Deprived areas left voiceless as music is dropped from UK schools

Written By Aimee Rigby |


Schools are increasingly treating music as a hobby rather than a career | Photo: ALAMY

Recent reports have shown that there has been a staggering 21% decrease in music lessons over the last five years, according to the British Phonographic Industry.

For many, music lessons were the highlight of their school years. From studying the twelve-bar blues to learning a simple four chords on a guitar, music was a break from the monotony of the less creative lessons, and a chance for some to discover their passion.

…deprived areas are the worst affected…

However, schools are increasingly treating music as a hobby rather than a career. Reports from the BBC and The Guardian suggest that many of the arts are being dropped from the school curriculum, none more so than music. The British Phonographic industry (BPI) is a trade body representing the United Kingdom’s recorded music industry. The BPI concluded that more deprived areas are the worst affected, with an average of only one in four schools offering music lessons.

Children playing musical instruments in Scotland | Photo: Murdo Macleod

Josh Urban, 20, from Brighton, is a music student at the Royal Northern College of Music. Josh found himself battling the education system in secondary school in order to secure his place on a music course. He stated:

“In A-Level there was approximately fifty people in the year group, and I was the only one wanting to take on the music course. Even though she was willing to teach me, the head of music had to undertake several board meetings over two weeks to fight for my place on the course. The school just wasn’t willing to offer the subject.”

Josh also explained that the company who had overtaken the running of his school were cutting all arts subjects, not just music: “I remember hearing that the GCSE class only had one art subject available to them when I was studying A2.”

Without exposure to the arts, some very special talents will never be discovered.”

Will Simmonds, 20, studies BA Music at Falmouth University. When discussing music as a hobby rather than a career, he explained:

“I personally want to make a career out of something I find enjoyable. For some that’s science or history but for me it’s music, and I think that needs to be taken more seriously in schools. Without exposure to the arts, some very special talents will never be discovered.”

Statistically, independent and private schools offer more music lessons to their students than state schools. According to the BPI, only 12% of schools in deprived areas have an orchestra, compared to an immense 85% of independent schools.

However, the inequality shown by these figures goes deeper than schools not wanting to offer music to their students. A report by the Musician’s Union suggests that pupils are half as likely to learn a musical instrument if their families earn below £28,000 a year, due to the costs of private tuition.

“From studying the twelve-bar blues to learning a simple four chords on a guitar…” | Photo: Bloomingdale School of Music

Talking to the BBC, the CEO of the BMI, Geoff Taylor, stated that he was “profoundly concerned” about the imbalance between state and private schools. He added that the “inequality is not only deeply unfair to those in the state division, but risks depriving our culture of future talents.”

Dropping the arts from the main school curriculum has always been an issue. However, The Department of Education is currently designing a model music curriculum, so improvements are to be expected soon. It is hoped that with the influence of the BPI, music will be injected back into the lives of school children sooner rather than later.

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