Disadvantaged children missing out on music and dance lessons, study finds

19 July 2019, 13:52

Children's access to music lessons
Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Children from the poorest backgrounds are three times less likely than pupils from wealthier families to learn a musical instrument, sing in a choir or play in a school orchestra.

Children from poorer backgrounds are missing out on music and dance lessons, a new Social Mobility Commission report reveals.

The study, from the University of Bath, shows young people for poor backgrounds are faced with cost barriers, access difficulties and a fear they won’t fit in.

Children aged 10 to 15 from the wealthiest families are nearly three times more likely to take part in music activities (32 per cent) than those from poorer families (11 per cent).

Young people in the North East of England (9 per cent) are less exposed to music classes than anywhere else, namely the South East (22 per cent).

Meanwhile, four per cent of British Pakistani children take part in music classes, compared to 28 per cent of British Indian youth and 20 per cent of White British young youth.

Children from poorer backgrounds nearly three times less likely to take part in music activities
Picture: Getty

And the same trend applies to sport. Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of children from the highest income households take part in sport, compared to just 46 per cent from lowest income families.

Young people experience access difficulties in certain areas of the country, where schools don’t provide activities and youth provision has been cut back by councils.

As a consequence, the Commission is calling on the government to introduce an extracurricular bursary scheme for disadvantaged families. They are also campaigning for funding from the government, to extend voluntary sector initiatives.

Dame Martina Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: “It is shocking that so many people from poorer backgrounds never get the chance to join a football team, learn to dance or play music.

“The activity costs too much, it isn’t available, or people just feel they won’t fit in. As a result, they miss out on important benefits: a sense of belonging, increased confidence and social skills which are invaluable to employers. It is high time to level the playing field.”

Young people who participate in activities gain confidence and build up social skills, making them more desirable to employers, the research says. They are also more likely to aspire to go to university or into other higher education.

Two boys playing sport
Picture: Getty

Damian Hinds, education secretary, said the government recently announced schools will receive extra support to open up their facilities over the holidays and after hours to encourage more activities.

He said: “But there is more to do. We want to make sure that there is true equality of opportunity to access extra curricula activities so that every young person can develop the self-belief that they can do amazing things.

“Whether it’s through playing a sport, learning a musical instrument, or joining a club or the scouts or guides, these opportunities help to build the confidence and resilience we all want our children to have.”

He added: “The more opportunities we make available to young people, the more chance they have of becoming well-rounded adults who can take on life’s challenges with confidence.”