Pupil Music Survey 2020: What Music Means to You

Pupil Music Survey 2020: What Music Means to You

During the summer term, the Sutton Music Education Hub ran a survey with children and young people in Years 6, 7 and 8. It was the first time that we had attempted such an exercise, and we were delighted by the responses that came back. We wanted to understand more about the pupils’ musical preferences, their exposure to music education, and establish the key focus areas to increase pupil engagement with the Hub moving forward.

The data that we collected told us:

  • That music is very important to young people, especially girls, and that we could be doing more to inspire them to make music by catering to more varied musical taste.
  • Young students are the most likely to engage with music-making but feel that they have the least amount of opportunities.
  • Nearly 20% of students say that classical music is their first musical preference, with 17.6% of students saying that Rap & Hip Hop is theirs. We found that urban genres of music become more important as the students get older.
  • Students are mostly engaging with music via computers and other devices.
  • While our student engagement is very good, SMS can do more to engage young people with our borough choirs, bands and orchestras.

The findings of this survey will not only be important for the direction of the Music Hub, but it might also give Music Coordinators and Subject Leaders insights to help them plan their school-based curriculums.

The survey was called “What Music Means to Me”, and 1195 young people across Sutton’s schools responded.

The survey was commissioned by the Sutton Music Education Hub Advisory Board, which is made up of a range of stakeholders that includes headteachers, music coordinators, parents, and other local music practitioners. The results that we collected are only the beginning of a more extended project to engage and inspire young people with music.

The responses

We were delighted with the number of pupils who took the time to complete the survey and the support that the schools gave us. It meant that we were able to collect data that represented a good cross-section of schools and age groups, notably the transition between key stage 2 and key stage 3.

Distribution by gender
Year 621.0%
Year 746.4%
Year 832.6%
Distribution by year group

Musical Attitudes & Preferences

Pupils were asked: How important is music in your life? They were given a ten-point rating where ten was “I can’t live without it”, and one was “not at all”. It was encouraging that the average rating was 7.2, meaning that young people do feel that they have a powerful connection with music, especially girls.

Musical Genres

Pupils were asked to identify their musical preferences. It is perhaps not surprising that Pop music was a clear leader. However, the importance of classical and rap and hip hop genres is significant. The Sutton Music Education Hub has a very strong classical provision, but rap and hip hop is a gap in our needs analysis that needs some work.

Rap & Hip Hop17.6%
Musical Theatre4.4%
World Music2.3%
Jazz and Blues2.3%
Funk and Soul1.3%


We asked the pupils if they felt they were able to learn about or explore their chosen musical preference at school. The response was below average at 4.8. When asked whether they would engage if more opportunities catered for their musical taste, the average response was 5.4.

Learning for the Sutton Music Hub

1.   Music is very important to young people. Especially girls.
2.   What more can be done in schools and in the borough to inspire?
3.   Are there opportunities to cater to a more varied musical taste?

Further investigation

When drilling into the data further, it became clear that pupils in year 6 felt that their musical preference was the least catered for, but they are the most likely to take part if offered the chance and the most passionate about music.

How well is your musical taste represented at school?
Year 64.6
Year 75
Year 84.8
How important is music to you?
Year 67.4
Year 77.2
Year 87.2
Would engage if there was an opportunity to make your chosen musical genre?
Year 66.2
Year 75.6
Year 84.9

Favourite genre of music by year group:

PopClassicalRap & Hip Hop
Year 638.65%17.93%14.74%
Year 735.56%20.76%13.90%
Year 829.49%19.49%24.62%

Learning for the Sutton Music Hub

1.   The youngest pupils are the most likely to engage, but they feel that they are catered for the least.
2.   Pupils are much less likely to engage by the time they enter Year 8 if they have not already done so.
3.   Rap & Hip Hop become increasingly more important to young people by Year 8.

Where do young people experience music?

On a computer or other device50.6%
School Music Club: orchestra, band, and/or choir20.3%
At church or other place of religious worship17.2%
With friends (e.g. in your own rock band)15.4%
Local Musical Theatre Group7.3%
Local orchestra, band, and/or choir (not organised by school)6.9%

Learning for the Sutton Music Hub

1.   Computers and other devices are the place where pupils experience music the most.
2.   The borough’s bands, orchestras, and choirs are not attracting as many pupils as they could.
3.   Even the pupils that have put classical music as their musical preference do not engage with us as much as they could do.

Where next?

The Hub Advisory Board will continue to work with this data to drive the direction of the Hub. We need to create musical activity in urban genres, while still working hard to build upon our strong traditional provision in the borough.

Thank you to all the music leaders in schools for their support with this survey, and, of course, to the young people who take the time to complete it.