Singing the praises of music

29th September 1995 at 01:00
I feel compelled to respond to your gloomy assessment of the current state of the teaching of singing in schools (Music and the Arts Extra, TES, September 15). I can only assume its main aim was to promote the courses and organisations listed at the end.

A distinction needs to be drawn between the teaching of singing as a skill, and the use of singing as a musical tool, to deliver, and indeed fulfil, the national curriculum requirements.

Why were there no comments from primary and secondary teachers who do successfully include singing in their curriculum, and who value its use as an educational tool for all? Why was there no consideration of the history of music education, and the particular philosophies that have prevailed in the past concerning the training of secondary music teachers and, in turn, their mentors and college tutors? This at least partly explains why the use of singing has been a relatively neglected area since the 1970s and the act of singing such a loathed one (by pupils at least) before then.

Keith Morgan's assertion that 13- and 14-year-old boys should not be forced to sing, and Sue Barber's comment that children are inhibited about singing at 11 or 12, are both contestable. First, singing, along with every other music curriculum activity, is not about "forcing" a pupil to do anything. It is after all enshrined in the national curriculum document that children should enjoy music. The approach of the teachers is vital. The only thing inhibiting 11- and 12-year-olds from singing is the attitude of the teacher. How many pupils does she think have not been singing since "an early age" anyway?

In my experience, there is "a lot going on", and ways of disseminating good practice, and encouraging equality of access for all pupils (not just the elite in the choir), should be the focus of our discussion.


Hyde Cottage

157 North End




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