The Scottish government has recently agreed to provide an additional £7m to Scottish councils to support free music tuition for pupils in the upcoming school year. While some council areas currently provide free individual instrument tuition for pupils, others have had to introduce fees due to budget shortages. As a result, the Scottish government has now entered into a one-year agreement with the council umbrella body Cosla to waive charges for parents.
In addition to the funding for free music tuition, cash will also be provided to cover core materials for classes such as home economics and drama trips to theatres. This move is aimed at ensuring that all pupils, regardless of their financial situation, have access to the same opportunities for a quality education.
The Scottish government’s commitment to free music tuition is part of a broader effort to address concerns raised by the education committee about the introduction of fees for individual music tuition. Some councils had introduced three-figure charges for individual music tuition in recent years due to budget shortages, leading to a drop in the number of pupils taking lessons. The education committee called for fees to be scrapped across Scotland after hearing from young people during an inquiry into the topic.
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has stated that the opportunity for young people to have the best start in life “should never be limited by a child’s ability to pay”. As such, the Scottish government has committed £7m for the 2021-22 school year to waive charges, following a manifesto commitment from the SNP in the campaign for May’s election. The government will also provide a further £6m to cover “core curriculum” costs, such as home economics materials and theatre trips associated with drama qualifications, which some schools were charging parents for.
While councils are free to decide how the cash should be spent, councillors have generally expressed a reluctance to ring-fence funds and have a “democratic right” to allocate their own budgets. However, the Scottish government has now agreed to a deal with Cosla for specific funding for the coming school year, with the education secretary committing to further talks about how to develop “a sustainable and funded model for future years”.
Stephen McCabe, Cosla’s children and young people spokesman, has welcomed Ms Somerville’s promise to work with local authorities to develop a long-term solution. He stated that councils recognise the importance of music tuition but have faced “a range of local pressure on core budgets”. He believes that a sustainable funding arrangement for all councils must be developed to ensure that pupils have access to quality education opportunities.
In conclusion, the Scottish government’s decision to provide additional funding for free music tuition and core curriculum costs is a positive step towards ensuring that all pupils have access to the same opportunities for a quality education. While there may be challenges in developing a sustainable funding model for future years, it is important that local authorities and the Scottish government work together to ensure that pupils are not disadvantaged due to their financial situation. The commitment to free music tuition is a positive example of how the government can support young people in their education and provide them with the best possible start in life.