Music can say a lot about a school and an increasing number of schools benefit from the transformational power that music brings. A child’s education that embraces music starts in train a life-long journey that for many never leaves them. This gift of music is part of the DNA of whole life development and is a cultural anchor for young people. Aside from the individual benefit to children and young people there is a new inspection framework which requires schools to develop deep professional effectiveness resulting in further improvements in pupil learning.
What music brings to a school Music Mark has produced a summary of 10 things that all schools should know about music. Firstly, music boosts attainment levels. A musical school is a successful school and time and again music has proved to be the catalyst that makes a good school exceptional. When music is allowed to permeate the school curriculum it has a positive effect on all aspects of the schools’ learning and enhances the reputation of the school and its pupils.
Music improves learning skills. Research undertaken by the University of London has clearly demonstrated the cognitive benefits that music gives young children particularly in the younger years of Key Stages 1 and 2.
Music fosters team working as playing in small groups, whole classes or in any ensemble or orchestra means you are a part of an integrated team. Everyone has a role however large or small and this inter-dependency helps to build team working and a sense of ownership.
Social skills Music enhances social skills and playing an instrument or learning to sing requires genuine concentration and quietness and calm (on stage or in the classroom). Working alongside other members of an instrumental or singing group helps children to recognise their own skills and appreciate those of others.
Music underpins better behaviour because in order to learn music you need discipline and to play well requires regular practice and dedication. There are many occasions where music has had a transformational effect on children and helped turn their lives around and research by the QCA in 2002 – ‘Investigation Arts-Rich Schools’ has shown that success in the arts, including music, changed pupils’ behaviour, increasing concentration levels, developing team work and creating respect for the school environment.
Music stimulates creativity in many ways through playing and composition and enables young people to express themselves. It is a vital part of learning and a wonderful cultural introduction to life. To succeed today and in the future, children will need to be inventive, resourceful and imaginative. The best way to foster that creativity is through arts education. “Performance enhances freedom of expression and offers both pupils and schools the excitement and prestige of demonstrating their hard won skills whether in the classroom or in public. Music is often the demonstrable embodiment of both parental and school aspirations,” stated the President’s committee on the arts & humanities 2011 report ‘Reinvesting in arts education: winning America’s future through creative schools.’
The start of a journey Music is for life and an early start in music often results in music becoming a life-long passion. Whilst not all students go on to play in concert orchestras or famous rock bands the seeds sown in the classroom continue to flourish for a life time of musical enjoyment.
What’s more, music is an educational building block and Michael Gove believes that ‘music is an enriching and valuable academic subject.’ Research evidence shows that a quality music education can improve self‑confidence, behaviour and social skills as well as improve academic achievement in areas such as numeracy, literacy and language.
And let’s not forget that music is fun. It’s not only good for the brain but also the heart and young people enjoy the pleasure of mastering a tune or a song and the prestige and stimulation of a first performance in front of an audience is an adrenalin rush that is never forgotten.
Music is inclusive Music is for everyone as it is inclusive irrespective of ability. Studies have shown that music can be of particular benefit to children and young people in challenging circumstances – not only those with Special Educational Needs and disabilities but also those who are marginalised, vulnerable and often hard to reach. Music gives SEN/Disabled children a unique motivation to participate and communicate and advances in technology enable more disabled children than ever to take part in music education. The channels of touch, sight and sound that music offers can also have a profound impact on children who benefit from a therapeutic approach.
Embedding music into your schools Schools can support pupils musically through the pupil premium and Wiltshire Music Service suggests the following strategic approach to really embed music into your school.
Start Early. Music making in Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 develops key social and musical skills early on in a child’s learning. Learning music helps pupils to settle into schools and settings and access the whole curriculum more easily. Schools have reported improved social cohesion of groups of children and significantly enhanced listening skills and focus of the whole class.
As a follow on from Key Stage 1 music, or as a stand-alone scheme, Key Stage 2 Wider Opportunities has had a big impact on enjoyment and participation in music, and not just with the children. The scheme encourages the teachers to learn alongside the children, and exposes them to a variety of different instruments and new skills.
After Wider Opportunities the next step is to increase their knowledge and skills by taking up an instrument. Many schools make a charge for these lessons which means that for some young people this is not an option. Learning in a group makes lessons affordable and allows your school to assist more young people through the pupil premium. Some pupils will require an individual lesson but many pupils prefer to learn in a group and experience their first real taste of ‘ensemble playing’. Learning with friends incorporates a social dimension and they support one another.
Offer a bursary to a gifted and talented young musician to help pupils pursue their passion for music and fulfil their musical potential. Succeeding in music takes dedication but young people also need instruments and lessons. For these young people progress is not just musical and your local music education hub will use its contacts to ensure that personal progress is not lost through lack of opportunity elsewhere.
The top of your voice Whole class singing involves the most inclusive form of music making. Specialist singing teachers know just how to inspire and develop young voices, and make it fun and develop performance material for concerts, end of term services and assemblies.
Start a choir as singing produces communities of people who trust each other and cooperate together. For inspiration, resources and training contact your local Music Education Hub.
Create a band or a school music club as band members and music club participants enjoy taking part and making their own music. Capitalise on their enthusiasm and watch their self confidence and self esteem grow and band or club members build better relationships with their peers.
Music out-of-hours Support pupils to join an out-of-school band, orchestra or choir at a local music centre. Music Education Hubs and Music Services have a huge range of opportunities on offer; catering for all age groups and all ability levels. Support pupils by paying their subscription and/or arranging transport.
Buy in a creative music workshop to develop your pupils’ musicianship and performance skills and help your pupils to express themselves in sound via a song-writing day, themed musical activities to fit in with arts week or a particular topic, to experiencing a samba band or recording a CD. Regional Music Education Hubs and Music Services have a pool of highly skilled practitioners to support your school in developing high quality music making opportunities.
Purchase music technology equipment and software and let your pupils create their own tracks. Music Technology and contemporary music is a great way of bringing young people together. This is a particularly effective way to engage hard to reach and vulnerable or at-risk young people who are not currently accessing provision.
Finally, as the leading subject association for music Music Mark has introduced a School Development and Support Programme, providing a framework for improving the quality of music in schools, within and beyond the curriculum. The programme aims to recognise and promote high quality music teaching and learning and helps schools to improve the quality of music education. The programme also helps schools to reflect on their music education provision and enhance music’s contribution to children and young people’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and school improvement.
Designed by music education experts the programme provides advice, guidance and tailored support to improve outcomes as well as access to expert resources and networks and recognition through opportunities to share successes with other schools on the programme.