Many thanks to the 226 people who took the time to fill it in and particularly to the 149 UK based teachers who left detailed information about their pupil numbers. Although I haven't had the time yet to do a thorough analysis of the data I have put together some preliminary findings and thoughts.
I would like to stress however that the data is still very 'raw' and should not be taken in any way as being definitive.
So, in this post I am going:
- to present the pupil numbers for the two surveys (2010 and 2015)
- to break down the figures and look at pupil numbers by grade and age
- to discuss the good news and our challenges
First of all, let's look at the number of pupils taught by teachers.
- 2015 - 149 teachers taught 3412 students with an average of 23 pupils each
- 2010 - 474 teachers taught 9963 students with an average of 21 pupils each
The 2015 Piano Survey attracted approximately one third of the responses (32%) that the 2010 Piano Survey did.
Pupil numbers by grade and age
The Piano Survey collected details of pupil numbers at all ages including adults. However, for the purpose of this preliminary report I am going to focus on pupils between 7-14 years of age.
The chart below presents the actual data from both the Piano Surveys according to the age and standard of pupils. From this it can be seen (although the difference in numbers does make it quite hard to distinguish) that there is a similarity in the distribution throughout the standard and different ages.
The chart below represents these adjusted figures and highlights the many points of similarity between the two surveys. Also evident is an increase in pupil numbers at the start of their pianistic journey.
This becomes even more apparent if the pre Grade 1 categories are grouped together; by the time Grade 2-3 at age 12-14 is reached numbers have dropped by over half.
So the good news is that from this preliminary exploration of the data learning the piano is not decline. In fact from the 2015 snapshot the number of pupils starting the piano has risen slightly.
What continues to be worrying is the sharp drop in numbers as the reality of learning the piano kicks in. It is difficult to know whether the drop in numbers before reaching Grade 1 level is an historical one or whether it is a fairly recent phenomenon.
As professional piano teachers we need to question why this happens and what action we can take to prevent it. The reasons are, I believe, quite complex and multi-layered and include the culture, social and economic shifts that are currently taking place.
But we have to take some responsibility for the drop as well and, in particular, examine our current 'normal' approach to early piano lessons. This includes our use of tutor books, our views of how to teach notation and many of our current teaching practices. As these are topics I have discussed previously, particularly under the heading of 'tutor books' I am not going to get on my soap box again right now, but would direct anyone interested to my earlier posts.
I do believe that we can work together on this to improve our teaching practice and develop a better understanding of what works and what doesn't. The time has come for us to work together as a community and to challenge each other to develop 'best practice' teaching.
The idea of how we can work together as a community is something that I have been thinking about a lot recently. As I hinted at the end of my last post, exciting changes are coming to the Curious Piano Teacher very soon. If you haven't done so already click on the button below to get to the front of the queue.