It's a rocking way to higher grades

31st March 2006 at 01:00
Pink Floyd helps with revision and Bizet boosts classics. Nicola Porter reports

Listening to the Lemonheads can help pupils master fractions and equations.

The chart-topping band has been used in trials to discover whether playing music in lessons can aid learning. And Nina Jackson, a music teacher from Ogmore school in Bridgend, is collecting evidence to prove sound waves do indeed make brain waves.

Her work is proving so conclusive that ACCAC, the qualifications, curriculum and assessment authority for Wales, is now considering phasing music into every subject area.

Top UK neurologists, who have already proven scientifically that listening to music can fire neurons in the brain, are helping Ms Jackson's research.

According to research, musical messages travel down the spinal chord raising the heart rate, blood pressure, muscular activity, metabolism and other vital functions.

Trials started at Ogmore school in 2001 across a range of subject areas. Ms Jackson said the pilot study revealed all teachers in every subject area wished to use music in their lessons after it struck a chord with pupils.

Since then, the trained opera singer has extended her research, and now heads 30 projects across the UK.

"It's not just Mozart that makes you smarter," she said. "It has been shown that different types of music, used properly in a lesson, can help pupils learn, open up and behave."

She found Bizet was good for helping pupils learn Shakespeare and 1970s rock band Pink Floyd was excellent for aiding revision. The head of music believes children of all abilities can remember lessons without making notes if the right type of music is played at the beginning and the end of each lesson, for between two and 10 minutes.

She has come up with music for learning and focus, relaxation and calm, motivation and stimulation, learning to learn, and personal reflection and realisation. Teachers should gauge the mood of their class first - they might be bleary-eyed and need an early morning lift, or need calming down after a hyperactive lunch break.

And she warns that instrumental music - pop or classical - is preferable to lyrics, which can be disruptive to the learning process.

Ms Jackson's belief in the strong effect of music on the mind began when she was newly-qualified and working in Hampshire.

After being driven to breaking point by a classroom full of "flying chairs", she told how she finally connected with her wayward pupils after they went on a journey together listening to Gabriel's Oboe from Ennio Morricone's soundtrack to film The Mission.

Later, her pupils opened up about traumatic events happening at home. Her research has also identified the benefits of music for special-needs pupils. And it has been shown to be a good form of anger management.

You can email Nina Jackson about her project, music and the mind, on

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