A group of children with mixed identities all playing brass instruments

An initiative announced today by the Nottingham Music Hub (NMH) will pilot a new approach to ensuring that disabled children are able to participate fully in making music through Whole Class Ensemble Tuition at primary school.

Research recently conducted by a Consortium of leading access to music organisations has found that a lack of knowledge about the existence of adapted instruments is a major barrier to ensuring parity of opportunity for disabled children.

Virtually all standard musical instruments require two highly dextrous hands to play and hold them, and so without the right enabling equipment and/or adaptations many children are being unnecessarily excluded.

Despite the Department for Education’s stated commitment to “equality of opportunity for all pupils, regardless of … whether they have special educational needs or disabilities”, the Consortium found that no national data set exist on levels of participation in music by disabled children.

Moreover, their survey findings show that less than 25% of parents with disabled children and only 54% of music educators responding to the survey agreed with the statement “I know how and where to source an adapted musical instrument”.

A young, white, feminine child with medium length hair in a bun and wearing a white shirt and tie is playing a cello.

Rachel Wolffsohn, General Manager of The OHMI Trust (OHMI) a charity dedicated to music-making for physically disabled people, said:

“OHMI has shown that traditional instruments can be adapted for any number of disabilities, but that’s only half the story. We desperately need projects like this one with the NMH and Creative United, to bring the instruments and teaching skills to the children. We are really excited to be a part of it.”

The pilot initiative being launched next month by NMH in partnership with Creative United and The OHMI Trust will aim to identify and respond to the specific needs of all children in Year 3 of mainstream primary schools across the city, ensuring that they are able to take part fully in the Whole Class Ensemble Tuition that forms part of the standard curriculum of education in Year 4.

Ian Burton, Chief Executive of the Nottingham Music Hub said:

“We genuinely believe that music is powerful and can have a transformative impact on children. Nottingham Music Hub is committed to sharing the joys of music making with all children and our teaching strategies are designed to be inclusive. Since we started working in the city, the number of children learning instruments has gone up exponentially and we want to make sure that this includes disabled children and children with special needs because everyone deserves the opportunity to make music.”

The pilot has been initiated by Creative United which operates the Take it away scheme, an Arts Council England funded initiative that aims to make the purchase of musical instruments and associated equipment and accessories easier and more affordable for parents wishing to support their child’s learning and participation in music.

Peter Knott, Midlands Area Director, Arts Council England, said:

“At the Arts Council we believe that every child and young person should have the opportunity to take part and experience great art and culture. We’re delighted to support these plans to offer disabled/less able bodied children the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument when these chances may not have been available in the past. I, for one, look forward to seeing and hearing the results.”

If successful, the partners hope that their approach to building the knowledge and confidence of both parents and teachers around the availability of adapted instruments and equipment will be adopted more widely, helping to substantially increase the number of disabled children being actively encouraged to participate fully in learning and playing music from an early age.