‘Teaching arts increases social equality’

‘Teaching arts increases social equality’


norman lebrecht

November 16, 2014

The master of Wellington College, Sir Anthony Seldon, find one clear reason why under-privileged children cannot escape poverty:

‘The commentariat talk about stagnant social mobility but rarely look at why it is occurring – and I would contend that unequal access to an education in the arts is one important reason. In England, this is mostly limited to those already economically privileged. This is an unjust waste of national talent.’

Seldon goes on to say:

child clarinet

Why should students at independent schools enjoy such a rich education in the arts, whereas in most state schools – where it could be so effective and is most needed – it is a hit-and-miss business?…

I would argue that every single child in a state school should have access to the five forms of the arts to the same degree as pupils at independent schools.

Melody and rhythm lie deep in the soul of every human being. Every pupil should be taught a classical instrument. What other lesson can we draw from the wonderful El Sistema story than the powerful cultural and social impact on all young people of music?

The state should fund universal musical education. There are encouraging signs that the government is beginning to recognise this, and I welcome the additional money that has recently been made available to music hubs. But we need more – both financially and in terms of leadership, to get music and the arts up the educational agenda.

Every child should experience the thrill of playing in a musical ensemble. It will be one of the most profound experiences in their lives; they will learn about self-discipline, teamwork and trust. All young people should be taught to sing and have the chance to perform in concert. Schools should reverberate with music in their corridors and lunch halls.

Will politicians agree? Unlikely. We’ve just heard almost the exact opposite from the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

You can access the powerful Seldon article here.

Try not to get too depressed at the closure of political minds.


  • Lauren says:

    Agreed. So many people I know think, wrongly, that the classical arts are by and for the elite. This is so wrong. It is true that elitists have co-opted these great art forms though many of them have no understanding nor real appreciation for the arts. In the increasingly dull, violent, and meaningless culture we are fed, teaching classical arts appreciation to young and old of all social classes. Culture is as essential to well-being as any other necessity.

  • Malcolm James says:

    And, despite a recent book, just look at La Sistema in Venezuela, where some of the kids experience poverty unknown in the UK.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    Music in schools is essential. It is more inclusive than sports, where one’s body shape is often important, and pays no attention to the way people speak. If we want more better social integration, music is the best way forward.