Equipping children through music and song

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ANDY SILVER describes a project that combines music and dancing with invaluable education to help build up confidence and spiritual and moral education for primary school children.

For me, education is about more than just academia: of equal if not greater importance is the development of a child’s personal capabilities and the growth of attributes for life. The question of coping in ‘the real world’ mustn’t be deferred until the security of school life ends and adulthood looms. Instead, this question must direct and inform our teaching decisions from the earliest stages of a child’s time in education.

Curly Clare leads the singing and dancing during the summer session in 2016. Photo: Jo Duckles

Curly Clare leads the singing and dancing during the summer session in 2016. Photo: Standlake CE Primary School

In a society that is making such rapid technological advances, it is no wonder that we feel an increasing sense of doubt about what knowledge and skills our children truly need to prepare them for a successful future. Our five-year-olds of today will step onto the brink of independence and adult life in 2028: What will the world of work demand then? How will people communicate and interact? What media pressures will young adults face?

Yet from this uncertainty comes even greater strength in the ‘timeless’ attributes: integrity, humility, self-awareness, resilience, respect and compassion to name a few. And across my teaching career, I have learnt that just like any skill these too must be taught, taught explicitly and taught well. My passion is music and this has become the vehicle by which I am able to engage children in learning about such life skills.

For the past 12 years, I have been welcomed into schools across the country to provide pupils with an inclusive social, emotional, spiritual and moral learning experience through music and song. Its success has been two-fold. Primarily, the core values of the project: combining high status and high aspirations for personal development has no doubt elevated achievement. Yet music and song have provided the key. Through this medium, connections are made, self-expression is championed, minds are engaged and spirits are uplifted. What better grounds for social, emotional, personal and moral development?

And from this enabling foundation, our song lyrics become so much more. They come to encourage reflection, begin to stimulate questions and discussion, help to broaden minds and promote a positive mentality. The lyrics have been written carefully to maintain a Christian distinctiveness yet being able to be sung by children of all faiths or none.

Self-confidence, creativity and pride evidently emerge and thrive through the learning, rehearsal and performance of communal song: it would be hard to beat standing in a church packed with parents, relatives, staff and the wider community who have gathered to celebrate the CD the school has just produced, and to hear the children singing their hearts out… ‘We can make a difference in this big crazy world!’  knowing that back in school they’ll be using the song as a springboard to explore practical ways in which they really can make a difference to the lives of other people.

Especially today, seeing children actively learning clear Christian values – to value others, respect differences and celebrate diversity – is both inspiring and hopeful.
It is hopeful for the future where well-rounded individuals can, with self-awareness and self-confidence, care beyond themselves and show respect and compassion to those around them.

PopUK has visited Standlake CE Primary School in Oxfordshire twice, once during the 2016 summer term and more recently in the run-up to Christmas 2017.
Andrew Denham, the headteacher, says: “PopUK makes a difference in every way. It raises the energy, enthusiasm and engagement throughout the community. For a whole week the children are totally motivated with the songs, the strong social and moral messages given and the thought of building up to a concert of the like the school would not have had before. The children inevitably take that excitement home and it is picked up on by families. By the time it comes to the concert everyone is in eager anticipation of the event. There are not many school events that get the entire community together singing, having a little bop and then leaving the church with happy smiles and a warm feeling in their tummy, knowing they were part of something very special. It’s such a fabulous feeling.”

Could your church sponsor a project?

Any teacher will know that school budgets are extremely tight. PopUK is asking churches to consider sponsoring a project at their primary school. There is:

  • A five-day project: during the first three days the whole school learns a set of punchy pop songs. Day 4 is recording day. The following week a concert is held at the local church involving the entire school. Cost: £1,200
  • A three-day project: teaching and recording squeezed into 2 days, concert at church. Cost: £695
  • A one-day project for KS2 only – Concert at school – Cost: £395

For further information contact: Andy Silver – andysilver@popuk.org  07980 692688

Watch a short video of Standlake CE Primary School’s summer 2016 performance here.