Are schools facing the music?

19th September 2014

Music is booming in schools but poorer children may be missing out according to a new report by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

Making Music, the most comprehensive survey of the learning, progression and teaching of musical instruments ever undertaken in the UK found that  76% of UK children aged 5-14 say they ‘know how to play an instrument’ compared with 41% in 1999.


Electric guitar overtakes violin for the first time in the list of top six most popular instruments learned, with the piano the most played instrument.

Despite the high levels of participation the report found that significant gap in take up.  30 per cent of children who had never had lessons said they were too expensive, while 40 per cent of poorer children who didn’t play an instrument said they had no opportunity to learn at school.

The report comes as Channel 4 programme Don’t Stop the Music has launched a national amnesty of musical instruments in partnership with Oxfam. The instruments will be donated to schools to increase access to music in disadvantaged communities.


In our region a musical partnership lead by Julian Lloyd Webber’s charity is making a difference.

Hawthorn Primary in Elswick and Ashfield Nursery in Low Fell are benefiting from the ‘In Harmony NewcastleGateshead’ project, modelled around the schoolchildren participating in an orchestra.


The Northern Sinfonia and the Orchestra of Sage Gateshead are central to this along with funding from Arts Council England and Department for Education.

Every child in the school has been bought a musical instrument and the children, staff and parents all benefit from music tutors from Sage Gateshead and the Newcastle and Northumberland Music Education Hub on a daily basis.


Julian Lloyd Webber wrote in the Telegraph this week about the positive impact this is all having.

‘One pupil at In Harmony Gateshead has a significant speech disability: when he arrived at school aged five, he could make clicks and squeaks, but was unable to speak.

'Every child in the school was given a choice of instrument, and he chose bassoon. He now attends the Sage Gateshead Centre of Advanced Training every weekend, is a member of the West Newcastle Symphony Orchestra and has performed at Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophical Society.

'His Head Teacher says that “undoubtedly, ‘In Harmony’ has saved his life”.

Further reading
Teach Youngsters music and they will soar (The Telegraph)
Why don't children want to learn the violin (BBC online)

More information

Don’t Stop the Music

In Harmony