Encouraging more young people to take up music lessons – and their parents/carers to part with the money – can seem like an uphill battle. Perhaps it feels like something you’re powerless to control. Or maybe you don’t think it’s your role – particularly if you’re a music education hub in England without a peripatetic service. Yet some simple actions could help you to increase participation and take-up. And if you’re a hub, it could even improve those elusive continuation figures*.
The stark fact is, only 10% of pupils in England are learning an instrument in this way.**
We can choose to believe that’s because the other 90% aren’t interested, are learning in another way, can’t afford it/aren’t applying for available bursaries – but is it really?
The following ideas are just a starting point and certainly not comprehensive: do you have any other ideas or examples of best practice? Let me know in the comments or contact me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will share them in a future blog.
Helping schools and tutors to advocate music lessons effectively
If you offer lessons:
- make sure the process of buying is clear and easy to follow. Ask a parent to identify any possible barriers or sticking points. Then remove them wherever possible – eg can people book online?
- provide schools with simple and clear instructions which they can send out, and put on their website
- give pupils a taste of what they could experience by arranging performances in schools. Make sure pupils can make a direct connection with the music lessons on offer – give out letters/booking forms at the events
- look at your communications to parents/carers – are they information, or persuasion? Do they simply list the options and prices? Or do they try to break down barriers to participation/sales, and address parents’/carers’ needs? You might think about:
- writing from the point of view of parents’/carers’ own self-interests and pain. Try to explain how music might solve them (‘my child doesn’t have any outside interests’, ‘s/he’s not very confident’, ‘s/he’s struggling with concentration/language skills’).
- reinforcing the benefits of music and why it’s a worthwhile investment– check out the Music Education Works website or Bigger Better Brains Facebook page
- signposting people to find out more details on your own and/or the school website.
- you could provide schools with copy for their website/enews, a designed template or even printed leaflets/postcards. You don’t need to include everything – persuasion and emotion comes first, you can then signpost them to a website for more
- use photos of tutors and students involved in a lesson – particularly for social media. This helps people to ‘imagine themselves’ in the activity, and gives them something to aspire to. Make sure you have suitable photo permissions – particularly for social media
If you don’t offer lessons:
- could you still help with any of the above? It would help your service/hub to be seen as practically useful to schools as well as tutors
- could you help your workforce/tutors in your area to be more confident to do this, through CPD, training, regular awareness-raising communications?
- just as I was writing this blog, a head of music posted this one, about the importance of teachers and tutors advocating music education to parents
Some examples from around the UK
- Brighton has a clear and transparent process for booking instrumental lessons. Its ‘Get into Music’ campaign includes meetings for parents/carers with instrumental teachers, performances for pupils, clear and appealing marketing materials and an online booking process
- St David’s Church in Wales, Cowbridge (primary) has a music lessons page which hints at benefits of music and has links to their tutors’ websites. I can find very few primary schools which have webpages which outline the music tuition on offer – it would be simple to provide this for schools.
- Ormskirk School (secondary) has a music page with mini profiles and photos of the tutors working in school
- Severn Vale School (secondary) in Gloucester has clearly laid-out information on its website all about music lessons
Do you have any good examples, perhaps your own? Let me know and I’ll share them in a future blog.
Next week/part 2: involving young people and parents and building your reputation online as the ‘go-to’ organisation
* And of course this also involves thinking about developing and increasing the workforce, but what a great problem to have – and one for someone else’s blog!
** (Robin Hammerton, quoted on p26 of ‘Inspiring Music for All – the Paul Hamlyn Foundation review of music in schools’, 2014 – if you have up-to-date statistics/information for other countries please let me know).