Let the Kids Play Music Lessons Campaign Successful

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Ten-year-old saxophonist Sophie Hunter from Dalgety Bay in Fife. Photography: Phil Wilkinson

His comments were accompanied by exclusive figures from Scotland on Sunday showing 24 shocking local authorities across Scotland charging children between £ 95 and £ 340 a year to learn a musical instrument.

As many as 11 boards had raised fees for the new school year, while five local authorities also charged children to take the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) music exams – meaning they still had to pay until ‘at £ 340 per year for courses despite playing an instrument counted for 60 percent of their SQA exam. A sixth intended to introduce SQA fees the following year.

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Learning an instrument in school had become a postcode lottery in Scotland, accessible only to those whose parents could afford the fees. Although it is an integral part of music education which not only accounts for 60% of the SQA music exams, but offers enormous educational, cultural and social benefits to the child, the councils increasingly considered the instrumental music like a “handy fruit” that could be cut smoothly. a way.

Meanwhile, the fees have been increased to the point that they have become out of reach for thousands of working families. Let the Children Play wanted to change that.

We have had the support of musicians as diverse as Dame Evelyn Glennie, Frightened Rabbit, Simple Minds, Nicola Benedetti, Aidan Moffat and Sharleen Spiteri.

We spoke to the Scottish Children’s Commissioner, Tam Baillie, who questioned whether the current charging policies violate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We received broad political support from all parties and sparked a debate in the Scottish Parliament on instrumental music fees. The Scottish Government and the Scottish Local Authorities Convention (Cosla) have ordered inquiries into local authority pricing policies and in December the government set up a parliamentary task force to, in the words of the Secretary for l ‘Education Mike Russell, “Take Control” over instrumental music lessons in Scotland.

We’ve published figures showing the correlation between deprivation and lack of access to instrumental music lessons, as well as research showing that children who learn a musical instrument score better in math and English. We have also published a five-point roadmap to free education for all children. He was reading :

1) As a first step, the end of tuition fees for students taking the SQA music exams.

2) A national government policy for instrumental music lessons, to fill the current void.

3) The Minister of Education assumes direct responsibility and accountability for instrumental music lessons.

4) A commitment to reduce instrument rental costs and the creation of an instrument fund.

5) A government commitment to end all tuition fees for instrumental music lessons.

Nine months after our launch, following a sustained and high profile campaign, the landscape of instrumental music lessons in Scotland is changing.

Two local authorities – Dumfries and Galloway and Dundee City – have dropped all instrumental music fees, making instrumental music lessons free at all of their schools.

Two more – Midlothian and Dumfries & Galloway, dropped their SQA fees earlier this year. A third, Aberdeenshire, which had planned to introduce the fee from August this year, has dropped the idea.

Today Scotland on Sunday can reveal that the Scottish government has now ended all SQA charges, and local authorities which still impose fees – Highland, Aberdeen City and Renfrewshire – will remove them from August.

A £ 1million instrument fund has been established which will be managed by the Royal Conservatory of Scotland and will provide new instruments to schools across the country. Alasdair Allan, Minister of Learning, took responsibility for instrumental music lessons at government level. Compared to last year, when 11 boards increased their fees, this year none did.

This week the government will announce 17 recommendations on improving instrumental music education services in the country as part of a report by the Scottish Government’s Instrumental Music Task Force, which was established in response to our campaign, which will be on the verge of establishing a policy on instrumental music education. With representatives from all areas of music education in the country, as well as Cosla and the Scottish Government, it is likely to produce recommendations that will make learning an instrument more accessible to children than it is. has been for a generation.

There is still more to do. While ten local authorities in Scotland now offer free instrumental music lessons in schools, 22 still charge up to £ 340. Although no local authority charges fees for the SQA music exams, in order to reach the level required to pass these exams, free lessons are required from the start.

While a £ 1million instrument fund has been set up to help replenish Scottish schools with a wider variety of fit-for-purpose instruments, a number of boards still charge up to £ 83 sterling per year for rental of instruments.

When Benedetti helped launch Let the Children Play last September, she said, “Learning an instrument is just as important as learning math or English. It goes to the heart of who we are as human beings. How can it be separated by something as superficial as whether or not you can pay for your lesson? “


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