Music in the early years 'helps children learn to listen and speak'

Findings come after Ofsted chief inspector's call for all young children to be taught nursery rhymes

Helen Ward

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Singing, playing and dancing with professional musicians has helped three-year-olds progress more quickly in their listening, speaking and behaviour skills, according to research.

A year-long project, involving workshops and concerts from professional musicians and training for teachers, resulted in the children involved making on average three months' more progress than expected in their speaking skills and two months' more progress in behaviour and listening skills.

The Music for Change project included weekly musician-led workshops, in which nursery children could explore and play with instruments, play music games or sing.

Training sessions helped teachers to embed music into their curriculum. The children also visited live performances in local venues – these included musical plays such as the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Sound progress

The project was evaluated by researchers at the UCL Institute of Education and University of Roehampton.

According to one nursery manager in the report commissioned by Creative Futures, the charity which ran the project: “Children who were shy have come out of their shell [and become] involved in a bigger group. Social and emotional development has improved.

"Children are now visibly volunteering to take part – they are socialising and interacting."

The project ran for two years, involving 19 nurseries and more than 1,300 children. The nurseries were all situated in an area in Westminster where, on average, 41 per cent of pupils are eligible for free school meals.

Making music

Four nurseries also had six musical story-telling sessions planned by musicians, nursery staff and speech and language therapists.

“Not only have many children attended a musical performance, or taken part in high quality music-making, for the first time, but shy children have become more confident, language skills have improved, social and emotional interaction has been enhanced, and the workforce has been inspired to try new approaches,” the report concluded.

Earlier this month, chief inspector Amanda Spielman, said that she was concerned that children weren’t learning traditional nursery rhymes and songs.

And the Education Endowment Foundation has said that it is to evaluate the impact of singing, drama and media lessons on pupils.

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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