Schools need to exchange Mozart for Stormzy as part of an "urgent transformation" of the music curriculum which would involve grime and hip-hop making their way into classrooms, a report suggests.
National charity Youth Music is calling for schools to shake up the way music is perceived and taught, following a major four-year research project.
The project found that more inclusive music-making, involving pupils’ personal music tastes as a starting point, helped improve attendance among disengaged pupils while supporting their personal and social development.
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It tracked 163 pupils from Years 7 to 11 in 10 schools and found that their predicted attainment, as assessed by teachers, almost doubled in English, while in maths they increased by 50 per cent.
The project involved using professionals from the music industry to engage pupils, and helped some young people to re-enter mainstream education after having been excluded.
Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music, said: "We've seen the benefits of students exchanging Mozart for Stormzy as part of a re-imagined music curriculum.
“Our research has cemented our view that music in schools has the power to help young people with some of the big issues facing them today – mental health, isolation and social inequality. But only if it is reimagined to become more relevant and inclusive of all young people.”
The research, called Exchanging Notes, found that engagement in the project “opened the door for learning” in literacy and numeracy, although researchers could not attribute direct causality between results in English and maths.
It also found access to music was being restricted because school music departments are disappearing “by the day”.
The charity is now urging the Department for Education to adopt a new model of music in schools that reflects the diverse musical interests of young people today, and to guarantee that pupils have at least one hour of music per week.
A DfE spokesperson said: "We want all pupils to have the opportunity to study music at school – that's why it is compulsory in the national curriculum from the age of five up to 14.
"We are currently working with music groups and practitioners to refresh the national plan for music education and develop a high-quality model music curriculum."