Children kept on their mettle;Music for the Millennium

1st May 1998 at 01:00
Some primary schools have perfect pitch when it comes to music. As part of The TES's campaign, we begin a short series looking at their achievements

There is steel in the soul of the children at Kates Hill primary in Dudley. To be precise, a steel band so popular that membership has saved some pupils from under-achievement and even exclusion.

Kates Hill, a multi-ethnic school in a deprived area, has been singled out for the excellence of its music teaching by the Office for Standards in Education.

In a typical Year 6 lesson pupils write compositions from scratch, selecting their own instruments, revising, experimenting and rewriting. Underpinning the classroom work, OFSTED found, is a detailed scheme of work developed over years by music co-ordinator Dawn Wells.

Each year group has its own learning objectives and easy-to-follow lesson plans in a booklet, as well as cassette tapes with song accompaniments and other material.

Every classroom has a set of percussion instruments, and there are electronic keyboards, ethnic instruments and music software for computers. As a result, pupils are confident about music, singing and composing.

Pearl White, Kates Hill head, said: "Developing the creative side is imperative. It enables pupils to feel valued and appreciated. Children involved in the arts and music achieve at higher levels."

Mrs White has pupils whose lives have been transformed by shining in performance, often as members of the steel band or Asian dance group. Academic work has benefited as well.

"We were worried about six-year-olds' standard of writing and as a special project we did the whole of the year's writing work through music, using good song books with children writing linking narrative between the songs and stories. We were aiming for level 2s that year, and in fact we got more level 3s than ever before," said Mrs Wells.

Mrs White added: "People should not think you can only deliver the literacy hour through literary type work. If schools are going to provide a boring diet then we are going to have a lot of disaffected youngsters, and I'm very worried about that."

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