Sugar babies

14th January 2000 at 00:00
IN A PRIMARY curriculum increasingly dominated by facts and skills, it is refreshing to hear that from next week, 200 children in a disadvantaged area of London will be listening to music every day. Tate amp; Lyle, local sugar barons, are sponsoring a project in seven Newham primary schools to find out whether being exposed to the cadences of Mozart, Vivaldi or Michael Nyman (who scored The Piano) will improve children's behaviour and achievement.

Ever since playwright William Congreve observed 300 years ago that "music hath charms to soothe the savage breast", there have een claims for the beneficial effects of sweet sounds on human emotions. One of the most convincing recent studies, by Susan Hallam and John Price of London University's Institute of Education, found that background music played in maths lessons improved the conduct and attainment of a group of emotionally and behaviourally disturbed children, and also of Year 6 pupils in a mainstream primary school.

The conclusions of this 10-month experiment will be

fascinating to see. But music matters for its own sake too - not just as an aid to ever-higher test results.

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