Every child should have the opportunity to sing, to create music and to play a musical instrument, supported by quality musical experiences from birth and throughout their education. Singing and playing music enables children to explore and experience music from the inside; to express their ideas and feelings through music; to have the thrill of making and performing music individually and with others; and to develop a sense of personal satisfaction and fulfilment. Singing and playing involves a unique synthesis of body, mind and spirit, and contributes towards self-discovery.
All children in the United Kingdom have the opportunity to sing and to play instruments in the classroom as part of their entitlement within the National Curriculum in England (in maintained schools), the Curriculum for Wales, the Northern Ireland Primary Curriculum, and the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland. Whole-class ensemble teaching programmes are one of the core roles for Music Hubs in England. In Wales, whole-class delivery is determined by individual school requirements, with no standard approach or dedicated funding; however, it is seen as a valuable delivery mechanism in many areas, with potential growth as the profile of music within the Curriculum for Wales increases. In Northern Ireland, whole-class ensemble teaching programmes are being delivered in many areas and the development of access and inclusion is a key focus in the current review of music provision. Individual and small-group instrumental teaching in Scotland is provided through all Local Authority Instrumental Services, and whole-class ensemble projects exist in many areas, either Local Authority-based or as part of Youth Music Initiative implementations or individually funded projects.
A range of instruments are used for these whole-class programmes, including standard orchestral instruments, ukuleles, djembes, ocarinas, recorders, and instruments specifically designed for young beginners such as the pBuzz, or the Nuvo TooT and DooD.
However, for children to acquire more highly developed vocal or instrumental skills and to have access to a greater range of instruments, additional specialised teaching is necessary, together with ensemble activities as appropriate. As children’s skills develop, so the quality of their music-making improves, as does their ability to explore a wider range of music. These additional opportunities can make a significant contribution to children’s level of achievement and their overall development.
Learning to sing or play an instrument helps to develop:
- enjoyment and understanding of music – a unique form of experience and ‘way of knowing’
- sensitivity – awareness of the expressive and spiritual power of music
- aesthetic judgement – personal appreciation and evaluation; increased understanding of and application of knowledge about musical structure/texture/thematic development
- creative thought and action – imagination, interpretation
- intellectual and cognitive skills – spatial thinking, linguistic skills, abstract thought, meta-cognition, problem solving, independent learning, critical reflection
- social skills – cooperation, communication, leadership, team-work, a sense of interdependence and belonging
- physical and perceptual skills – coordination, speed, timing and accuracy of response, somatic learning
- personal awareness – developing a more fluid sense of self and possible identities; emotional literacy and how to manage challenging emotions and situations
- personal attributes – self-discipline, perseverance, self-reliance, concentration, attention to detail, initiative
- cultural awareness – understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures and cultural changes
- interpersonal and intercultural understanding – a mutual respect for individual and group differences, commonalities and achievements
Singing and playing can also be therapeutic, offering a sense of spiritual well-being and having a positive impact on mental health.
10 Things Schools Should Know About Music
This booklet summarises the ten key benefits of music and the contribution that it makes to the wider life of a school.
Music Mark’s Get Playing campaign highlights many of the benefits of playing music, and includes useful links to further sources of information.