Harnessing the power of music in schools will reap long-term rewards

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At the end of another ridiculously busy day in a Sheffield school, I took time at the end of the last period to simply sit by my desk and catch my breath: I had not had chance to have a rest throughout the entire da

Before the first class, I had been busy planning the lessons I was going to deliver, then I was on duty at break, had a meeting over lunch and these had been sandwiched together by very challenging periods in front of a total of 150 kids.

And in a quiet ten-minute lull before another meeting kicked in, I was unexpectedly soothed and calmed by the most wonderful music that came floating down the corridor.

At first, I thought it was somebody playing the radio or a CD, it was that good. But as time went on I realised it was the school band getting ready for a production that is still a month or two away.

So infectious was the tune, so energetic was the delivery of the singers, that I  went to hover in the doorway, watching the performance.

The quality of the songs being belted out was outshone only by the smiles on the kids, who were clearly loving the opportunity given to them to perform.

This, right there in front of me, was the power of music in schools, illuminating the lives of young people and giving them a buzz to a degree that I’d not seen previously during the day.

Music has the ability to bring school children together, to make them forget their troubles, to bring out inner happiness and allow them to channel their overwhelming levels of creativity.

It was demoralising to learn this week, then, that music departments in the city continue to take hit after hit and have their resources stretched ever thinner.

Some time ago I spoke to a friend saddened about the loss of the music department in his secondary school – there was literally nobody left – after the final music teacher was made redundant in a shift of emphasis.

My twitter feed was ablaze this week with concerned parents at a different Sheffield secondary school where music is being withdrawn as a GCSE option.

This was particularly ironic because when you take a look at the school’s own twitter feed it seems very keen on boasting how important music is at the school, showing off the performances that had been put on in front of parents.

And at yet another secondary in the city, a proposed new curriculum is threatening the music department, among others, with a reduction in timetable and the possible redundancy of a member of staff.

All this is due to an ideologically-driven shift headed by the government which sees schools focussing on the ebacc subjects and neglecting the arts.

After all, if they don’t, they may end up getting into trouble with the big bosses; headteachers have been moved on for not playing the game in a career that is becoming less secure than football management.

Not all kids are academic, and for some their greatest moment in school may come from those music sessions at the end of the day and the school production when their parents see them in a different light. What the government and school leaders often seem to lose sight of is the bigger picture.

We live in a country in which the creative arts drive a huge industry. You only have to spend a day in London’s West End, visit the theatre in Sheffield or see crowds gathering for concerts at dozens of venues around the UK every single day to realise that.

There seems to be a naïve expectation, though, that we will continue to reap the rewards of artistic talent well into the future without investing in the younger generation, and it’s insane.

We plough investment into developing maths, English and science because it can help boost the economy in certain ways – but these subjects don’t cover all bases for all children.

By narrowing the goalposts at school, we are reducing the chances of our hitting the back of the net when they are adults.

It’s about time we faced the music.