Music Tuition Battle Strikes a Chord on Exams

By Cowing, Emma | Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland), October 28, 2012 | Go to article overview

Music Tuition Battle Strikes a Chord on Exams


Cowing, Emma, Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland)


MIDLOTHIAN Council plans to drop charges for instrumental music lessons for children sitting SQA exams and two other councils are reviewing their charges following the launch last month of Scotland on Sunday's campaign for free music tuition in schools.The moves come as a former senior chief inspector of education in Scotland branded the charges for instrument lessons "absolutely disgraceful" and questioned their legality.Scotland on Sunday's Let The Children Play campaign issued a five-step roadmap towards free music tuition - the first of which was to drop charges for children sitting SQA exams. The Scottish Government afterwards said it would conduct a review into the legality of tuition fees, which at SQA level effectively charges children to sit exams.Our survey of the five local authorities that charge children sitting SQA exams for instrumental tuition, as well as a sixth, which plans to introduce charging next year, revealed Midlothian proposes to scrap charges at SQA level; Highland Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council said they were reviewing the fees.Councillor Lisa Beattie, cabinet member for education at Midlothian, said: "In opposition, we did everything we could to protect access to music tuition for as many children as possible and this continues to be a priority. Lessons are highly subsidised and the current set-up in Midlothian allows children from lower income families to access instrumental music lessons. However, we also intend to come back to Council with a proposal to remove charges for music instruction for pupils who are taking SQA music courses."Of the other three councils, Aberdeenshire, which will introduce SQA charges next year, and Renfrewshire have no plans to change their policies. Aberdeen, which charges the highest fees, did not respond.The current postcode lottery system across Scotland's local authorities means 24 out of 32 councils charge for instrumental music lessons in schools. Costs range from GBP95 in Inverclyde to GBP340 in Aberdeen.Yesterday, a former senior chief inspector of education in Scotland, who declined to be named, said: "As soon as a child signs up to a certificate course it's absolutely not on to charge. I would have thought that was not legal. If I had still been in the Inspectorate I would have made sure we would have said to the Scottish Government - you have to tell these local authorities to stop this."The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) is conducting its own review into the charges.Instrumental performance counts for up to 60 per cent of SQA music exams. Children must be able to play two musical instruments to Associated Board Grade Three level or above. Although schools make some provision for teaching "classroom instruments" such as recorder, glockenspiel and keyboard in class music lessons, children learning an instrument from an instrumental music teacher, in a group or in individual lessons, must pay, even though that work makes up a significant portion of the practical part of exams."The reality is the Scottish Qualifications Authority offers instruments outwith the classroom as part of the SQA exam, therefore the instrumental music service, which provides that service and is provided by the local authority, should be free," said Mark Traynor, head of the Educational Institute of Scotland's instrumental music teachers network. …

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