Youth Music calls for a focus on ‘Stromzy rather than Mozart’ to engage hard-to-reach and often disenfranchised pupils.
The national charity has called for schools to adopt more current styles of music, citing newly conducted research that found more inclusive music-making improves concentration and attendance levels amongst pupils at risk of exclusion. A four years tidy by Youth Music concluded that too many schools fail to include contemporary musical genres in their music lessons.
To combat this the charity, working in collaboration with Birmingham City University, set up partnerships between contemporary community music organisations and secondary schools in England to examine the impact of introducing a modern music curriculum. Almost 1,000 pupils aged between 11 – 15 were exposed to the new lessons. Researchers found that young people who were at risk of exclusion at the outset of the programme maintained high levels of attendance – more than 95% – throughout the programme.
Some who had already been excluded said the programme helped them to return to mainstream school. Researchers also found there was a beneficial impact on other subjects, with participants performing better than expected in maths and English.
Matt Griffiths, Youth Music chief executive, said: “Evidence shows that music-making is a strong contributor to young people’s personal and social development. But despite school being the one place where everyone should be able to access music, we’ve consistently heard how it doesn’t reflect their existing musical lives and passions. And their access is being restricted because school music departments are disappearing by the day.”
He said the new study, called Exchanging Notes, showed music in schools has the power to help young people cope with mental health difficulties, isolation and social inequality. “But only if it is re-imagined to become more relevant and inclusive of all young people'” Youth Music urged the government to protect music in schools by ensuring all pupils receive a minimum of one hour a week of musical education. It wants the focus to be less on attainment and more about creative music-making.
It called on the Department of Education to introduce a 21st century curriculum, drawing on young people’s existing musical tastes and reflecting their interests and listening habits. It also backed earlier calls for schools to be denied a “good” or “outstanding” Ofsted judgement unless they show a strong commitment to arts and culture.
A DfE spokesperson responded to the study: “We want all pupils to have the opportunity to study music at school – that’s why it is compulsory in the national curriculum from the age of five up to 14. We are currently working with music groups and practitioners to refresh the national plan for music education and develop a high-quality model music curriculum.”