Funding gap for music lessons

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EDUCATION chiefs have been ‘hugely disappointed’ after being sacked by the Scottish Government over extra music lessons in Dumfries and Galloway.

The Scottish Government has scrapped fees for this extra tuition, which has caused a huge increase in demand and resulted in a waiting list of over 400 pupils in Dumfries and Galloway.

Holyrood ministers have pledged local authorities £12million to provide these extra music lessons free of charge, with Dumfries and Galloway council expecting around £360,000 in 2022/23.

However, the funding was recently confirmed to be just £213,000. And with the council already shelled out £98,500 due to music instruction fees being scrapped, there’s just £114,500 left to support the overburdened service.

The music department needs an additional 4.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) tutors just to manage the waitlist that was created – but only received enough money for 2.25 FTE positions.

Councilor Jeff Leaver, Chair of the Education Committee, said, “I am extremely disappointed. I got a response from Shirley-Anne Sommerville, the Education Secretary, saying they are still committed to ensuring free music lessons.

“But obviously they are not ready to provide the money to finance it.

“Indeed, they generated all this additional increased demand. We would normally have a few young people on the waiting list, but we have over 400.

“It’s largely the result of a manifesto in the election that they would offer free tuition, which they don’t.”

It comes just months after the council was left with an £8.5million spending gap to this year’s overall budget due to poor financial settlement by the Scottish Government.

The budget settlement did not include money to cover staff salaries, National Insurance increases, inflation or resources to meet its climate change targets.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Last year fees for children learning a musical instrument at school were scrapped thanks to over £7million in funding from the Scottish Government.

“The support scheme has been agreed with COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) on behalf of the councils.

“A block funding package of up to £12 million is in place for the 2022-23 academic year.

“It is up to local authorities to make decisions on funding priorities based on local circumstances.”

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