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Music as a breather for primary children who struggle academically

November 19, 2021, 11:16 GMT+1
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  • Alexandra Ladbury explains how the benefits of instrument tuition have gone beyond academic achievement at her school...
Music as a breather for primary children who struggle academically

Over 2,500 years ago Plato said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” This, in my opinion, perfectly summarises music’s power.

As Head of School at Park Lane Primary School and Nursery, I not only wanted to share this power with our pupils; I wanted them to master music too. 

To achieve this, I was delighted to be included in a Griffin Schools Trust initiative and offer free music and instrument tuition to all students at Park Lane. However, before I delve deeper into how our school has been impacted by free music tuition, let’s explore the importance of music tuition in more detail.

Equal opportunity

At Park Lane Primary School and Nursery, we take pride in being an equal opportunity school. Providing free music and instrument tuition means that students from different socioeconomic backgrounds have the same opportunity to learn an instrument, ensuring that financial or cultural constraints don’t limit anybody’s chances of widening their musical horizons.

Academic success

Many studies have proven that children who engage in musical learning perform better academically. So, while music tuition doesn’t appear as a key element of the national curriculum, making time to teach the subject can encourage high achievement.

In addition, students who struggle with academic subjects such as maths or literacy often welcome the breather that music offers and will return to their lessons after a palate-cleansing break with a refreshed and renewed attitude.

New talents

Music tuition may help students uncover a new talent or passion. I firmly believe that amongst the children in our school lies the next Louie Armstrong, who famously said “music is life itself”, or Julia Fischer, the iconic violinist professor! Primary school is the perfect time for pupils to explore different hobbies to find something with which they are genuinely enamoured.

Life skills

During our music lessons students are encouraged to learn melodies and memorise sheet music. They rely on their ability to focus and use their memory while both practising and performing with their musical instruments, exercising and expanding their skills.

Both the ability to focus without distraction and a well-exercised memory will help students during exams and tests, benefitting them throughout life.

Boosting achievement

Today’s students often feel tremendous pressure to achieve in school. Learning to play a piece of music or mastering a new note can provide them with a true sense of achievement that will inspire them to continue working hard and honing their craft.

Learning music can also help children to feel proud of themselves, raising self-esteem and developing their ability to recognise their growth.

The initiative

The music and instrument tuition initiative, which students, staff and parents have overwhelmingly embraced, is fully funded by the school and allows pupils to benefit from specialist teaching in addition to other funded initiatives we provide.

Different year groups are taught different instruments to ensure students are matched with instruments of their skill level. We currently offer the recorder, clarinet, ukulele and violin. 

Since introducing the initiative, I have noticed a significant change in the confidence and attitude of many children. Music lessons provide them with a practical and engaging break from other subjects and help to broaden their cultural and creative horizons.

Our recent Griffin Arts Festival provided an opportunity for the whole community to come together and celebrate the arts and to showcase their many talents.

To ensure our Mozarts-of-the-future can achieve their true potential, children who show a natural talent for music are given the opportunity to take additional classes, the costs of which are all covered by the school.

I recommend all schools consider providing free music and instrument tuition to all students. The return is well worth the investment, not only with the proven positive impact on academic achievement but also with the knowledge that the opportunity to learn a new instrument expands learners’ horizons even further, thus ensuring a holistic approach to education rather than the narrow ‘test’ regime upon which children, and schools, are judged.

Alexandra Ladbury is head of school at Park Lane Primary School and Nursery, part of the Griffin Schools Trust