The Education Executive committee on Tuesday 29 May 2018 voted to retain tuition in strings and percussion, along with brass, woodwind and piping.
The agreed charge of £354 per year reflects the cost of maintaining the Instrumental Music Service (IMS), which includes all current music tuition in the same disciplines, as well as the costs of maintaining the bands and ensembles and holding concerts.
A survey of families with children in receipt of instrumental music service tuition showed that 53% would support charging for music tuition to maintain strings and percussion lessons.
The council is facing estimated budget savings of £65million over the next five years, and is making savings across the council to allow us to balance our budget and protect essential services. The money that the council receives from the Scottish Government is significantly less than what we need to cover the rising costs for our growing young and older populations in particular.
Instrumental Music Service costs
The current cost of the service is £993,000 per year, which is made up for £971,000 staffing costs, £30,000 supplies budget less £8,000 income.
Staffing costs include salaries for the 21.04 FTE staff employed by the service, associated on-costs of approximately 27% of salary for National Insurance and Superannuation contributions, plus all overtime costs required to maintain activities such evening rehearsals and weekend concerts such as the Spring Concert Series.
Supplies cover the costs of maintaining the services such as new instruments, instrument repair and related perishibles, some transport costs for bands and ensembles, music resources and staff development.
Income of £8,000 is generated by ticket sales for concerts.
West Lothian Council has pledged £500,000 in February 2018 towards a revised model of instrumental music that maintains a sustainable amount of music tuition and protects the bands and ensembles.
This leaves a remaining shortfall of £493,000 which would be recovered through charging.
There are approximately 2,000 pupils in the service, and our estimates suggest that less than 1,400 would be chargeable places.
This is based on our projections of an estimated drop in uptake for the service of over 130 as a result of the charges, with over 470 not paying for the service.
We estimate that the estimated number of children eligible for free or discounted provision would include: over 240 pupils in receipt of free school meals; around 20 looked after children; and over 170 pupils whose SQA performance module is in the same instrument in which they receive tuition in the year they sit the practical element of the full exam; and a 50% reduction for over 80 families with a second and each subsequent sibling who receive music tuition.
The £493,000 divided equally among estimated 1,400 pupils who would pay gives the charge over £350 per place. The cost for instrumental music tuition varies among local authorities, with the majority of councils now charging for tuition and some charging over £500.
Other relevant information
Charging needs to be place by August 2018 to ensure the current instrumental music service can be provided, with a £500,000 budget allocated by the council together with £493,000 income from charging. This is necessary to ensure the current high-quality service can be maintained.
A range of flexible payment options for the charge is currently being worked on, and will be communicated to parents shortly. The level of charging will be reviewed in December 2018.
These changes only affect pupils receiving tuition through the IMS service, and other curricular tuition that is provided directly by the schools and initiatives such as Saturday Strings are not affected.
Council officers are also investigating alternative options for the long-term/future delivery of a West Lothian Instrumental Music Service, such as establishing a charitable trust or Arms-Length External Organisation (ALEO).
All school budgets follow the school year from August to July, which is different from the council's financial year of April to March. This is why the savings appear to be split over two years rather than one.