Page last updated at 03:16 GMT, Friday, 29 January 2010

Music 'can boost wider learning'

Playing in a class prepares children for being in an orchestra

Learning a musical instrument at primary school can boost a child's confidence and learning in other areas, a report suggests.

Nine out of 10 schools asked about a government-funded scheme that teaches pupils to play instruments in a group, said the process raised self-esteem.

Many teachers said the scheme led to more positive attitudes to learning and improved motivation in other subjects.

The groups are run in 6,500 schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The study by the University of the Arts, London, focuses on the Wider Opportunities Programme, in which eight and nine-year-olds learn to play an instrument together as a class for free. Even the class teacher joins in and learns to play.

They are not competing against each other, they have to collaborate
John Witchell
Federation of Music Services

Some 97% of primary head teachers and staff in the 1,389 schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who took part in the research said pupils looked forward to lessons and enjoyed playing instruments.

Many of the teaching staff said team-working skills had improved as a result, as had pupil concentration.

The scheme also had an "empowering effect" on some of the participating children, the study said.

'Whole child'

John Witchell, chief executive of the Federation of Music Services, which commissioned the report, said there was a lot of evidence from all the people who responded about the wider impacts, such as better motivation and improved behaviour.

"It's one of those activities that is a social activity where all the children work together," he said.

"They are not competing against each other, they have to collaborate and use their minds and bodies to produce the music.

"They also have to use their emotions to enable self-expression as well."

In terms of music education, the study found learning an instrument in class as effective as small group tuition.

The programme was particularly useful as an introduction to learning an instrument, identifying talent and in promoting a joyful experience that benefits the "whole child's development".

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "Children get tremendous value from music, both as a subject in its own right and as a means of motivating students to reach higher levels of attainment across the curriculum.

"Learning to play a musical instrument can encourage the development of listening and concentration skills, appropriate behaviour, self-motivation, communications skills and teamwork."

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