Parental dis-chord over charging for school music lessons

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A PARENT of a secondary school student has criticised the introduction of charges for music lessons in schools.

The Department of Education and Children’s Music Service brought in the fees in January, after securing Tynwald approval in October.

The man, who lives in Glen Vine and asked not to be named, said: ‘The introduction of this charge has had to make us look again and sit down as a family with our son and explain the government’s actions.

‘We have had to make the decision to stop our son’s clarinet lessons, this is a sad decision as both myself and his mum were taught an instrument at school.’

He said his son quickly developed a talent for playing the recorder at primary school and had won a class at the Manx Music Festival. He had progressed up to playing the clarinet, and was hoping to learn the saxophone.

The parent questioned whether the move would mean the island would now lose ‘a lot of our future music talent’, adding: ‘I know a few other parents that have this same dilemma about whether to carry on with lessons or not.

‘We understand we are in troubled economical times. But the Manx citizens have had to suffer huge energy increases over the past few years with many of us either having no pay rises or very little pay increases.

‘With the government making savings like these, they are going to have a detrimental impact to our children’s lives and surely that is wrong.’

A DEC spokesman said the number of students taking music lessons had only fallen slightly following the introduction of fees.

‘Only a very small number have ceased lessons since charging began and in most of these cases their parents have indicated that this is purely because they are busy with schoolwork or extra-curricular activity or were not picking up the instrument frequently enough to warrant having lessons.’

The spokesman said: ‘Introducing a small charge for lessons for those pupils choosing to have tuition on an instrument was regrettable but was one of the measures we announced in the Budget of February last year in response to the well-publicised fiscal difficulties faced by the Isle of Man Government and the need to balance our books.

‘Parents were asked, last August, to complete a form indicating their willingness to begin paying for their child’s music tuition.

Charging was introduced at the start of the spring term.

Children who are studying music at GCSE and A level, and those who qualify for free school meals, do not pay for music tuition.

Others are charged £2 per lesson or £20 per term the first year they receive tuition and £3 per lesson or £30 per term after that.

Some, higher grade students who receive more complex tuition pay £5 per lesson.

The DEC believes these charges ‘compare favourably’ with the charges for private music lessons.

At present, there are 1,013 pupils having music tuition.

Parents can pay £17 a term to hire an instrument pupils take home to practice on. This charge hasn’t risen since 2009.

There are specialist, experienced teachers offer guitar, woodwind and brass tuition to children aged 9 (Year 5) and above and string tuition to younger children where a teacher is available. Voice, percussion and drumkit lessons are available to secondary school students.

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