Leading article: Music lessons - playing around

Click to follow

Those Arctic Monkeys have a lot to answer for. So do the Kaiser Chiefs, the Libertines, Razorlight, Franz Ferdinand, Coldplay, and many more guitar-strumming, drum-thrashing bands. Not only have they made British rock respectable again, but they have persuaded young boys of the merits of playing musical instruments. A study of local authority music services has found that 440,000 pupils aged five to 16 are learning a musical instrument. Forty per cent of these are boys, up from 32 per cent four years ago.

For this service to music we, of course, salute the new cream of British musicianship. Anything that can distract young people from their X-Boxes and Game Cubes is to be welcomed. But there's still a long way to go if we are to tap the musical potential of our young people. There is still too much gender stereotyping when it comes to instruments. An Ofsted report in 2004 found that nine times as many girls as boys learn the flute and twice as many boys learn the trumpet. Sadly, the new influence of rock music is unlikely to counteract this irrational trend on its own. There is not much call for rock flute (and before anyone writes in, we are aware of the Jethro Tull exception). Schools need to ensure that children of both sexes are given a proper choice of instrument.

There also needs to be a greater range on offer. Guitar and drums lessons are all well and good. But what about the "endangered" instruments such as the oboe, bassoon and trombone? Surely there is a place for these in our schools too.

So let music be the food of youth - and play on.