Poorer children being priced out of music lessons, data shows

child on piano

Many parts of the UK are at risk of under-representation in the music industry as lower income families are unable to afford music lessons, new figures reveal.

Research from the Musicians’ Union (MU) finds that families with a total household income of less than £28,000 are half as likely to have a child learning an instrument as those with a family income of £48,000 or more.

This disparity exists despite similar levels of interest from both groups of children, says the MU, as it calls on government to review its offering of music education in schools.

Cost is currently the greatest barrier to learning, with over two-fifths (41 percent) of those from lower income families saying lessons are beyond their household budgets. Cost also impacts how children are learning.

Those from low and mid-income families are more likely to teach themselves, missing out on the benefits of a specialised tutor, exposing a clear need for music provision in schools.

The educational attainment of parents also plays a factor in whether children will pick up an instrument. Nearly half (48 percent) of children who have parents educated to university level will learn an instrument, compared with one-fifth (21 percent) at secondary school level.

Horace Trubridge, general secretary at the Musicians’ Union, said: ‘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. Those from poorer backgrounds will, unfairly, be increasingly under-represented within the industry.

‘The data released today shows the extent of the problem – and we would like to work with government to address this issue.’

The MU is also calling on the public to sign up for free to its supporter programme to become part of the movement to protect music education in schools and add weight to its demand of the government.

Hannah Abrahams, educational psychologist, commented: ‘The power of music to young people is palpable, as access from a young age can not only positively impact a child’s cognitive abilities, but their social and emotional development too.

‘Parents from lower socio-economic backgrounds often have so many additional stressors that accessing music may be low down on the priority list for their child. It is the role of government and schools to nurture and encourage children’s exploration of music as a powerful learning and social tool.’

Download the full report, entitled Understanding How Income Affects Likelihood to Learn an Instrument.

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