How music may bring harmony

14th January 2000 at 00:00
Researchers are investigating if music really can improve children's results and behaviour, reports Clare Dean

THE theory that music can help children learn and behave better is being tested in the London borough of Newham.

More than 400 six and seven-year-olds from seven primary schools in the authority's education action zone are taking part in a 10-month research project, which is being funded by sugar giant Tate amp; Lyle.

One class in each school will receive normal lessons while children in another will spend 15 minutes a day either listening to music or learning to read it.

Pieces range from Michael Nyman's film scores for The Piano and The Draughtman's Contract to Vivaldi, Mozart, renaissance and medieval music.

Over the past few years there has been enormous interest in research into the theory that music can enhance the development of children's brains. And Sharron Beever, project co-ordinator, said: "Music is a social skill which aids community and teamwork. It is one of the subjects where special needs children can really shine."

The research, to be launched on Monday, will investigate the effects of a short daily music programme on pupils' achievements and behaviour. It will als highlight the need for music to play a key curriculum role. Research dating back to the mid-1920s has shown that music has the effect of "stimulating the mental facilities".

But Mrs Beever said: "As this is the case why then does music seem to be such a frill to the everyday curriculum?

"We must consider that music not only provides academic enhancement but also creativity, self-expression, rhythmic and motor development, cultural issues, vocalisation, social and co-operational skills."

Mrs Beever is carrying out the research as part of an MPhilPhD course. Her project comes almost two years after The TES launched a campaign highlighting the funding crisis facing music alongside the threat to the subject in the curriculum. The campaign, backed by musicians including conductor Sir Simon Rattle, followed the decision by ministers to focus on the 3Rs in primary schools.

Education Secretary David Blunkett has vowed to reverse a decade of decline in school music and help give all children the chance to learn an instrument.

Graham Lane, education chair in Newham, said: "Often music is seen as elitist but all children should learn music. Without music you are missing something in your life."

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