WHEN Midlothian Council voted last February to scrap musical instrument tuition in its schools, parents, pupils and teachers were aghast, with large numbers of them taking to the streets in protest.

Though the council later back-tracked on the plans – which for the time being remain on ice – the amount of money being charged to keep the service going has risen considerably. Having scrapped its £84-a-year charge in 2016, the local authority last year introduced a fee of £205.50 per annum for lessons, with that figure increasing by five per cent to £215.34 for the current academic year. The number of children learning an instrument fell by 25%, from 1,321 to 994, in the year charges were first reintroduced.

For parent Jayne Mortimer, whose three children all learn instruments in Midlothian schools, the fact some pupils have been priced out of lessons while the entire service remains at risk poses a threat to the area’s overall educational attainment – something she and a number of other parents have been prompted to act over.

“When last February it suddenly appeared in the budget that they were completely stopping music tuition we were motivated to do something,” she said.

“They took it off the table, but it was always hovering there. In June they said they were looking at having arm's-length hubs to run the service on a private basis then they said they would carry on providing it for another year.

“At that point I approached the council leader and another councillor and said could we look at working together to see what the options are and how we could support the council.”

Working alongside teachers and a representative from the local authority, the group of parents has drafted a constitution for a charitable organisation that will look to raise funds to ensure the service can continue running in its current form.

Yet while this – and the publicity around the school children’s protests – has given the service a stay of execution for now, Ms Mortimer said there is ill-feeling even among the members of the group that they have had to take such action at all.

“We’re looking at fundraising ideas to see how we can help support the service,” she said. “We have the potential to look for grants and sponsorship and we’re looking at whether we can fund our annual Festival of Music at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.

“There’s a bit of disagreement in the group about that, though. Ideally we would totally fund £700,000 a year and some people are ideologically opposed to that. A lot of people feel music lessons should be classed as mainstream education and not as an add-on.”