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Crowd Funding Appeal for Judicial Review of Music Tuition Fees in Scottish State Schools

A crowd funding appeal is underway to raise £15,000 to pay the legal fees for the necessary first steps in a potential judicial review of the lawfulness of fees for musical instrument tuition in Scotland's state schools.

Primary aged children take part in a classroom ukulele lesson.
Primary aged children take part in a classroom ukulele lesson. Photograph: Musicians' Union

The case owner is Ralph Riddiough, a community musician from Ayrshire who believes that local authorities are breaking the law that requires state schools to provide education without charging fees.

This case follows on from numerous local and national petitions and campaigns that have so far failed to secure the funding for instrumental music services in schools with the result that there is a postcode lottery across Scotland in terms of fees, and the number of children taking up the lessons is in decline.

The recent "What's Going On Now" report into music education estimates that there is an unmet demand for these lessons from 100,000 children in Scotland.

Contribute to the Change The Tune crowd funding appeal on their Crowd Justice page.

Music education is a distinctive feature of Scottish state education

Learning to play a musical instrument at school from specialist tutors has been a distinctive feature of state school education in Scotland for decades.

This tuition, coupled with vibrant school bands and school orchestras, has enhanced the education of hundreds of thousands of children, been integral to the delivery of SQA music qualifications, and launched countless professional careers in music.

Music as an industry is big business and central to the success of Scotland’s economy. It is also a defining feature of Scotland’s culture and our community life.

The benefits of specialist musical instrument tuition are well known. Music is an especially powerful subject to be taught in schools, but it is also just an everyday part of an excellent education.

That musical instrument tuition is delivered in ways that are different to whole classroom teaching is a credit to Scotland’s schools. Teachers know that mastering a musical instrument is a significant challenge, requiring years of patient, specialist tuition one to one or in small groups.

Fees in state schools are divisive

Fees in state schools are wrong. They are divisive. They exclude some children. Children who have access to the specialist tuition in small groups will arrive in fourth year at secondary school with a huge advantage over children who have been priced out.

SQA music exams assess competence in two musical instruments. This tuition needs to start in primary school. This has been known in Scotland for decades.

Recommendations from the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee

More than this, there is a strong argument that the fees are unlawful. Section 3 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 says that local authorities shall not charge fees for the provision of education.

Teaching children to play musical instruments is education, and this was confirmed by the report of the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee issued in January 2019, which also recommended that these lessons be provided without levying fees.

These recommendations have not been acted upon. The Scottish Government responded to the report as did COSLA in a separate report – both with entrenched positions that the blame lies at the door of the other:

It is not right that an important education service is allowed to fall through the cracks of our public finances. There is now no option but to invoke the judgement of the courts to protect this education service.

Find out more on the Change the Tune crowd funding appeal.

A recent report by the MU revealed that children from low-income families are half as likely to learn an instrument.

The MU is actively campaigning to improve these conditions for children across the UK, and is currently involved in an inquiry by the Performers’ Alliance All Party Parliamentary Group into tackling class barriers within school music education.

For the MU to successfully influence the government and other decision makers, we need the support of people like you who care about music. Join out Supporter network for free, to protect music and access to it.

Published: 25/04/2019

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