And the beat goes on

28th November 2008 at 00:00
The benefits of working harmoniously in music lessons can be felt across the curriculum, says Steve Margiotta

Music is a subject that knows no barriers. Learning it not only enhances every child's creative, intellectual and emotional development; much of the learning also takes place outside the classroom.

This flexibility is reflected in the new programmes of study for music, where creativity goes hand in hand with the development of instrumental and vocal skills, listening and composition skills, and critical and cultural awareness.

Interaction with music and with music-making increases pupils' confidence as well as their cultural understanding. This helps them on their journey to become successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens. Music can have a positive impact on the development of personal and social identity and help pupils mature emotionally and intellectually.

Having experienced the successful teamwork and shared enjoyment of playing and composing music in a group, one key stage 3 pupil said: "I listen to other people more now, whereas before I used to always be speaking over everyone."

Beyond the classroom

Chief among all subjects, music learning does not take place in the classroom alone, but in a variety of contexts. Whether in school groups; local or county-wide ensembles; individual practice; garage bands; or the home computer, laptop or mobile, there are multiple routes into music today.

During the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's secondary curriculum consultation both music teachers and pupils recognised the importance of peer-to-peer learning in the curriculum.

Music can offer unique opportunities in this respect for younger pupils to work with and learn from older pupils in school as well as from musicians in the wider community, including instrumental tutors, community musicians and professional artists.

The new programme of study for music reflects this and highlights the importance of schools involving the wider community and professional musicians and the need to provide performance opportunities that go beyond the classroom.

Staff at Monk's Walk School in Hertfordshire have been working with pupils using approaches developed by the Musical Futures initiative that use informal learning techniques to increase pupils' motivation to learn and participate in music in and out of lessons (visit

Working with community musicians, instrumental staff and older students within the school, small groups of pupils created versions of popular songs and classical pieces. They developed instrumental skills in informal settings using peer-to-peer learning techniques as part of an integrated approach to listening, performing and composing.

Pupils worked with styles outside their experience, such as classical and jazz. The feedback has been positive. "You get to know different stuff to what you hear on the radio. It gives you sort of open-mindedness," said one boy

Steve Margiotta is curriculum adviser at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

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