Free Music Tuition in Schools

Portfolio Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 6 June 2024.

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Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour 2:00, 6 June 2024

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide further details of how it is working to ensure free music tuition to pupils in schools across Scotland. (S6O-03539)

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

The Government has transformed instrumental music tuition in Scotland’s schools by funding councils to eradicate unfair music tuition charges. This year alone, we are providing £12 million to local authorities to support the continued delivery of free instrumental music tuition as part of the record funding of more than £14 billion that has been provided to local authorities in the budget.

The most recent instrumental music survey, which was published in December 2023, shows that the number of pupils participating in instrumental music tuition is at a record high since the survey began.

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

Several councils, led by different parties, have cut funding to music lessons, so the Scottish Government’s funds cover the whole cost of lessons rather than just the removal of fees. Councils have control of their own affairs and deal with tight budgets, but can the cabinet secretary outline how a new Scottish education agency will ensure that there is equal access to music tuition across all of Scotland, so that the postcode lottery of music provision does not return?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I alluded in my original answer to the record levels of funding that the Scottish Government is providing to local authorities at the current time. Part of that funding is, of course, the additionality that we are providing to help provide free music tuition across the country.

Foysol Choudhury’s broader point about the new education agency is an interesting one. I will come to the Parliament to bring forward the legislation, which was introduced yesterday, in due course.

Some of the differences in educational delivery across the country is a matter for members all across the chamber, because our local authorities are entrusted to make the right decisions at local level for the children and young people in their care. However, there is an opportunity to look at greater parity of esteem across the board, irrespective of subject choice. We will need to look at music in further detail through education reform.

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

As I know from personal experience, music education is a wonderful way for children to explore creativity and it can open up avenues into careers in the music sector. However, thanks to Brexit, we have witnessed the music sector being torn apart due to lack of funding, opportunities and freedom of movement.

How has Brexit’s impact on the music sector impacted the likelihood of students pursuing music education, and what more can we do to support them?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

We can do a number of things to support them. One of the underpinning aims of the culture strategy is to ensure that those who are motivated to realise their aspirations to have a career in the creative sector are equipped with the skills for success. That includes the promotion of creative subjects at all stages of education and learning, and the demonstration of clear pathways that enable people to succeed.

Brexit has put in place significant new barriers that have had a negative impact on opportunities for creative practitioners, particularly in relation to their work internationally. That is why we are calling on the United Kingdom Government to rejoin Creative Europe and are urging it to engage positively with the European Commission’s proposal to open negotiations on youth mobility.

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

That concludes portfolio questions on education and skills. There will be a short pause before we move on to the next item of business, to allow front-bench teams to change position should they so wish.