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 draws to a close and adulthood looms. Instead this very question must direct and inform our teaching decisions right from the earliest stages of a child’s time in education.
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 ten years I have been welcomed into schools across the country to provide pupils with an inclusive social, emotional 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. As stated in the new national curriculum: ‘Music is a universal language that embodies one of the highest forms of creativity. A high- quality music education should engage and inspire pupils to develop a love of music and their talent as musicians, and so increase their self-confidence, creativity and sense of achievement.’
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 hall 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 to value others, respect differences and celebrate diversity is both inspiring and hopeful. Hopeful for a future where well-rounded individuals can, with self-awareness and self-confidence, care beyond themselves and show respect and compassion to those around them. Our song “Let’s learn how to love” says:
Love is our hope throughout time
Love is respectful and kind
Love shines a light on the paths of our lives
Love is the way we must find..
The expectations are high and so is the reward.
Andy Silver is a qualified and experienced teacher and musician. Andy is the founder and director of the highly successful primary schools’ singing project, PopUK. He appears regularly on BBC Radio 4 and Radio 2 as a music director for the Religion and Ethics department.
Singing Out! is a collection of 12 uplifting pop songs to encourage children’s social, moral, spiritual and cultural learning (SMSC), PSHE and RE. Each song is newly written in a popular style children will love singing. These big hitting pop songs approach serious topics sensitively.