The funding of arts in schools is an important topic which surfaces every now and then in the national political debate – that is, when Brexit allows it to. Recently, Ruby Sampson wrote on this for Bournbrook (available HERE), arguing that all students, regardless of where they are educated, should have the ‘opportunity to develop their creative ability’.

Two Fridays ago, I attended the University of Birmingham’s weekly Barber Institute lunchtime concert. The performers in this concert were all selected from two local schools.

Some of the choices of music were – to say the least – off. A set of ‘Variations on a Theme of Paganini’ written by a living composer (never a good sign!) did more to invoke an image of ‘Vomiting on a Theme’. The last piece – a piano quartet by Brahms – was, at least, more appropriate; long-dead though Brahms may be, his music lives on. Regardless of this, the musicians were incredibly talented and will certainly – as well as deservedly – go far.

A sign of the arts going well in schools, then? Not really. The schools from which the performers came were both private – that is, accessible only to those with great wads of money who, being from more well-off families, were already more likely to be pushed into playing instruments by their parents.

This is not, in itself, a bad thing. The problem is that the same musical opportunities are not afforded to those who are less well off and who attend typical comprehensives (not the highly selective comprehensives located in wealthy areas).

At my own secondary school – a comprehensive in the Midlands – I saw the music department decrease year on year to non-existence at sixth form level by the time I left. Three years on, I am still asked to help occasionally in school performances, alongside teachers and their siblings, since there are not enough students taking part.

This is partly the school’s fault, but a large proportion of responsibility must also be pinned on parents – I began playing aged four only because my parents pushed me to, just as others don’t play because their parents didn’t push them.

Demanding that certain areas need more funding will not help per se. However, it costs nothing to try to instil an interest.



Photo from Mabel Amber on Pixabay.