Growing divide in music provision between state and independent schools in England

Band and conductor

A new survey of 2,200 teachers by UK record labels association the BPI shows ‘a stark and growing disparity’ between the levels of music provision in state schools, particularly the most disadvantaged, and the independent sector.

Schools in areas with poorer pupils deliver markedly fewer opportunities for their students to participate in music, whether through clubs and societies or by learning to play a musical instrument. In contrast, almost all independent schools and state-funded schools serving more affluent communities give students the opportunity to take part in a school musical or in a play featuring songs.

Whilst many state school teachers report that music provision has declined in recent years, music education in independent schools is as strong as it has ever been.

Key survey findings

  • State schools have seen a 21% decrease in music provision over the past 5 years, compared to a net increase of 7% in music provision in independent schools over the same period. Around 30% of state schools have seen a decrease in curriculum time for music, or a reduction in the number of qualified music teachers.
  • Only 12% of the most deprived schools have an orchestra, compared to 85% of independent schools.
  • 1 in 4 schools serving disadvantaged communities offer no music instrument lessons to students that want them.  Almost all independent schools and those serving affluent communities do.
  • Only 64% of schools serving disadvantaged communities give students a chance to take part in a school musical or musical play, compared with 91% of the most affluent state schools and 96% of independent schools.
  • 89% of independent schools run a choir in lunchtime or after-school compared to only 60% of the most disadvantaged state schools.
  • Almost 40% of state-funded secondary schools now have no compulsory music lessons in year 9. Students from disadvantaged communities are least likely to have regular music lessons by age 13/14.
  • Only 44% of music lessons in a primary school are delivered by a music specialist.
  • 1 in 5 primary school teachers report there is no regular music lesson for their class.

The BPI is calling the Government to address these problems by boosting funding, recognising music as a core component of the education of young people, and ensuring that the subject is regarded as an essential part of a school’s performance.

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards, said:

‘People may have different talents and aspirations, but the one thing that gives us all an equal opportunity to fulfil our potential, whatever our background, is education.

Every child should have the same opportunity to develop their musical talent

‘These BPI findings make us profoundly concerned that music education and tuition in state schools is beginning to lag far behind that in the independent sector. This inequality is not just deeply unfair to children in the state sector, it risks depriving our culture of future talents as diverse as Adele, Stormzy and Sheku Kanneh-Mason. We believe that every child in this country should have the same opportunity to access tuition and to discover and develop their musical talent.

‘It is clear that Government needs to inject additional funding for musical instrument tuition in state schools and to recognise music as a core component of a child’s education, one which should be reflected in Ofsted’s judgment of a school’s performance. We warmly welcome the proposed new Model Music Curriculum for schools, but it is vital that Government ensures that the curriculum also works for the many non-music teachers that take music lessons in primary schools.’

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