St Marylebone Secondary, Euston

28th March 2003 at 00:00
(Photograph) - For headteacher Elizabeth Phillips, music is the way to raise pupils' self-esteem and radically improve the school's exam results. The catchment area for this girls' school includes council estates round Euston and many pupils are from cultures where girls are not valued. "We analysed why they were failing and it was clear that they had no aspirations," Elizabeth says. "We decided to see if music could help - if their results would improve with increasing self-confidence. Over the past five years, the number gaining A-C grades in GCSEs has risen from 29 to 93 per cent."

The school has four music teachers and several peripatetic teachers, and 300 pupils learn a musical instrument. The biggest problem has been obtaining sufficient instruments. "Many pupils come from homes that can't afford it, or where there's no tradition of making music," she explains.

There are Government schemes that can help, but Elizabeth has found them difficult to access and has turned to charities such as the Rayne Foundation.

Music has enriched lessons in other parts of the curriculum, including IT, maths and science: "For some youngsters, sitting behind a desk is boring.

But music gives less able pupils an opportunity to achieve." The range on offer is impressive - African drumming, salsa percussion and jazz workshops.

St Marylebone's is surrounded by private schools, and Elizabeth feels music bridges the gap between haves and have-nots: "Private education gives children definite advantages; I want my pupils to have a share in these and music can help."

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