Music Tuition charges to be abolished as Green amendment to council budget accepted

Midlothian Council is to abolish the £168 a year charge to parents for their children’s music tuition following an amendment to the 2015/16 budget lodged by Green councillor Ian Baxter. […]

Midlothian Council is to abolish the £168 a year charge to parents for their children’s music tuition following an amendment to the 2015/16 budget lodged by Green councillor Ian Baxter. The amendment was accepted by the ruling SNP Group and the budget agreed at the full council meeting on Tuesday 16th December. The charge will be cut by 50% from the start of the academic year in August 2015, then removed a year later.

Currently there are 698 secondary pupils paying for the service which is offered to those from Primary 6 and in Secondary schools across the county.

However, it’s not just about the cost to parents. Councillor Baxter said, “Charges act as a disincentive to those whose income is low but who do not qualify for assistance. It is particularly important that the opportunity to learn to play an instrument is available from a young age, and the wider benefits are well documented. One report published in Canada suggested that six year olds learning an instrument had, on average, a seven point IQ increase over the course of a year compared to those not learning”.

Award-winning musician Karine Polwart, who lives in Pathhead, insisted scrapping fees would encourage more children 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.”

The cost to the council is expected to be around £30,000 in the first year, and under £100,000 in a full year once the charge is abolished. The 2015/16 charge will be taken from the £1.6 million surplus the council has allocated to Reserves to prepare for a significant funding gap in future years.