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Why schools NEED music

Think the core subjects are all that matter? This head teacher's words might make you rethink...(she's even got Einstein on her side)

I recently took my 10-year-old daughter to watch the Kent College performance of The Phantom of The Opera and was totally blown away. I mean I knew it would be good, but this was beyond any of my expectations. Secondary school kids singing opera note perfect, professional quality stage sets, top notch orchestra… But what stayed with me the most afterwards (apart from the songs that I was *begged* to stop singing) was the sense of what a life-changing experience this must have been for each and every child involved.

Headmistress at Kent College, Julie Lodrick

Being part of a shared creative project like that leaves an impression on you forever. Teaching discipline, perseverance, stamina and improving memory and boosting confidence (just for starters)… So I wanted to ask head teacher at Kent College, Julie Lodrick, (she’s a talented musician and singer herself) what she thought of recent cut-backs across education in the arts. Think the core subjects are all that matters? Her answer might just change your mind…(she’s even got Einstein on her side). Over to you Ms Lodrick:

‘The recent news that some schools have had to schedule music GCSE as an extra-curricular option is a sad indictment of the pressure that the state sector is under to use curriculum time for core subjects that are measured by SATS and league tables. What’s more, in a recent teacher survey 97% agreed that, particularly in primary school, SATS preparation did not support children’s access to a broad and balanced curriculum, saying the time taken to prepare children for assessment in Maths and English has squeezed out other subjects and activities. The problem continues on into secondary where, the proportion of 15 and 16 year olds taking subjects like music and drama has fallen to its lowest level in 10 years.

‘Yet the creative arts is an integral element of providing pupils with a broad and balanced education. Quite rightly, we have seen a growing emphasis on ensuring our pupils leave school with a skillset that enables them to maintain good mental health and physical wellbeing. The arts plays a vital role in this regard, be it through music, dance or drama opportunities.

Creative subjects provide the perfect example of the power of practice, which is not necessarily measurable but learning an instrument or lines for a play improves concentration, memory and helps pupils develop perseverance, resilience and confidence. Singing releases muscle tension, reduces stress levels and depression, and has even been shown to help in maintaining a healthy immune system. Communal singing also offers a great sense of community and the chance to build life-long friendships.’

‘Then there are the tricky perceptions that the arts do not provide sufficient academic rigor. Maths and Music are inextricably linked and can be taken as a joint degree in a number of top UK universities. What a wealth of talent we will be losing if we do not grow the potential of future musicians, actors and dancers. As Einstein said: “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.”

It is an issue that unites the state and independent sectors and there are already some excellent examples of collaborations that are providing opportunities for all pupils to experience high quality projects. The point to remember is that children and young adults are neither amateur nor professional; they are a class all of their own. The power of their artistic skill is beyond measure and we must not lose it at any cost.’

The Kent College Senior Orchestra and Choirs will perform in the school’s annual Music in March concert, Sat 24 Mar at 7.30pm. Tickets £8, students free, please download a booking form from here.

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6 comments on “Why schools NEED music”

  • Barbara Ling February 25, 2018

    Have always known it! I was a headteacher in a primary school in the town for many years. Music, drama, the arts always produced surprises, new stars and opened-up the way to learning for so many pupils who would not have had any entree or encouragement from home. Keep up the good work, Julie.

    Reply
    • aliagnew February 26, 2018

      Hi Barbara – I couldn’t agree more. Education is as much about encouraging a rounded individual and creating opportunities. Music, drama and the arts are very relevant in the modern world and this kind of experience can have a hugely positive impact on you on your adult life.

      Reply
  • Jill Aisher (Headteacher) February 27, 2018

    The Kent College production was fantastic and as Head at St Michael’s Prep I was delighted to attend by invitation and see former pupils of ours performing amongst the many talented singers. It was an extraordinary achievement. Congratulations to everyone involved. We are looking forward to our big community Orchestra Day on 26th March when St Michael’s Prep invites our primary colleagues and their pupils to join us for an amazing day of workshops and performance. Music is a joyful and wonderful part of everyday at St Michael’s .

    Reply
    • aliagnew February 27, 2018

      Actually, I’d like to say that St Michael’s Prep was another school where I was blown away by the outstanding music department and strong emphasis on the arts in general. Hope the Orchestra Day goes well for everyone involved – sounds like a brilliant initiative!

      Reply
  • Gaby Molloy March 1, 2018

    I agree with every word of Julie Lodrick’s article. I’ve belonged to choirs for years and can confirm that singing releases muscle tension. Even headaches miraculously disappear without the need of painkillers. I like to think that it’s the singing that prevents me from catching colds, too. My happiest days at boarding school were singing with the choir and playing the violin – especially when those lessons got me out of playing netball!!

    Reply
    • aliagnew March 2, 2018

      Thank you for your comment Gaby and your personal account of the benefits of music – I imagine lots of people have experienced the same! Keep up the singing, it’s a skill I always wish I’d had, but as my children will testify, not my greatest talent…!

      Reply

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