A PENDING legal challenge over instrumental music tuition fees at Scottish schools, including in the Wee County, is highlighting the inequalities in opportunity according to a local parent.

The saga over the charges, which in Clackmannanshire jumped to a whopping £524 per annum for non-SQA students last year, has seen a fresh twist with a lawyer and community musician looking to force a judicial review.

Ralph Riddough’s Change the Tune campaign has raised around £15,000 to challenge local authorities that charge for instrumental music tuition as he believes fees are in breach of Section 3 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980.

Wee County man Stewart Elder, treasurer of the parent committee at local volunteer organisation Hillfoots Music for Youth (HMFY), welcomed the move as something that shone a light on the inequality in opportunity across local authority areas.

He said: “We have a situation where Clacks is one of the highest [in fees] and some councils don’t charge anything.

“So, there is a great disadvantage; West Dunbartonshire have no fees and they’ve just pumped £70,000 into their music tuition scheme, which puts our children at a disadvantage and this cannot be an equal and fair system within education in Scotland.”

Stewart highlighted the general benefits of music tuition as children that play an instrument can often achieve more in other subjects.

He added: “The legal question is tricky, it’s complicated, but if nothing else it is highlighting the inequality in provision.

“Whatever the outcome, it has brought it to the forefront because people all over Scotland are now talking about it.”

At the end of last year, the Advertiser highlighted how more than 100 local children had already been priced out since the fees doubled.

Families with a number of children looking to learn may face the unenviable situation of having to choose who gets to pick an instrument up and who does not.

Students preparing for SQA exams are exempt from charges, but Stewart highlighted that children need to start learning an instrument way before they reach that age – as early as P2, if not sooner.

The issue was debated in Scottish Parliament at the end of last month, a committee report at the centre of the discussions also reiterated the point of “adequate preparation for SQA examinations”.

MSP Clare Adamson told the chamber: “In one local authority area, pupils are charged £524 per annum for tuition, with no discount for their siblings, which is a prohibitive sum for many families.”

Responding, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Although there is no express statutory link between education authorities’ charging powers and the qualifications framework, the acquisition by pupils of formal educational qualifications is clearly a fundamental principle of school education, as provided by education authorities.

“It is, therefore, my view that instrumental music tuition that is necessary to provide adequate preparation for SQA examinations must be provided free of charge.”