Midlothian Council scrap plans to cut music tuition after pupil ‘musical flashmob’

Ben Wray

Folk singer Karine Polwart said the success of the pupils’ actions showed protest can make a difference

  • The Council backed down from plans to be the first local authority in Scotland to cut music tuition
  • It said a number of planned savings would now not go ahead, but that there would still be “a series of other saving measures”, as well as Council Tax rises
  • Pupils protested outside the Council Budget meeting on Tuesday morning in a “musical flashmob”

MIDLOTHIAN Council backed down from plans to end music tuition in the local authority at its budget meeting on Tuesday [12 February], following a musical protest from pupils.

The pupils gathered outside the meeting in Dalkeith with brass bands in an effort to convince the Council not to become the first in Scotland to end all Council delivered music tuition for those below S4 and S5. A petition with over 12,000 signatures was delivered to the Council.

Word came through to the “musical flashmob” outside that the Council were not going ahead with the planned cuts.

There had been an uproar about the plans locally and nationally, the legality of which had been questioned in the Scottish Parliament last week due to SQA exams containing music questions relating to the music tuition directly. 

Across Scotland music tuition has been cut back and charged to parents, but the Holyrood Education Committee found in January, after an investigation into the issue, that it should be delivered to all pupils free of charge. 

The protest was backed by legendary folk singer Karine Polwart, who tweeted this message following the news of the pupils’ victory, who said it should be an inspiration for others that protest can make a difference.

The Council issued the following statement after the budget meeting:

“Midlothian Council has voted to reject a number of savings measures put forward by council officers, aimed at meeting a £9.739 million budget shortfall in 2019/20.

“Proposals to cut the council’s instrumental music tuition and creative arts service, close three libraries and three sports centres, close public toilets, close Penicuik recycling centre, reduce roads maintenance and remove supported bus travel and community transport, have all been rejected.  Free swimming lessons for Primary 4 pupils will continue and the council’s Active Schools team will be retained. Proposed reductions in learning assistants, adult and youth lifelong learning, and school crossing guides have also been rejected and funding for the Midlothian community policing team will continue.

“To balance its budget for 2019/20, the council has approved a series of other savings measures and utilised additional Scottish Government funding, as well as approving a Council Tax rise of 4.79%.  

“Savings and other measures to increase income which have been agreed include reductions in senior management, closing Vogrie golf course, reducing grass cutting and shrub bed maintenance, reducing cleaning in non-school buildings, stopping the taxi card scheme, increasing car parking charges, reducing the budget for school transport, and ending funding for the community safety and healthy lifestyle development teams.

READ MORE: ‘If it happens here other Councils will follow’: Midlothian parent on ’emotional’ pupil-led campaign to save music tuition

“Councils across Scotland are to set their 2019/20 budgets later this month, with fears of major budget cuts in almost every part of Scotland.”

The Scottish Government agreed a deal with the Scottish Greens in January which will see extra powers for local authorities to introduce new levies on tourists and workplace car parks, and increase the rate of Council tax by up to 4.79 per cent per annum.

On Monday, Midlothian Council parent Tracey Rap, who has two children receiving music tuition, explained the importance of maintaining free music tuition for pupils to CommonSpace.

“It’s so important. It’s not just me or the pupils saying that, there’s research showing its benefits to mental health, planning, team work; it’s such a useful ability in so many ways.

“For children that aren’t sporty, it’s also a way of making bonds, finding like-minded people and doing something active together. What’s the alternative? Video games and nonsense on the streets. Music tuition is something that’s good for the whole community, not just pupils.”

Picture courtesy of Peter Taylor

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