Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 01 Oct 2009

We are a musical family. Do our two children have to go to private schools to get a decent music education?

Hillary's Advice

Independent schools have traditionally offered more music than maintained schools. They have the resources to run big departments, more parents are able to pay for instrument tuition, good music teachers are attracted by such conditions, and all these things can add up to a rich musical culture.

However it will cost you upwards of £300,000 to put your children through independent education -- if they don't get scholarships -- and this seems plain stupid when there are so many more affordable ways to give them a great musical upbringing.

You yourselves can pay for them to learn instruments, encourage them to practise, and find choirs and workshops for them to join.

You can also seek out the most musical schools in your area. It’s true that music has been in the doldrums in many maintained schools, but this is now changing fast -- as the ‘singing tsar’ Howard Goodall, points out below -- and there are many schools that offer not only a good musical education but also a more vibrant and varied menu than that dished up by many private schools.

The growing evidence that music is good for personal, social and intellectual development is helping to fuel this change. A recent study from the Institute of Education, in London, for example, highlights how musical experiences can help children develop their language skills – and you only have to step into a lively musical school to see and feel the difference in pupils’ confidence and engagement. There is also the £330m that the Government has pledged for musical opportunities for children, although the next election could put a question mark over that.