Battle to bring some rhythm back into school life

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The Independent Online
MUSIC should be the fourth "r" (rhythm) in the curriculum, campaigners told the Government yesterday. All the groups involved in music education published a new booklet on research which shows that learning music improves children's performance in other subjects.

The Campaign for Music in the Curriculum is worried by the Government's decision last month to urge primary schools to concentrate on literacy and numeracy. Supporters fear that music will be squeezed out of the timetable. While the Government is insisting on an hour a day each for literacy and numeracy, the campaign wants at least an hour a week for music.

The pamphlet from the Music Education Council, the Music Industries Association and the National Music Council, highlights research from Hungary, Switzerland and the United States showing how music improves children's overall academic performance. Experiments in Hungary in the Fifties comparing children attending primary schools and those attending special music schools found that the latter were better at memorising and at understanding stories and managed their time more efficiently.

An experiment involving 1,200 children in 50 classes in Switzerland in the late Eighties and early Nineties showed that children given three extra music lessons a week instead of other lessons were better at languages and no worse at maths even though they were receiving fewer lessons in those subjects. They also learnt to read more easily. Children in the extra music classes got on better together, researchers suggested, because they had to learn to use teamwork.

Most recently, work at the University of California has suggested that music modifies circuits in the brain, including some that have no obvious connection to music, so that spatial reasoning, vital in science, is strengthened.

Researchers also found that students who listened to Mozart every day learnt more quickly than those who did not. The pamphlet challenges the view that the association of music with higher academic standards is the result of the social class or the better education of the type of children who learn music.

Experiments in Rhode Island in the United States with inner-city children found that, though they lagged behind in reading and maths at the start of a project in which they were given extra music lessons, by the end, they had caught up in reading and were ahead in maths.

The pamphlet argues that music is for everyone. "There is no inherent reason for any child not to learn music as there are no large individual differences in innate musical gifts," it says.