Council needs to change its tune over music tuition

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A father has launched a legal challenge accusing Scottish local authorities of breaking the law by charging for music tuition in schools.

Ralph Riddiough, who has children at school in South Ayrshire, raised more than £15,000 through a CrowdJustice campaign to try to prompt a policy U-turn.

The majority of Scotland’s 32 local authorities recently either introduced or increased fees for instrumental tuition, with some hiking the amount they charge by as much as 85 per cent.

But Mr Riddiough believes local authorities that charge for instrument tuition are in breach of the 1980 Education Scotland Act.

He has lodged a complaint with the Scottish Government aimed at clarifying the position.

If the government dismisses Mr Riddiough’s complaint, he intends to launch a judicial review of that decision, although he noted he would have to raise more funds in order to pay for that.

Mr Riddiough said: “I’m a person with an interest because I’ve got kids at school and I’m paying fees for their musical instrument tuition to South Ayrshire Council.

“That’s against the law, is my assertion.”

Although the Scottish Government provides funding to local authorities so they can provide education free of charge, instrumental tuition – which is provided outside the classroom setting – is classed as an additional discretionary service.

As such it is up to the authorities themselves to decide whether to cover the cost of that service or not.

Mr Riddiough believes this is incorrect, with his view based in part on the findings of a report issued by the Scottish Parliament’s education and skills committee earlier this year.

Commenting on the situation, a spokesman for South Ayrshire Council added that the authority is “aware of the matter being raised with Scottish ministers and will respond accordingly”.

He added: “In the meantime, we continue to ensure our approach is fair and equitable and protects the instrumental music service in the long term.”

Sign the petition at www.crowdjustice.com/case/changethetune/