The decline in young people participating in dance appears to be reversing, although the gender gap among children has never been wider.

Piano playing

The proportion of teenagers participating in music activities, including practising and playing an instrument to an audience, has fallen to its lowest level since Taking Part started measuring young people’s participation in the arts in 2008/09. 

Young people’s engagement with crafts and drama has also declined, and the gender gap in relation to children’s participation in dance has never been wider.

The Government data, which measures five to ten year olds’ engagement with the arts outside of school and 11 to 15 year olds’ engagement both in and outside of school, comes as new research shows schools are reducing their art provisions and entries into arts GCSEs are at their lowest for a decade.

Overall, 97% of children engaged with the arts in some form in 2016/17, 63% visited a museum and 65% visited a library.

Teenage engagement

Engagement in music activities among young people aged 11 to 15 has been on a slow and steady decline since it reached a peak in 2011/12 when 77% reported participating. But this proportion has fallen dramatically over the last year from 70% to 61%.

This was reflected in a fall in the proportion of young people practicing an instrument, which fell from 34 to 29%, and performing in front of an audience, which fell from 22 to 18%.

On a more positive note, the proportion of 11 to 15 year olds who visited a museum or gallery was up five percentage points to 64% – the highest it’s been since 2009/10.

Dance gender gap

The decline in engagement with dance observed in recent years also reversed slightly last year, with the proportion participating in both age groups rising slightly.

However, the upswing among five to ten year olds was entirely driven by an increase in the proportion of girls participating: 49% of girls participated in dance in 2016/17, up from 41% the previous year.

By contrast, the proportion of boys aged five to ten who participated in dance outside of school last year is at its lowest since records began, at 11%. The gender gap for dance among young children is now at its largest, having increased by 10 percentage points in one year.