The teaching of singing is outstanding. (Ofsted, June 2013)
Singing is a core part of what St. Pancras School does. It is a central and daily part of the educational experience of all pupils at the school and, for many, singing provides the opportunity to extend their experiences well beyond the confines of the school.
In recent months, children from St. Pancras have sung at Downing Street, at the Royal Opera House, at Snape Maltings Concert Hall, with the Ipswich Choral Society, with the Ipswich Orchestral Society and at numerous other local venues. They have featured in recordings for BBC Television and BBC and local radio, in articles for The Financial Times, The Guardian and The Aldeburgh Festival. In 2013-14 the school was extensively involved in the centenary celebrations for Benjamin Britten, in collaboration with Aldeburgh Music, culminating in the school choir’s appearance at The Schools’ Prom at the Royal Albert Hall.
Philip Shaw, OBE, Head of Suffolk County Music Service, holds the school up as an exemplar of what singing can and does mean; and what it can do for a whole school. He notes that singing pervades the school, both inside and out, and reports his attendance at assemblies when, literally, every child and adult is present and all are joyfully and skilfully singing. He also observes the gains in attainment, right across the curriculum, gains in pupil attitudes and wellbeing and the major contribution made by singing to the corporate ethos and general standing of the school in its community.
The school has achieved ‘SINGUP PLATINUM’ – a prestigious award made to only a very few schools nationwide.
Mr. Ian Clarke, who up until his recent retirement was Leader of Music at St. Pancras, compiled a ‘Music Manifesto’ which sets out the school’s commitment to music:
Music at St. Pancras improves learning skills
There are clear cognitive benefits from the study of music, particularly in the younger years of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.
“Research shows that there are benefits of active engagement in music which go beyond the development of musical knowledge and skills and the enjoyment and appreciation of music. Music making can support the development of literacy, numeracy and listening skills.” (Professor Sue Hallam, Dean of the Faculty of Policy and Society, Institute of Education, University of London)
Singing at St. Pancras fosters teamwork, mutual support and respect
Performing in a small group, or as part of a choir, class or key stage, means that children are part of an integrated team. Everyone has a role and this interdependency helps to build teamwork, ownership and pride in identity.
“Music engenders a sense of belonging, improves teamwork and encourages self-discipline and a sense of achievement. It promotes co-operation, responsibility, commitment and mutual support. It provides an outlet for relaxation and a channel for emotional expression.” (Lord Winston, Chairman of the Royal College of Music, London)
Singing at St. Pancras builds life skills
Learning to sing and to perform to a high standard requires real concentration. Focus is essential. Working alongside other members of a choir or singing group helps children to recognise their own capabilities and to appreciate those of others.
“What better way of teaching children mutual respect for one another than singing together? Performance requires a deep understanding of your fellow performers’ strengths and weaknesses and the discipline necessary to avoid letting others down. It is a powerful way of strengthening emotional intelligence and developing the all-important life and employability skills of empathy, problem solving and communication.”(Bill Lightman, General secretary, ASCL)
Singing at St. Pancras underpins better behaviour
To perform at the standard that St. Pancras children regularly attain requires discipline. To perform at the standard of the choir requires sustained practice and dedication – sometimes over several years. There are occasions on which music has a transformational effect on individual children and influences their lives beyond imagination. QCA’s 2002 Investigation into Arts-Rich schools found that success in the arts, including music, changes pupils’ behaviour, increasing concentration levels, developing teamwork and enhancing respect for school values and the school environment.
“When young people enjoy doing something it stands to reason that they become accomplished in that pursuit. For some children music proves to be the gateway for a more focused approach to all their studies.”(Maureen Hanke, Chair of the Federation of Music Services, Head of Norfolk Music Service)
Singing at St. Pancras encourages creativity
Making music enables young children to express themselves with a power and sophistication which is available in no other medium at primary level. It is vital part of learning and a wonderful cultural introduction to life. Through song children can be introduced to the subtleties of human emotion in a manner which is wholly unique.
Performance enhances freedom of expression and offers pupils the excitement and prestige which comes from demonstrating their hard-won skills, honed over many hours of practice. Music is often the embodiment of parent and school aspirations. The benefit to the whole school community of performance at high profile cultural events is very significant.
“Music empowers children to shape their world through sound. It helps them to exercise their imaginations. It enables them to take risks with conventions. It teaches them to cope when there are no right answers other than those that they define for themselves. Music provides a medium through which young people can express themselves, learning to direct and control their creative imaginations. More than this: it is a means of promoting a spirit of enterprise that can influence every area of their lives.” (James Garnett, Chairman of the National Association of Music Education)
Singing at St. Pancras is for life
An early start in music often results in music becoming a lifelong passion. This gift is precious and, whilst not all children will continue to perform through high school and into adulthood, the seeds sown at primary school will be ready to yield green shoots for a lifetime of enjoyment of music. Certainly, material learned through the medium of song is seldom forgotten.
“The same part of the brain is at play when you’re doing maths or listening to music. An education bereft of either maths – or music – would rob children of a lifetime of learning and creative opportunities.” (Marcus du Sauty, Professor of Mathematics, Oxford)
Singing at St. Pancras is an educational building block
In response to the Henley Review of Music Education, the government stated: “Music is an enriching and valuable academic subject. Research evidence shows that the quality of music education can improve self-confidence, behaviour and social skills as well as improve academic achievement in areas such as numeracy, literacy and language.”
“Most children will have their first experience of music at school. It is important that music education of high quality is available to as many as possible: it must not become the preserve of those children whose families can afford to pay for access to it. Whilst music touches the lives of all young people, the disadvantaged can benefit the most . . . When young people make music together, they work towards a common goal that has the potential to change lives profoundly for the better.” (Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education / Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries)
Music at St. Pancras is fun
Children find singing and making music a hugely enjoyable experience. For some it is the highlight of the week. Singing is good for the brain, the heart and the lungs and it generates chemical changes in the body which enhance a sense of wellbeing. Young people enjoy mastering a tune or song. Choir rehearsals can be repetitive, technical and demanding but, for a young child, the prestige and stimulation of a performance in front of a large audience is an adrenalin-rush that is never forgotten!
Music at St. Pancras is for every child because every child matters
Studies, together with anecdotal evidence, assert that music can be of particular benefit to children in challenging circumstances – not only those within the accepted parameters of Special Educational Needs. However, those who are marginalised and vulnerable are often hard to reach. At St. Pancras significant numbers of such pupils, through involvement in the choir or SingUp, or through performance in school plays and concerts, have shown that they can achieve – through music – what neither they nor anyone else might have expected.
“Music inspired me in the belief that I could achieve anything. I became more enthusiastic, had much more drive, wanted to break down barriers and do the same things as everyone else.” (Charlotte White, St. Rose’s Special School, Stroud)