An impassioned campaign to try and stop yet another of Scotland's 32 Local Authorities imposing fees for peripatetic music instrument tuition is gaining widespread support.
It follows the recent decision of South Ayrshire Council to set fees of up to £300 per year for a family with two children who wish to play a musical instrument as part of their educational development, and the doubling of fees for children in Clackmannanshire that has seen them rise to £560 per year.
On the 17th of April, West Lothian Council — an authority that within its borders has some of the top brass bands in Scotland as well as a long history of support to one of the finest youth bands in the UK, will consider voting on making significant cuts to the peripatetic music services in its schools.
Such has been the outcry that Nick Hobbs, the Head of Advice and Investigations of the Office of the Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland has written to the Chair of West Lothian Council's Education Executive to criticise their plans to cut school strings and percussion, citing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
A focused part of the ongoing campaign is being led by Dalmellington trombonist Ralph Riddiough, who told 4BR that the spate of recent decisions could have a generational impact on children's future.
"Although people may think this only relates to a small part of Scotland, the reality is that these short sighted decisions have fast become the norm.
The Scottish Government is responsible for education, but the cost of Instrumental Music Services in each of the 32 local authorities is not ring fenced.
Everyone appreciates that budgets are under immense strain, but cutting these services and imposing fees on families, many of whom are already making difficult education decisions is so short sighted and ultimately destructive.
It's quickly becoming a 'luxury' service for those who can afford to pay for it."
Investment pays dividends
He added: "I'm trying to make the argument that investing in instrumental tuition pays rich dividends, many times over the initial cost of provision and in so many different ways. The reality is that it's a forward thinking, smart, thing to do."
4BR understands that the recent South Ayrshire Council decision meant that its Instrumental Music Service tuition (with an instrument provided) is now no longer free to all pupils.
Only those children in receipt of free school meals do not now pay, whilst a family with one child has to find £200 per year. A second child adds another £100, although there is no cost for further family members.
I'm trying to make the argument that investing in instrumental tuition pays rich dividends, many times over the initial cost of provision and in so many different ways. The reality is that it's a forward thinking, smart, thing to doRalph Riddiough
Means testing stigma
"Although there is some provision to help, there is also a stigma of 'means testing' about this," Ralph Riddiough added.
"Peripatetic music provision should be available and enjoyed by all children regardless of their family circumstances. The long term effect of these short sighted decisions will impact on generations to come."
Not only has support for the reversal of the Ayrshire decision and to stop the proposed West Lothian decision come from hundreds of families that will be directly affected, it has also seen many of the UK's most celebrated musicians join in to, with the likes of trombone star Ian Bousfield, composer James MacMillan and the legendary Denis Wick signing the recent Ayrshire petition.
Find out more
To find out more about the campaign go to: