Against the odds

4th July 2003 at 01:00
Music Express

Book with CD and CD-Rom, pound;19.99; Target group: Years 4 to 6 (Years 1 to 3 also available)

A amp; C Black

Tel: 01480 212666; www.acblack.commusicexpress

As proof of how good Music Express is, it won a national resources award at the Education Show in Birmingham earlier this year. It works because the publication team draws on several areas of expertise. The technical quality of the product is exceptionally good, the presentation is sharp and it is easy to use and practical.

Underpinning the series is a commitment to musical quality, range and enjoyment. Musical concepts and skills are continually developed and revisited using material from the widest possible range of traditions. A high standard of composition and sound quality will appeal to streetwise children. Teachers' own needs and levels of confidence are catered for.

Alongside good workshop material which is accessible to all, the publishers provide performance part-sheets for more confident musicians.

The writing is good, adapting the tactics of the national literacy and numeracy strategies to provide clear pedagogy for effective learning.

Primary best practice is acknowledged, combining different curriculum threads. There is a notable focus on personal and social development, which is of crucial importance at key stage 2.

Music Express also exploits the potential of ICT. CD-Rom delivery means that non-specialist music teachers are home and dry. The use of video clips and sound samples is a realistic option in almost any classroom with a PC and there is even greater potential for those lucky learners using interactive whiteboards.

The CD-Rom allows the teacher to select and print files from a large bank of pictures, worksheets and music samples. The icing on the cake is a comprehensive Qualifications and Curriculum Authority-matched scheme of work, with medium-term and lesson planning. If that's not enough, the Music Express website includes an ideas bank and a discussion forum.

Contrast the vitality of Music Express with dull days spent watching videos of alien children and brain-numbing Blue Peter shakers. The class instruments stay safely locked up with the headache pills. Jason and teacher both throw wobblers before the bell goes for break.

Music Express provides 36 lessons in six half-term units. You could easily pick and mix units without losing continuity from year to year, but why turn down a regular healthy diet in favour of musical snacking?

This is a vibrant counterpoint to the more dry and dusty elements of our curriculum.

It is rare to find material pulling together contemporary good practice and technologies so effectively. This could help save teachers' lives and conserve their energy.

Jon O'Connor works for Harlow Education Consortium

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