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Latest news from Music for Life

Whole Class Success

Music for Life programmes engage significantly above average numbers of children in long term music making after their whole class First Access programmes, formerly known as “Wider Opportunities” courses, have been completed.

So far this year, on average, between 25% and 30% of children and their parents actively choose to continue to learn a musical instrument in school following their Music for Life whole class experience. This average continuation rate is across schools serving very different catchment areas, some in relatively affluent areas some in areas of real economic deprivation. One school which had been running whole class First Access programmes for some years and which had always had low levels of continued engagement at the end of the project, has found levels of continuation jump to almost 60% since introducing the Music for Life First Access instrument teaching programme this year. Although this really is an extraordinary level of continuation, it is part of a consistent pattern showing the effectiveness of Music for Life at first inspiring and then engaging children in long term instrumental music making.

Continued engagement is, after all, a key purpose – arguably, the key purpose – of First Access instrumental teaching programmes.

First Access is the first of four core aims of the National Plan for Music Education (NPME) which was launched three years ago to improve opportunities for children to get involved in music making whether by playing an instrument or by singing. The plan requires that every child should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument in school for at least one term, free of charge, usually in a whole class setting, at some point during their school life. This is mainly offered at KS2. The next two aims of the NPME are concerned with “progression” following the First Access phase – building on work already done – and engagement in ensembles. In other words, although First Access programmes may bring many educational benefits in of themselves, and they often do, their purpose is to open a door onto the world of music making, its possibilities, its excitements and, yes, its frustrations too, so that young people can decide whether they wish to continue to learn a musical instrument.  At the present time, too few pupils are choosing to go through that door, or are finding to many obstacles in their way – often cost – that put them off continuing to learn an instrument. We need to inspire, support and engage.

No organisation has all the answers to getting this right, but the evidence clearly shows that Music for Life First Access programmes are offering something special. To develop this area of work successfully requires partnership – particularly with parents, schools and the local music hub – but we are convinced that far more can be achieved than is currently the case.

Schools who may be interested in finding out more about our programmes should contact us. We would be very happy to provide examples of what we do, and to put schools in touch with others who have had first-hand experience of our work in this area.