Children as young as six who learn to play the recorder or the violin for as little as a year will soon be able to gain a medal.
The medals, devised by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, are to be introduced as part of a radical overhaul of the way instruments are taught in schools. They come as the Government prepares to launch its music manifesto to boost participation and follow inspectors' criticism that poor facilities are hampering improved music teaching.
Ministers have pledged to do more to give every child the chance to play a musical instrument. Now, for the first time, children learning to play instruments such as the recorder, violin or guitar in school will be examined as they play in a group as well as the current one-to-one tests.
The medals, which are aimed at children aged six to 13, will be available from September in five levels: copper, bronze, silver, gold and platinum.
Seventeen brass, woodwind and string instruments can be tested under the system, which took five years to design. The piano is not included.
Assessment will be carried out by teachers and consist of three parts - playing in a group, solo and musicanship. Children must pass group playing and one other part to gain a medal. Although children must play in a group only one child is assessed at a time. The medals will complement the tradional graded exams.
Meanwhile, a 25-year-old skinhead complete with lip stud is transforming the way music is taught in London schools. Kate O'Connor uses the Suzuki method of teaching, which encourages parents to take part in lessons so they can help youngsters practice at home. The method, developed in Japan in the 1970s, can be taught to children as young as three. Ms O'Connor said: "Music can enhance any child's life. To make music available to children who might not have otherwise enjoyed it, is great. The traditional method of teaching only gets a minority of children interested."