An introduction to the Teachers' TV series - 'Take 10 Weeks - Singing School'

  • Posted on 1 March 2007 at 3:22pm
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Below is a transcription of Howard’s introduction to a Teachers’ TV series, Take 10 Weeks – Singing School filmed in early 2007, following the Voices Foundation embedding an all-school singing programme into a Cambridgeshire primary school:

Singing in schools, after suffering a period of relative decline, is finally back on the agenda, with a vengeance. There’s no doubt that all children, whatever their background, get enormous benefit from singing as a group. It enhances their self-esteem, it boosts their ability to learn and it is also great fun. Schools where singing thrives are happy schools. Scientific studies from all over the world show that singing accelerates learning by improving a child’s memory skills, it is a fun way of teaching languages and numeracy, it builds a sense of teamwork and is a great opportunity to bring together children from very different backgrounds into one sociable and enjoyable activity. What’s more, you don’t have to teach singing like you do a language or a sport or a mathematical skill – all infants automatically know how to sing. Nature’s already done the job!

My name is Howard Goodall, I’m a composer and a broadcaster, but you may also have read about my being appointed by the government to a head up a new initiative to get many more young people singing in schools again, not just for a hand-picked few in the choir for 20 minutes a week, but for all children and their staff. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing. From my earliest memories there was singing at home, at school, in the playground, at parties, at church, more or less everywhere. Sadly that is not the case for many of the children and young people growing up now. Why is that?

Music is probably more prevalent than ever – from the private soundtrack of an MP3 player to relentless ear-candy in every shop and public space. There is certainly no evidence that young people don’t want to sing: look at those massive crowds of X-Factor and Any Dream Will Do hopefuls – but group singing, particularly in school, appears to be something of a postcode lottery. I am told that in many cases the answer is because teachers were told they couldn’t sing as children or have not received enough training either during their teacher training course or through INSET to give them the confidence they need both to sing and to lead singing.

There is also the fact that although there are plenty of great resources for teachers, it is often hard to find them unless you know what you are looking for and of course even if you do find them you might not know how to use them. And then there is the need for those who do want to lead singing to receive better support and understanding from colleagues, heads, governors and parents.

Children need to know that everyone around them likes to sing before they too will venture to open their mouths. So how do we help make every school a singing school? Two years ago we began to look at singing and how it could be a part of helping to provide a better music education offer to children and young people. I chaired a working group for the Music Manifesto which researched and developed a set of recommendations that were published as part of the Music Manifesto’s Report No. 2 – Making Every Child’s Music Matter. This report was presented at an event inLondonentitled ‘State ofPlay’ which took place in January of this year. In response, the then Secretary of State for Education, Alan Johnson, made a pledge of £10m to realise our recommendations. What we suggested needed to be done was threefold.

First, we said that there was a need for a high-profile public campaign to show parents, governors, head teachers, teachers, even the children and young people themselves, why singing can be such a valuable tool in the educational, social and emotional development of children and young people. Secondly we recommended that there must be accessible, easy to use resources freely available through publications and the internet, a first stop for all things singing. There are already lots of songs available for children and young people to use and teaching materials to support these songs, but we need to help everyone to know what they are looking for, what might be appropriate for them to use, and how to access it quickly and simply. Thirdly, and perhaps our most important recommendation, was that investment must be made into a comprehensive training programme.

A programme which not only highlights the many excellent existing training opportunities, but also provides additional ones where appropriate, so that everyone who wants to lead singing can gain more skills to do so – whether they consider themselves a singer or not. So, the Music Manifesto National Singing Programme was born and following a bidding process Youth Music in partnership with Abbot Mead Vickers, Faber Music and The Sage Gateshead were chosen by the Department for Children Schools and Families to run the programme.

They have given the programme a name – Sing Up – and have begun to realise the recommendations. It is our goal that as we approach the next decade, children and young people will be able to say that they can’t remember a time when they didn’t sing, and we hope that you will want to be a part of this singing revolution.


To view the Teacher TV film, click here