The number of children who play musical instruments has nearly doubled in the last 15 years – but many disadvantaged children are missing out.
New research by the ABRSM, the exam board of the Royal Schools of Music, has found that while 76 per cent of UK children aged five to 14 say “they know how to play” and more than a third of them have lessons, 15 per cent of all five to 17-year-olds have never played a musical instrument at all.
Furthermore, while three-quarters of youngsters from affluent families had instrumental lessons, either individually or in groups, only 55 per cent from disadvantaged backgrounds had instrumental tuition.
Forty per cent of children from poorer backgrounds who have never played an instrument said they had no opportunity to play at school.
The Making Music report, which involved 4,500 music teachers and 3,000 children and adults, said long-term music education is often the preserve of the rich. The cost of learning to play and taking lessons is “a major barrier” and children without access to music tuition are “significantly less likely” to carry on playing.
The report called for funding to be focused on better supporting disadvantaged learners, addressing regional imbalances and ensuring “a more equitable supply” of instruments.
“Children from lower socio-economic groups continue to be significantly disadvantaged compared with their peers from more affluent backgrounds,” it said.
“Sustained, progressive music education tends to be the preserve of children born to wealthier parents.
“This report shows that adults who had private lessons as children and sat a music exam were much more likely to still play an instrument – and the higher the grades achieved, the more likely they were to continue learning.”
The research also found that the piano is the most popular instrument played by five to 14-year-olds. The electric guitar has overtaken the violin in popularity for the first time and an increasing number of youngsters are playing the drums, bass guitar and keyboard too.
Lincoln Abbotts, director of strategic development at ABRSM, said: “It is hoped the report will be used to influence, change and further improve the circumstances in which children and adults engage with music.”
Read the report at http://gb.abrsm.org/en/making-music/