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Assisted Instrument Purchase Scheme information


St Helens Borough Council's Music Service is able to offer instruments for sale to pupils, which may either be VAT free and/or benefit from educational discount. These savings can be passed on to the pupils if the following conditions are met. 

The scheme only applies to new instruments; it is not possible to purchase second-hand instruments through the scheme, regardless of their condition/age.

Why have a scheme?

  • To encourage lifelong learning by enabling pupils to have access to their own instruments.
  • Ownership of an instrument encourages the child, and feelings of pride, interest and involvement.
  • To provide professional advice and information about the purchase of instruments, from St Helens Borough Council-approved suppliers, including warranty and after-sales service.
  • To maintain maximum availability, to new pupils needing to borrow from our own limited supply of instruments.


This scheme operates with regard to the guidance given by Customs and Excise and governs the sale of goods closely related to the provision of education. 

Education provided by the local authority (St Helens Borough Council) is treated as a non-business activity. 

The local education authority is therefore able to obtain refunds of VAT in certain cases. Schools may operate their own schemes within the same regulations.

  • The instrument must be for the direct use of the pupil and is necessary for delivering their education.
  • The tuition must form part of the normal school curriculum.
  • The instrument is required for regular classroom use (regular is defined as: must be brought to school on at least a weekly basis).
  • The instrument is portable.
  • The pupil must be receiving tuition in school.
  • The instrument must be appropriate to the needs of the pupil.
  • The instrument must be handed to the pupil in the teaching room.​​​​​​

Administration charge

An administration charge is added to the cost of the instrument to cover our costs in obtaining the instrument. The charges vary depending on the purchase price of the instrument. The current charges are:

Instrument valueCharge (inc. VAT)
Up to £100  £8.25
£101 to £350£14.00
£351 to £999    £17.00
Over £1000  £22.00


What you need to do

If you have not already done so, you may wish to ask your music tutor for advice on the most appropriate make and model of instrument for you.

You may be investing a considerable sum of money and need to be sure that the instrument is appropriate for your needs. In most cases there are a number of good alternative makes and models which can vary in price.

Unless you ask us to quote for a specific model, we will usually send you a quotation for two to four instruments all known to be good alternatives.

Next, contact the St Helens Boriugh Council Music Service office either using the enquiry form or on the telephone numbers listed. We will need to check your eligibility to access the scheme; that your child lives or ideally educated in a St Helens school or college. 

Once we are sure you are eligible, we will send you a quotation. The quotation will give you a number of options of instruments. Once you have made your choice and returned the quotation form to us, will issue an invoice. This will need to be paid in full before we can order the instrument. We will then place an order for the instrument, and delivery will be made to the St Helens Borough Council Music Service office.

The instrument will be checked by the tutor and then given to you in your lesson at school or during a music centre rehearsal. Delivery of the instruments can vary according to the supplier's stock, the time of year when demands may increase, and the make and model of the instrument.

As a rule, instruments take approximately four weeks to arrive, though in some cases can take several months if they need to be imported or if there is a waiting list. Please ensure you leave plenty of time for delivery, particularly if the instrument is needed to replace a loan instrument that is due for return.

Frequently asked questions

My child wants to try the instrument first to decide if it is right for them, before we buy it. Is this possible?
In most circumstances the tutor will have a good idea of what instrument is suitable, and you may not need to try it first. However, if you wish to contact the office, we can give you details of our suppliers so that you can arrange to visit them to try them out.

My child is leaving school at the end of the term and will no longer be having lessons with a St Helens Borough Council Music Service tutor in school. Can we still buy an instrument through the scheme?
Unless your child is also a member of the Music Centre and will be continuing with this membership after leaving school, then it will not be possible to use the scheme.

Can we collect the instrument from the office/shop so we can get it quicker?
The rules governing the scheme do not allow us to do this. The instrument must be delivered to your child in school or, if applicable, at the Music Centre activity.

Where do the instruments come from?
The Music Service is part of St Helens Borough Council. It therefore purchases instruments from the council's list of approved suppliers. We ensure the companies used give us good quality, value for money and offer good after-sales care. We do not keep a stock of instruments for sale but buy them individually when requested.

Who can purchase an instrument through this scheme?
The Music Service is allowed to provide this scheme to the parents/carers of any school aged young person living or educated in St Helens. Instruments have to be for their sole use as part of their instrumental music education.

Are there any restrictions as to the types of items that can be purchased?
HMRC guidance states that instruments have to be in support of a child's music education in school and that the instrument has to be portable. Pianos, large percussion items and those instruments found within school music departments are therefore generally outside of the scope of the scheme. 

Similarly, computers and software and other related devices cannot be purchased through this scheme. However, portable keyboards can. In all cases it is assumed that the child would take the instrument on a weekly basis to and from school for their lessons.

Can the pupil try the instrument first?
Generally, no, because we do not keep these instruments in stock. It may be possible for them to visit the music shop to try out several models. This may be particularly helpful for the more expensive/high spec. instruments. In a few rare instances suppliers have sent an instrument prior to order for a pupil to try before purchase. However, instruments cannot be returned after purchase unless faulty.

Can the parents/child collect the instrument from the Music Service office or the supplier?
The rules governing the scheme do not allow for this. The instrument must be delivered to the pupil in school or if applicable, at the Music Centre activity. Please don't tell them to come to the service offices to pick it up.