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Funding shortfall for music tuition

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By Marc Mclean, Local Democracy Reporter
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Funding shortfall for music tuition

EDUCATION chiefs have been left “extremely disappointed” after being short-changed by the Scottish Government for additional music tuition in Dumfries and Galloway.

The Scottish Government scrapped charges for this extra curriculur tuition, which sparked a huge increase in demand and resulted in a waiting list of over 400 pupils across Dumfries and Galloway.

Holyrood ministers promised local authorities £12m to provide these additional music lessons for free, with Dumfries and Galloway Council expecting about £360,000 in 2022/23.

However, it was recently confirmed that the funding is just £213,000. And with the council already £98,500 out of pocket due to the removal of musical instruction charges, this leaves just £114,500 to support the over-stretched service.

The music service needs another 4.5 full-time equivalent (fte) tutors just to handle the waiting list that has been created – but has only been provided with enough money for 2.25fte posts.

Councillor Jeff Leaver, chairman of the education committee, said: “I’m extremely disappointed. I got a reply from Shirley-Anne Sommerville, the education secretary, saying that they are still committed to ensuring that music tuition is free.

“But obviously they are not prepared to come forward with the money required to fund it.

“Effectively, they have generated all this extra increased demand. We would normally have a few youngsters on the waiting list, but we have over 400.

“That is a result largely of a manifesto pledge in the election that they would provide free tuition, which they aren’t doing.”

It comes just a couple of months after the council was left with a spending gap of £8.5m for this year’s overall budget due to a poor financial settlement from the Scottish Government.

The budget settlement did not include money to cover staff pay awards, national insurance increases, inflation, or resources for meeting its climate change targets.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Last year fees for children learning a musical instrument at school were removed thanks to more than £7m funding from the Scottish Government.

“The package of support was agreed with COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) on behalf of councils.

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

“It is for local authorities to make decisions on funding priorities depending on local circumstances.”

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