Poorer pupils missing out on music opportunities

Written by: Emma Lee-Potter | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Research finds that children from low-income families are missing out on the chance to play a musical instrument.

From boosting confidence and concentration to improving academic performance and happiness, the benefits of learning a musical instrument are well established.

But new research has found that children from low-income families are missing out on the chance to play an instrument.

A study by the Musicians’ Union has shown that families whose income is under £28,000 a year are half as likely to have a child who learns an instrument as those with incomes of £48,000 or more.

Nineteen per cent of poorer families said their children learned an instrument compared to 40 per cent of wealthier families.

The cost of music lessons is the biggest barrier. Forty-one per cent of lower income families said lessons were beyond their household budgets. Youngsters from low and mid-income families were more likely to teach themselves, thereby missing out on specialised music tuition.

The educational attainment of parents appears to play a factor in whether children learn a musical instrument too. Nearly half (48 per cent) of children whose parents went to university learn an instrument, compared to a fifth (21 per cent) whose parents were educated to secondary school level.

The Musicians’ Union, which surveyed more than 1,200 parents of five to 16-year-olds, has called on the government to address the issue. It has also asked the public to sign up to its supporter programme for free to protect music education in schools.

“With certain children priced out of learning musical instruments, we may well only be hearing the songs and sounds of the affluent in years to come,” said Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union. “Those from poorer backgrounds will, unfairly, be increasingly under-represented within the industry.”

The study also highlights the ways in which learning a musical instrument positively influences young people’s wellbeing.

Almost half of parents whose children had music lessons said it had helped their confidence and concentration, while more than a third said their children were happier overall. Almost a third whose children played an instrument had observed higher levels of self-discipline and patience, suggesting that access to music lessons boosts achievement across the curriculum.

Commenting on the findings, educational psychologist Hannah Abrahams said: “The power of music to young people is palpable. Access from a young age can not only impact a child’s cognitive abilities, but their social and emotional development too.

“It is the role of government and schools to nurture and encourage children’s exploration of music as a powerful learning and social tool.”


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