Making Music supports campaign challenging legality of musical instrument tuition fees in Scotland

As the largest membership organisation in the UK representing the everyday music maker, we are supporting lawyer and community musician Ralph Riddough’s Change the Tune campaign to clarify the lawfulness of fees for musical instrument tuition in Scottish state schools.

The campaign has taken the first step in challenging to the legality of charging fees for instrumental tuition in schools. As a person with interest, Ralph Riddiough has lodged a formal complaint with the Scottish Government under the 1980 Education Scotland Act.

... 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. I can only complain about my local authority but I’ve tried to frame the complaint in a way that says what I want is for funding across Scotland to be adequate to protect this educational service. That’s what this is about and that’s what people have funded.

In 2019 the campaign met an initial crowdfunded target of £15,000, enabling it to instruct solicitors to begin the legal work of exploring a judicial review. However, the campaign still needs support for ongoing legal costs, with a stretch target set at £50K.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government confirmed that Mr Riddiough’s section 70 complaint had been received and said that ministers would, 'consider it in accordance with the relevant procedure'. The Government has until January 2020 to issue its response.

Ralph believes that, by charging for music tuition in schools, not only are children being priced out of an aspect of their education, but that councils are inadvertently breaking Scottish law which states that no fees should be charged for education.

As Ralph explains:

“Section 3 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 states that local authorities shall not charge fees for the provision of education. It is my belief that Instrumental Music Services (IMSs) which teach children to play musical instruments within a school setting, are indeed education, a view which was confirmed by the report of the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee issued in January 2019. As such, I am seeking to clarify, through the courts, that it is unlawful for local authorities to charge fees for the provision of this music education.” 

Making Music members repeatedly tell us of their concern that opportunities to experience music and be taught instruments are being eroded in schools, and that as such community music making of the future is under threat. 

We believe that music is of as equal value as sport or science in a rounded education, and provides important long-term personal and societal benefits. We believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, and that the only way for that opportunity to be truly equitable is if it is free to all and provided within regular school hours where there are fewest barriers to access. 

Alison Reeves, Making Music Manager for Scotland says:

“Making Music members all understand the high value of music in their lives and communities and that the journey to lifelong participation in music begins in school. Charging fees only for learning a musical instrument and no other part of a child’s education creates a barrier to learning and is fundamentally unfair. Ralph’s work to challenge the legality of fees gives us in Scotland an opportunity to consider what constitutes education and to assert our accepted belief that education should always be free. If children are to be assessed on their ability to play a musical instrument for SQA qualifications, then we believe fees for learning should never be applied, even at the beginning of this journey in primary school.”

While we recognise the excellent work being done to address these issues in the political arena (welcoming the Scottish Parliament Education and Skills Committee’s position that instrumental music tuition should not be charged for in any local authority, a position shared by MSPs who spoke in the parliamentary debate on this issue on 30 April), there is a legal principle at stake, namely that in Scottish law the provision of education must be free of charge.

As we seek to #ChangeTheTune on music education and safeguard the next generation of music makers, we support Ralph’s efforts to clarify the legality of fees for education, in this case instrumental tuition, in Scotland and are putting Making Music’s name to the Change The Tune campaign. 


To support the Change The Tune crowdfunding appeal visit:

To take part in the discussion, follow Ralph Riddough on Twitter or join the #changethetune facebook group: 

If you would like to find out more or contact the campaign about your own experiences with Scottish instrumental lesson fees, visit the campaign website