Goodall to lead £10m singing revival in schools

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The Independent Online

The composer and television presenter Howard Goodall has been appointed by the Government to mastermind a £10m boost to music education in primary schools.

Mr Goodall , composer of the theme music to Blackadder and The Vicar of Dibley, was the frontman for the Channel 4 series How Music Works last November. He will now lead a new campaign to restore singing to the heart of the primary school curriculum.

One of his first tasks in his job as the Department for Education's "singing ambassador" will be to devise a 21st-century songbook for all primary schools - made up of a list of top 30 songs chosen by children.

The book will also reflect cultural diversity in Britain. Mr Goodall has been asked to think about the best way to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery - this year - for inclusion in the book.

Mr Goodall said: "For me, singing in particular is every child's first, intuitive access to the world of music, but it is also a powerful and often untapped resource for social cohesion. There is barely an adult alive who does not wish they could sing with more confidence or that they had had a better start with their voices."

His appointment was announced by the Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, at a conference at the Roundhouse in Camden to celebrate music education in schools. It was one of a string of initiatives - costing £95m a year - to boost music education, which also included giving every primary school pupil the right to learn a musical instrument; encouraging choir schools to forge links with local primary schools; and encouraging local musicians and even pop celebrities to visit primary schools to encourage more children to turn to music.

"In the past, music in schools has been starved of investment and deprived of adequate attention," Mr Johnson said. "Access to music tuition has been very patchy - particularly among disadvantaged children, who stand to gain most with music providing them with emotional solace as well as a reason to come to school."

The Education Secretary nominated three favourite songs of his for inclusion in the songbook - Billy Bragg's "Between The Wars", Cat Stevens' "Wild World" and The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". "The first two I can play myself," he said, after revealing he had been a member of a semi-professional rock band, the In Betweens, playing rhythm guitar and vocals.

He added that access to music education would boost children's confidence, thus improving their academic performance.