never had the opportunity to do it.
“This will give them that chance and encourage them to try it. A lot more people are realising the importance of things like music now after the pandemic.”
‘Leading by example’
The government’s decision follows the success seen in Dundee where the local authority scrapped music tuition fees around six years ago.
It was one of only six councils in the country not to charge for lessons prior to the announcement.
Stewart Hunter, convener of children and family services for Dundee City Council, said: “I’m really pleased to see the Scottish Government has made the decision and welcome it.
“We made the decision a few years ago because we didn’t want fees to hamper kids’ take up on music tuition and we’ve seen a increase since.
“It makes a huge difference to kids, their skills, attendance, attainment – it benefits them in so many ways.”
Stewart says there are many examples in the city of children’s attainment improving since having access to free music lessons, as the disciplines of learning an instrument transfer into their general learning.
‘A wonderful opportunity’
Susannah Rae, president of Perth Youth Orchestra committee, added: “Learning an instrument is a wonderful opportunity which should be open to all, regardless of their family circumstances.
“We hope that tuition will remain free in future years, allowing children to take up an instrument without fear of future costs.”
Councils will also receive £6 million funding to waive core curriculum charges which can be levied on families for things including materials for home economics or theatre trips associated with drama qualifications.
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “My priority is to ensure the best possible outcomes for all of Scotland’s children and young people, whatever their background.
“All children should have the best start in life and the ability to take part in core elements of education should never be limited by a child’s ability to pay.”
It is not the first time the government has followed in the footsteps of Dundee City Council.
In 2016 it was the first local authority to raise school uniform grants to £100 per child, having previously offered just £38, and the following year the government followed suit.
Stewart added: “We’re leading by example at Dundee.
“By us being a bit more ambitious and brave and seeing the benefits, the government has followed suit and introduced it right across the country.”