Learning an instrument at school should be free: #changethetune

by Ralph L Riddiough

Learning an instrument at school should be free: #changethetune

by Ralph L Riddiough
Ralph L Riddiough
Case Owner
I am a father, amateur community musician and solicitor. I believe Scottish Councils are breaking the law by charging fees for musical instrument lessons.
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pledged of £50,000 stretch target from 525 pledges
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Ralph L Riddiough
Case Owner
I am a father, amateur community musician and solicitor. I believe Scottish Councils are breaking the law by charging fees for musical instrument lessons.
Pledge now

This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

Latest: May 7, 2019

Initial target met!

Now that the initial target has been met, the legal work has commenced. Thank you very much indeed for your support, I really appreciate it. I will use these funds carefully and wisely. 

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Who am I? 

I am a father, amateur community musician and solicitor.  I received musical instrument lessons at Scottish state schools in the 1980s without having to pay fees for these lessons.

If you believe, like me, that every child should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument at school whether or not their parents can afford it, please contribute to my legal challenge now and share this page with your friends, family and on social media. 

Case Background 

Musical instrument lessons are now routinely charged for by most local authorities in Scotland with the result that many children are being priced out of an aspect of their education and therefore unable to fulfil their potential. I believe that fees have no place in state schools.

I also believe that it is unlawful for local authorities to charge fees for the provision of education.

In September 2018 the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament considered a petition calling on investment in this education service to be protected. The petition was passed to the Education and Skills Committee who issued a report that recommended that these lessons should be free, and raised doubts about the lawfulness of the fees.

However, no steps have been taken to ensure this occurs. Therefore there is now a necessity to challenge the lawfulness of the fees, potentially by way of a Judicial Review in the Court of Session.

How much are we raising and why? 

I am hoping to raise an initial £15,000 to pay for legal fees for the first stage to consider the issues and if necessary prepare and submit a Judicial Review to try to ensure Scotland’s instrumental music services are available to all children, irrespective of the financial circumstances of their families.

Investment in education pays rich dividends, and saves money elsewhere in the system. The benefits of music education are well known. These arguments are made repeatedly. They are not being acted upon.

Please help us challenge these fees, and share our page with friends & family on social media. #changethetune

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Update 10

Ralph L Riddiough

May 7, 2019

Initial target met!

Now that the initial target has been met, the legal work has commenced. Thank you very much indeed for your support, I really appreciate it. I will use these funds carefully and wisely. 

From this point on, pledges are debited immediately, and the 30 day deadlines can be renewed as required. 

As the case progresses I will update you, and provide as much advance notice as I can when further funds are definitely required. 

I will adjust the "stretch target" as required. 

I will continue to build the base of backers of this case. Please do the same. Lots of small pledges look good. The minimum pledge is £5. 

Look out for updates on fundraising initiatives! 

Update 9

Ralph L Riddiough

May 2, 2019

Only so much money

One of the questions / concerns that people express when they are considering the issues is - if more money comes in to education, won't it just come out of something else?

The short answer to this is yes, that is true - nothing is free, taxpayers pay for everything and budgets are then allocated.

There is enormous pressure on many public services and each of us has to make a judgement about whether to try and influence spend on education, weighing up what that might mean for other services.

It is essential that decisions are made lawfully.  It is wrong to tolerate unlawful fees in state schools.  Our decision makers can then decide where the priorities lie.

Education is widely recognised as being one of the most important areas of expenditure, given the money it can save elsewhere in the system.

Within that, music education is an especially powerful tool in changing lives for the better, and strengthening communities.

My own view is that if we tolerate fees for any aspect of state school education, we are not only undermining the principles of state school education, we are missing a trick in the drive to allocate our precious resources wisely.

Update 8

Ralph L Riddiough

April 30, 2019

Debate today in Holyrood

Here's a report on today's debate in Holyrood.


Everyone seems to love music.

It is after all the sixth most popular subject after maths, English and the three sciences.

Hopefully there will be a funding solution soon. In the meantime, a court ruling on the legality of the fees would be helpful. 

