ICT - Worthy of note

18th November 2011 at 00:00
Don't marginalise music: it can bring the EBac subjects together

The arguments about music not being part of the English Baccalaureate are rife. But let's look at it from a different angle. Music is integral to preparing students for many of the EBac subjects, but perhaps people have forgotten just how well it supports them.

The subjects that make up the EBac are English, maths, at least two sciences, history or geography and a modern or ancient language. Music is a language that is universal, modern and ancient: through the teaching of music notation pupils are able to understand Italian terminology, the use of symbols to create meanings and the relevance of older music in today's society. Music encourages pupils to sing in other languages - an idea that is also used by language teachers to teach numbers, colours or simple phrases.

We can all remember a song or melody, yet it is more difficult to remember a text. Music is an excellent aid to revision and most of us learnt the alphabet by singing it.

In the humanities, history students are taught about conflict and cultural changes. What signifies cultural change more than music? Play a piece of big band music and suddenly pupils are transported back to the Second World War. Analyse Imagine by John Lennon and pupils wake up to the significance of the lyrics.

Teaching world music allows pupils to develop understanding of ideas taught in geography, such as apartheid and slavery as well as other countries and their cultures. Many pupils cite RB and hip-hop as their favourite music, and while they know their origins, linking them to geography allows them to assimilate their own culture with that of others.

And when you look at science, you see straight away how physics and music go hand in hand. Teach a group of Year 7s about sound waves and suddenly cries of "This is science!" are heard. Students link the two subjects and begin to realise that music is far more than just singing or hitting a keyboard. They start to question how sound works, why they can hear it and what happens to their hearing as they get older, which links nicely into biology. You can take it one step further and get students to start designing their own instruments, which requires deeper thinking skills as well as verbal reasoning.

Finally, look at maths and English, the foundations of education. Music uses these subjects constantly - in writing lyrics, using a time signature, presenting a composer or a piece of music to the class, and comparing and contrasting pieces of music. These are skills employed the first time a child sings a song or bangs a drum.

So there is no doubt that music supports the EBac. But the real question is how the EBac can support music. At the moment the qualification simply separates all the subjects. Without consistent music teaching in schools, children will lose one of the only subjects that links them all together.

Helen Brant is head of music at Priesthorpe School in Pudsey, Leeds



The Renaissance was a period of enormous cultural change and music was no exception. Try randomoboeplayer's listening unit for an investigation.

Watch a video on world music from Teachers TV, filmed at the Brit School. Or visit the TES Collection on World Music - a collection of resources shared by teachers.

For all this week's resources see www.tes.co.ukresources010.

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