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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 00:15 GMT 01:15 UK
Poor 'miss out on music lessons'
pupils playing clarinets
Inspectors found "gender stereotyping" in pupils' choices
Children from poor homes in England are missing out on the chance to learn to play a musical instrument, school inspectors have said.

There is "a clear and disappointing reduction" in the number of children having tuition after primary school.

Ofsted studied music services in 15 representative education authorities and said provision was good overall.

It detected "clear gender stereotyping" in the choice of instruments, and found little being done to tackle this.

Hourly charges

Most services had a system of fee remission so pupils from families with low incomes could take tuition.

But in some cases this was very small and there was no systematic guidance for schools on how to identify and encourage pupils who might wish to participate, but did not put themselves forward because of their family circumstances.

In the schools visited, the percentage of pupils entitled to free school meals who were receiving tuition was low.

The hourly charge for lessons ranged from 15 to 29, with an average of 25. In some cases, playing in an orchestra or band cost extra.

Patterns of funding varied considerably, with services' incomes ranging from 130,800 to 3.6m.

Two relied totally on centrally provided grants and contributed nothing themselves.

In one case 31% of the income came from charges to families.


But the chief inspector, David Bell, said the report was upbeat.

"It is quite likely that the next Jamie Cullum or Vanessa Mae may be waiting, right now, to be discovered in an English school.

"It is therefore encouraging to see that all the music support services surveyed in this report are doing a good job overall of helping youngsters with an enthusiasm or talent for music."

One of the reasons for the limited range of activities inspectors noted was that many lessons were no longer than 20 minutes - mainly to meet the demand for low-cost individual sessions.

There was a heavy reliance on preparing for exams and assessments.

Limited repertoire

In ensemble playing at all levels, pupils were "highly motivated, focused and keen and clearly enjoy performing with others".

Attendance was very good, many players travelling considerable distances to take part - though location counted against those relying on public transport.

There were some good examples of pupils being offered samba, gospel, rock and steel pan music traditions and contemporary pieces.

But most activities tended to represent western European classical traditions or theatre and film music.

The result was "a safe, undemanding and somewhat repetitive repertoire".

Leadership and management were good or better in most of the services inspected, but unsatisfactory in two (not named in the report).

Instrument Boys (%) Girls (%)
Violin 23 77
Flute 9 91
Guitar 73 27
Recorder 45 55
Clarinet 23 77
Voice 30 70
Keyboard 37 63
Trumpet 67 33
Percussion 73 27
Cello 27 73
Saxophone 53 47
Source: Ofsted

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