Update 7

Ralph L Riddiough

April 23, 2019

Table of fees

The problem with fees for lessons within the curriculum that schools determine to be "discretionary" is that it opens the door to a table of fees for other subjects too.

Can you imagine a state school saying, here's the basic, free, package and for those who can afford it, here's the silver package and for the really well off, here's the best we can offer?

Well, this is happening already, during the school day, in state schools, in relation to music. Music is in the curriculum. 

If your child only gets the basic music package, they'll be at a huge disadvantage compared to those kids whose parents paid for specialist musical instrument tuition when it comes to being assessed in two instruments for their SQA exams.

This has to stop.

It offends the principles of state school education and it narrows the curriculum for children from less well off families.

And it is against the law. 

Update 6

Ralph L Riddiough

April 22, 2019

The curriculum

Very often the debate about securing the place of specialist musical instrument tuition in our schools get round to the idea: "let's make it statutory" or "let's make it part of the core curriculum".

These are possible solutions, and they would presumably unlock central funding from the Scottish Government.

It is worth reflecting on the fact that not all state schools in Scotland teach French, following recent cuts.

How was that possible?

My understanding is that the curriculum contains broad headings. French would fall under the "modern languages" group of subjects under the "Language" heading, but French does not specifically get a mention (but is undoubtedly "education"). Music falls under the "Expressive arts" heading. Wouldn't it be great if "specialist musical instrument tuition" got a mention within "music"?

That is a political choice, and it would no doubt have funding consequences.

I think these points emphasise how likely it is that the courts will agree that our Instrumental Music Services deliver "education".

There is nothing to fear from this clarity.

It will dispel the misunderstanding that our IMSs are not really delivering "education" in terms of section 3 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. It will also bring to an end the unlawful decisions that schools may charge fees for these lessons. 

Update 5

Ralph L Riddiough

April 20, 2019

Is this about money?

It strikes me that the problem is not lack of money. It is a lack of understanding by budget holders about the importance within music education of the ability to play a musical instrument well, and of what it takes to get there.

Music is in the curriculum. The best thing about music education is the opportunity to play a musical instrument well. How can it be right that in a state school, some children are priced out of that opportunity? 

Update 4

Ralph L Riddiough

April 17, 2019

Mind the gap

Here's a thought. 

Fees for lessons in state schools don't close the poverty related attainment gap. They make it worse. 

Why are we being told that the fees only cover part of the costs and that the service is still heavily subsidised? 

If some children are being priced out, which children are gaining the most from the subsidy and is that right? 

Update 3

Ralph L Riddiough

April 15, 2019


We've made the case to the Scottish Parliament that IMSs should be centrally funded as a core element of education in state schools. Until that happens, local authorities will take different approaches. Some will invest and keep it free. Some are already charging exorbitant fees. Others may cut the service altogether. Fees are not saving the service.

The service is being singled out for fees because of a perceived loop hole - that fees are OK because the service is non-statutory. That loop hole does not really exist, because only religious education and Gaelic are statutory. Specialist musical instrument tuition delivers education and fees for education are prohibited. 

We need this prohibition to be enforced. Fees undermine the truth that IMSs deliver education. 

Update 2

Ralph L Riddiough

April 10, 2019

Two sides of the coin

The arguments for investment in music education are high profile, well known and generally accepted. We need to keep making these arguments. 

At the same time, we have to fight against fees. There is no point making the arguments for investment if only some children in state schools are able to benefit from that investment. This offends the principles of state school education. It also ignores what I consider to be very clear law: local authorities shall not charge fees for the provision of education - section 3 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. 

Please keep spreading the word. This is a fight we have to conduct through legal proceedings. 

Update 1

Ralph L Riddiough

April 9, 2019

A great start, thank you!

After only 5 days we have raised just shy of £3000. Thank you! If you can use social media to promote this, please do. If you need to be careful on social media, please email your friends to explain why this matters. This is a unique opportunity to invoke the support of the courts in a campaign that has been running for years. It could be a game changer. Let's take it. 

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