Social Mobility Commission report reveals social divide in music participation

Today (Friday 19 July) the Social Mobility Commission has released its latest report 'An Unequal Playing Field' which shows huge disparities in children’s participation rates across a wide range of extra-curricular activities depending on their social background. The report reveals that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are three times less likely than pupils from wealthier backgrounds to learn a musical instrument, sing in a choir or play in a school orchestra.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said:

‘We are concerned by the findings of the Social Mobility Commission, whose latest research demonstrates that almost three times as many children from high-income households took part in music activities as children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The classroom is the only place where all children, irrespective of background, have the opportunity to access music. However, we know from recent research that music is disappearing from our schools due to ineffective accountability measures such as the EBacc, cuts in funding, and a reduction in teaching hours for the subject. The academisation of secondary schools is also a growing concern, as the National Curriculum - which includes music until the end of Key Stage 3 - is not statutory.

Yet we know music is valued. Recent research by Ofsted showed that 68% of parents felt music was not covered enough by schools. And the latest report from the DCMS Select Committee revealed concerns about the downgrading of arts subjects in schools, with all the consequent implications for children’s development, wellbeing, experiences, careers and, ultimately, life chances. The Committee also called for the Government to do more to ensure that schools are providing a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’ and to respond to the 18 recommendations of the State of the Nation report, published by the APPG for Music Education and co-authored by the ISM and the University of Sussex.

Music education is in crisis and the Government must act quickly to ensure music does not become the preserve of a privileged few.’