A BERKSHIRE school has found the key to better learning and brighter, happier pupils, as Rachel Carlyle reports
It’s probably as well Langley Hall Primary Academy doesn’t have a school cat. That’s because at any one time, 460 children aged five and upwards are learning the violin – and there are no soundproofed rooms.
The school in Berkshire isn’t some exclusive prep school. It’s a state primary on the edge of Slough and serves a diverse and multicultural area. But head teacher and founder Sally Eaton passionately believes every child should learn a musical instrument – and scientific research is on her side.
Studies show that learning music can have a dramatic effect on children’s abilities in maths and reading, increase happiness and even raise their IQs.
Every five-year-old pupil starts with the recorder in year one and in the summer term, they also begin to learn violin – parents have to agree to buy an instrument before their child arrives at the school, although those receiving free school meals are provided with one.
Then, in year four, pupils can choose to move on to cello or cornet and, later, the clarinet or flute.
All 728 pupils have singing lessons, the school has three choirs, one of which recently joined the chapel choir of Jesus College Cambridge for evensong, and last month Langley Hall organised no fewer than nine Christmas concerts.
Sally believes this emphasis on music is at least partly the reason for the school’s rapid academic progress. When Langley Hall opened three years ago, many pupils transferred from other schools. Only 60 to 70 per cent of its seven year olds were set to reach national targets in maths and English last year. But by the time the SATs tests came around in May, more than 90 per cent did.
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