West Lothian Council's Education Executive backed a motion by Councillor David Dodds to instruct officers to survey families who receive tuition, and engage with the young people involved, on four possible revised models of instrumental music provision for West Lothian.
The Education Executive also instructed the Chief Executive to write to: John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills; Derek Mackay, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution; and Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs; giving details of the proposed changes to the instrumental music service in West Lothian and calling on them to reverse their policy of making real terms cuts to the finances of West Lothian and other Scottish local authorities.
In February, West Lothian Council approved a £0.5 million budget for a revised model of instrumental music provision, which maintains a substantial level of tuition.
Executive councillor for education David Dodds said: "We are aware there are strong views about the instrumental music service in West Lothian, and we would like to know the views of as many families involved as possible.
"We would encourage families of pupils who currently receive music tuition to state their preferences when they receive their survey. The views we receive, along with the engagement carried out with the young people, will help us agree the shape of the new instrumental music service for the future, within available resources.
"We are one of very few local authorities in Scotland, who still offer free instrumental music tuition, with the majority of councils now charging for lessons. Instrumental music is not a statutory service therefore does not have to be provided by the council, and we do not currently provide tuition in every musical discipline.
"We are facing estimated budget savings of £65million over the next five years, so it is essential we make savings across the council to allow us to balance our budget. The money we receive from the Scottish Government is significantly less than what we need to cover rising costs for our growing young and older populations in particular.
"We are also calling on Scottish Government ministers, who provide the council with the majority of our funding, to reverse their policy of making real terms cuts to the finances of West Lothian and other Scottish local authorities, which would allow us to support a full, free instrumental music service."
The survey will include four options for providing instrumental music within the available budget, and families will be asked to state their preferences. Engagement will also be carried out with the young people in receipt of the service.
The four proposals put forward are:
- The current proposal outlined in the officers' report to Education PDSP on 13 March 2018, which would see free brass, woodwind and piping tuition maintained.
- As per 1 above, but in addition to provide string tuition on a local extra-curricular basis but subject to a charge.
- As per 1 above, but retaining some level of string instruction by reducing brass instruction.
- Charges to be introduced across all disciplines to fully meet the agreed saving of £493,000.
Education Executive also instructed officers to investigate 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).